The Playbook For The Modern Man

Australian Researchers Believe You’ve Been Lifting Weights Wrong All Along

The weight is your friend, not your muscle.

A new week means it’s arm day and arm day means supersets, copious amounts of curls and protein shakes. All is well in gym land then — or so you think. The general consensus amongst bodybuilding circles dictates that muscle development comes from focusing one’s attention on the muscle they’re trying to grow. In other words you mentally activate a particular muscle from lifting, thus endorsing its development.

A new study published in ‘Frontiers in Sports and Active Living’ suggests that this long-standing belief of bodybuilding isn’t the most effective method. When training encompasses muscle performance as well as muscle growth, these researchers believe that gym junkies need to instead focus on moving the weight itself rather than focusing on the muscle in order to lift heavier and longer.

“The higher overall muscle activity with an internal ‘muscle focus’ is not specific to the muscles mentally isolated during lifting,” says the review’s author, Professor David Neumann, of Griffith University in Australia.

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“Rather, it seems to represent increased activity of non-target muscles, too.”

Fundamentally they’re recommending trainers think outside of the body. In their findings the analysts consistently found that when weightlifters instead focused their attention on the external effects of their efforts, such as the movement of a barbell, lifts were accomplished 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,” says Neumann.

Some stats from the study revealed that at 80% of maximum effort in one bench press study with increasing load, the muscle activity advantage of muscle focus over an external focus simply disappeared.

Neumann says that this method of external focus can maximise an athlete’s performance in training and competition. This method is also believed to be a complement to ‘dissociative’ focus strategies, things such as listening to music in order to reinforce exercise adherence in less active people.

As with most studies though the results aren’t bullet proof. The area of muscle fatigue and strength gains have yet to be determined whilst the other studies in this area have been relatively small — 11 to 29 participants that are mainly young Western males who are already proficient at weightlifting. A more diverse study group should help reinforce these findings a bit more.

“It would be worthwhile to examine whether transfer of these effects occurs to similar sporting tasks,” adds Neumann. “For example, some sports like shot put and discus, require a short-term maximal muscular effort.

“We should also explore ways to maximise the beneficial effects of an external focus. Using VR for instance, completing a deadlift could be translated into an imperative like virtually lifting a heavy bar to free a trapped virtual person.”

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Whilst the findings suggest that the traditional way might not be the most effective method to lift weights, there still remains a place in exercise routines for mind-muscle connections, specifically in hypertrophy and lifting form awareness.

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  • Dave4321

    Of course it’s easier without a mind muscle connection. You are using additional muscle groups to help lift the weight.

  • KneelToMeHuman

    Lol. Who says I want to make my bench press easier by using more muscles? in that case I’m also a researcher and I can guarantee you that “doing HALF reps, will make you lift MORE weight for more sets” xD
    This felt like an April fools article lol…
    Jokes aside, I hope no one who just started lifting, reads this article and takes the BS these researchers are saying seriously :-/

  • Hiyi3na

    Stupid article.

  • Phil D.

    Well, what a great study. You know who has been lifting with a focus on just moving the weight for decades now? Powerlifters. They do this and move really heavy weights. You know who uses the mind-muscle connection with lighter weights and is way more jacked than most powerlifters? Bodybuilders. Because bodybuilders realize that moving weight more efficiently will not stress a specific muscle group as much as focusing on it, even if you can use more weight when not focusing. Your muscle doesn’t know how much weight it’s lifting, only how much stress is placed on it. So I guess, what the study confirms that if you want to be a powerlifter, train like a powerlifter. If you want to be a bodybuilder, train like a bodybuilder. Earth-shattering, I know.

  • Gizmo

    Earth-shattering that your reply makes 10x more sense than that muddled article. Seriously. Don’t these people have editors?

  • Shreyansh

    You definitely have no idea how muscles work do you. What this article says is true, but its too complicated for a fool like you

  • MQ

    I’m curious how foolish you think the other comments/commentors are. I noticed that you ignored all of the more technical ones, even though they were more recent than the one you responded to.

    Go ahead. Tell the others how much of a fool they are, and how little they know because this BS article smells like the truth to you.

  • nikolas4129

    My thoughts exactly. Well described Phil!

  • TO_Northsider

    The Australian researchers called, they want nothing to do with this article.

  • Ramy_M

    I thought I was the only one having difficulty understanding this article. Horrible writing style.

  • jwymanm

    Damn it you just summed this thing up perfectly. I was like that blonde dude with a mullet saying wtf for awhile.

  • Chevelier Mal Fet

    Satoosh, you weigh 100 lbs and this article was written by someone who doesn’t lift weights. It’s obvious. Go back to your hut and continue with the mass rape of women in your country.

  • Chevelier Mal Fet

    Of course he did. He is an ignorant shit.

  • Chris Palmer Sr.

    To me, the above is the perfect recipe for injury. Assuming the body has an untrained auto response from the exact fibers necessary is ridiculous.
    Otherwise babies would be born running.
    Auto response or reflex take thousands of repetitions to perfect, ie., a kung fu master’s chained forms.
    With eight types of strength and multiple types of muscle fibers the above just has no logic to it as each is specific, to train specificity mind matters. imho

  • fairpricetickets

    Body building and weight lifting are exactly the opposite.

    Body builders want to make the muscle work as hard as it possibly can to stress the muscle and make it grow. Their lifts are designed to be inefficient.

    Weight lifters want to make the muscles work as little as possible. Their lifts are designed for maximum efficiency.

    Which can easily be seen by their respective results.

  • Sabure1337

    Thank you Phil. Was about to comment but you summed it up perfectly.

  • Carl Jacobson

    I didn’t understand the point of the article.
    I though that lowering a weight under control and exploding up with it, is the optimal way to lift weights for strength.
    And more internal visualization while lifting a weight, focusing on the actions/feel of the muscle, is more bodybuilding specific – at least that’s what EVERY OTHER WEIGHT TRAINING STUDY TELLS US!!

  • Adrijana Radosevic

    I was just about to write a comment but you summed up my thoughts exactly. Geez. Add to that, bodybuilding techniques PREFER moving less weight to cause muscle growth. Because if you can grow just as well using 250 lbs barbell, why would you want to use 400 lbs instead and stress your skeleton, connective tissue etc needlessly, for the same result?

  • S Z

    I am a powerlifter and was thinking the same exact thing as I was reading the article but you went into great detail summarizing it. Basically, nothing to see here…
    Kudos to you though, Phil.

  • medusa101

    Everyone who has been seriously working out knows this and you put it much simply in a paragraph then the whole bloody article. In fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with either goal. Some people like to grow strong others like to have great looks. If you want to get stronger – do powerlifting and if you want muscles that show body build. If you want both, do both but it will take much longer time to achieve your goals. At the end of the day it is all about goals.

  • Philip_Neri

    I reactivated my disqus account to upvote Phil’s comment. Have to admit that article title lassoed me in though.

  • Brian Fletcher

    Progressive weight training for muscle growth requires hormonal stimulus. No suprise that misinformed bodybuilders rely on steroids. They really dont understand the hormonal stimulus process.
    Power lifting and bodybuilding are very similar. In fact, I suggest that power lifting as a sport was an offshoot of bodybuilding, where often single rep efforts were part of an overall program. Basically, brute force with no need for other than very basic technique..as with body building.

    Olimpic lifting is a whole different kettle of fish. It is a totally seperate sport, and it is this activity where efficient technique is an essential part, not powerlifting per se.

    Perhaps a good example is comparing the explosive power of a max squat, compared with the explosive power of a high jump.

    I would suspect the muscle twitching would be similar in its intensity.

  • Brian Fletcher

    Progressive weight training for muscle growth requires hormonal stimulus. No suprise that misinformed bodybuilders rely on steroids. They really dont understand the hormonal stimulus process.
    Power lifting and bodybuilding are very similar. In fact, I suggest that power lifting as a sport was an offshoot of bodybuilding, where often single rep efforts were part of an overall program. Basically, brute force with no need for other than very basic technique..as with body building.

    Olimpic lifting is a whole different kettle of fish. It is a totally seperate sport, and it is this activity where efficient technique is an essential part, not powerlifting per se.

    Perhaps a good example is comparing the explosive power of a max squat, compared with the explosive power of a high jump.

    I would suspect the muscle twitching would be similar in its intensity, with a very different mental approach…ie, external
    (high jump) vs internal (squat)

  • Steve Linhart

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