Understanding the Mind-Muscle Connection with Dustin Mark McNeer

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Dustin Mark McNeer Dustin Mark McNeer

According to personal trainer and nutritionist, Dustin Mark McNeer, extreme focus in the gym can help you get the most out of your workouts. 

We use our brain to control body movements, muscles, and joints. The mind-muscle connection refers to the ability to focus on flexing one individual muscle without making any other large body movements. For example, many people can do pushups and contract their pectoral muscles in the process. Many of those same people, however, cannot contract one pectoral muscle at a time while standing still. Certified personal trainer, Dustin Mark McNeer, believes that enabling your mind-muscle connection is the key to more effective workouts.

Having body awareness makes you less likely to get injured while working out because you are entirely focused on the task at hand. The more time you spend at the gym instead of at home recovering, the faster you’ll see the results you want. Plus, when you’re in tune with your body and know how to move it, everything will seem easier.

Dustin Mark McNeer believes the best benefit of a strong mind-muscle connection is its ability to improve strength training workouts. The immense focus will help you engage the right muscles during each exercise. For example, when doing deadlifts, you can engage your hamstrings and glutes instead of your quads. Every workout will have the intentional outcomes you are looking for. Even the mere thought of engaging a muscle will activate muscle fibers, which shows that strength truly begins in the mind.

Thinking about which muscles to use during your exercise seems easy enough, but Dustin Mark McNeer recommends four strategies for beginners.

The first step is to prepare your mind on the way to the gym. Let go of all your worries and put your to-do lists aside so you can be ready to give it your all. When you arrive, Dustin Mark McNeer recommends starting with some warm-up exercises that correlate to the day’s workout routine. If you are training legs, for example, start with some walking lunges or banded air squats to prime your legs for lifting heavier weights.

The next step is to clear your mind before starting your exercise. Focus on connecting with your body by thinking about how each movement feels. Visualize the muscle groups you will be using, then contract them fully each rep. Dustin Mark McNeer notes that it is important to be slow and deliberate with each movement rather than quick and jerky. Muscle control should not be too fast or put a strain on your joints or sockets.

Dustin Mark McNeer’s third recommendation is to incorporate “negative” exercises. When a muscle is stretched before contracting, it is in the negative or eccentric phase of the activity. The lowering portion of a deadlift, pushup, or squat, for example, would be the eccentric phase of the exercise. Dustin Mark McNeer notes that because these deliberate movements place more demand on the nervous system, you can expect delayed muscle soreness.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use your hands! If you are struggling to connect with a specific muscle, use a tapping method to help you identify and target it. Dustin Mark McNeer explains that you can do this by simply tapping on the area of your body that you are trying to target with light to moderate pressure at a fast tempo.