One of the most important aspects of resistance weight training is the ability to make and maintain a mind-muscle connection. If you have not established this connection with every muscle group you attempt to work, I would suggest decreasing your weights and taking some time to do so. I promise you wont regret your decision. There are many ways to practice making these connections but here we will discuss progressive active warm-ups, which I believe are the best option.
Using a progressive active warm up will allow you to start your workout with maximal neural stimulation and a very strong mind-muscle connection. Both of these are very important for maximizing your efficiency in the gym and making serious gains, especially when working with big compound movements. To do these warm-ups it is important to know the active range of motion for each muscle group and some basic anatomical terminology.
Goals of a progressive active warm up:
- Fully shorten the targeted muscle group with a massive contraction.
- Perform 3 to 4 sets of the exercise while adding slightly more resistance each set. Use a tempo of 2-3-2-0 (2 second concentric, 3 seconds maximum contraction, 2 second eccentric, and zero rest at the bottom before starting the next repetition).
- Each set should contain 7 – 12 reps. Each rep you should focus on contracting the muscle harder than the rep before.
- Do not reach total failure during any set, however you should be fairly uncomfortable by the time you reach the last few reps.
Now lets apply this concept to a quad dominant leg day. It needs to be known that the quadriceps group is fully shorted when the body is in hip flexion and knee extension. This position can easily be achieved using a basic leg extension machine. Start by making sure your hip joint is at a 90-degree angle, which may require leaning forward to keep your back off of the backrest. Begin the first set with fairly light weight and really focus on the contraction at the top of the movement, when the knees are fully extended. On the following sets add more resistance but continue focusing on contracting harder at the top of each rep than the rep prior.
Once you have completed 3 to 4 sets of this progressive active warm up you should be ready to dive right in to some heavy compound movements. Focus on keeping the mind muscle connection throughout the entire workout. With the super stimulated neural tissue you may be surprised how easy moving the heavy weights becomes. Use this technique at the beginning of each workout and track your progress for a few weeks to see if it is working for you!
Here is a list of the best exercises to start with; depending on which muscle group you are targeting that day:
- Quad dominant leg day – Leg extensions
- Hamstring dominant leg day – Lying leg curls with hip extension
- Glutes – Back hyperextensions with hips externally rotated
- Chest – Pec Dec or Cable Flies
- Back –Lat pull down or seated cable rows (Using 2 handle attachments)
- Shoulders – Cable lateral raises
- Biceps – Single arm high cable curl (focus on supination during contraction)
- Triceps – Rope pull down (full elbow extension)