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Training

Can You Use Your Mind To Build Muscle Mass? New Study Shows You How

Friend jokingly says, “Maybe if you stare at your bicep long enough it will get bigger”. Keep laughing, recent studies say there may be some truth to that tease.

You know how important form is when training, especially during intense weight lifting. Using correct form is just one way to maximize your workouts.

More importantly, weight lifting with the correct posture and form is critical in preventing injuries.

But has it ever occurred to you that focusing your mind intensely on the muscles you’re targeting may help you gain more muscle mass?

Let’s see why you should be more mindful about where your head’s at when practicing good form.

Think Big Gain Big

Known as mind-muscle connection, “attentional focus” is the act of internally focusing on your muscle contracting and flexing as a weight is lifted from start to finish.

A recent study shows that practicing attentional focus may increase the size of the muscle you are targeting.

Conducted by the European Journal of Sport Science, researchers investigated two groups of men involved in resistance weight training. 1

One group practiced attentional focus while the other group focused externally, thinking about the outcome of their exercise.

In other words, one group actively stayed in the moment of their lifting sessions, focusing on their muscle contracting and retracting while the other focused on just getting through their sets, the end goal.

After 8 weeks of training, researchers compared the results of both groups.

Analysis showed that the attentional focus group gained more muscle than the group who focused externally.

However, it should be noted that attentional focus may yield better results for the upper body than the lower due to no changes in quadricep muscles during the study.

It is also unclear if attentional focus leads to gaining more strength. More visible muscle-tone does not equate to more strength.

The Bottom Line

Focusing on the muscle you are targeting when lifting may lead to an increase in muscle specifically for your upper body.

If you are doing countless reps and not seeing the results you want, you may want to think about mind-muscle connection.

According to these findings, adding in attentional focus when practicing good form may help you get the most out of your workout.

Our tip: stop staring in the mirror when maxing out on bicep curls and start focusing on the muscles themselves.


Schoenfeld, Brad. Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training. European Journal of Sport Science. 2018.

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Ian Roden

Ian Roden

Writer and expert

A Fordham University graduate, Ian majored in communications and media studies with a focus in journalism and a minor in anthropology during his time at college. Here, he wrote for the university newspaper ranked top ten in the nation.

A competitive athlete for most of his life, Ian has spent almost a decade working as an ocean rescue lifeguard in New Jersey. Within that role, he has competed in endurance sports competitions against other lifeguards for the last 8 years.

As a lifelong surfer, Ian spends most of his spare time in the ocean regardless of the time of year. He also enjoys distance running, photography, and frequently spending entirely too much money on concert tickets.


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