The mind-muscle Connection
Proponents of the mind-muscle connection cite increased muscle activity, when focusing on specific muscles while lifting, as evidence of benefit. That increased activity might just translate to increased muscle hypertrophy, but put another way: mind-muscle connection makes you expend more effort to lift the same weight.
“The higher overall muscle activity with an internal ‘muscle focus’ is not specific to the muscles mentally isolated during lifting,” says review author Professor David Neumann, of Griffith University, Australia. “Rather, it seems to represent increased activity of non-target muscles, too.”
In contrast, studies have consistently shown that when weightlifters instead focus their attention on the external effects of their efforts, such as the movement of a barbell, lifts are done more economically and with less effort.
“It appears that this external focus allows automatic control processes to operate, removing the attentional demands and mechanical inefficiency of conscious muscular control,” poses Neumann.
In any case, as the load increases — at 80% of maximum effort in one bench press study — the muscle activity advantage of a muscle focus, over an external focus, seems to disappear altogether.