Women's Health Australia

Mind over muscle

In body-building circles, it’s a universal truth that anyone in search of gains needs to focus their mind as well as their muscles. ‘Internal attentional focus’, as it’s known among scientists, describes the connection between the two. The theory is that by focusing on the muscle or muscle group you’re aiming to work during an exercise, you’ll be able to increase the stimulation of those muscles, and greater stimulation should lead to greater growth – and, as a result, more fat burn. It’s been a mainstay in professional body building for decades, and Arnold Schwarzenegger summed it up himself: “The weights are just a means to an end. How well you contract the muscles is what training is all about.”

Now, likely thanks to the surge in popularity of muscle-building workouts and a greater understanding of their associated health benefits, plus the fact thatstudy, the idea is gaining traction in mainstream fitness. Fans point to an increasing amount of scientific research that seems to back the theory. For instance, a 2016 paper, published in the , found that subjects who were instructed to focus on using their pecs and triceps respectively while performing a chest press increased muscle activity in those areas more than those who didn’t, provided they weren’t lifting too heavy.

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