The mind-muscle connection can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to stimulating growth and detailing quality muscle. If you’re not squeezing and contracting the muscle for every rep of each set then you are selling yourself short, and the muscle will not respond to its full potential. You need to be able to feel the muscle you are working do the work on every rep, and not allow your ancillary muscles to take on an unnecessary workload.
I believe in stimulating— not annihilating— the muscle. This means training hard but training smart. The mind-muscle connection is not something you can easily learn overnight; it can take years to master. I’ve been training for over 10 years, and each year the connection is still improving.
What goes hand in hand with a strong mind-muscle connection is a strong pump. Which, if you are like me, is what you live for when you are in the gym. For me, it’s one of the best natural highs, and it’s definitely the highlight of my day. If I don’t get a pump in the gym, my mood is ultimately affected.
If you are having trouble not being able to get a pump at all, or you’re not getting a maximum amount of blood flow to the muscle you are working when you train, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Get Enough Sleep
First off, are you getting enough sleep? Rest and recovery are just as important as your workouts and nutrition. If you are overtrained or not getting sufficient quality sleep, then this can affect your pump in the gym. Shoot for at six to eight hours of sleep a night.
- Don’t Lift With Your Ego
Training too heavy will only increase your risk of injury and chance of sacrificing proper form and bring other muscle groups— not the one you are training— into play. That’s just going to slow progress and can potentially lead to injuries.
Anyone that is trying to maximize the pump needs to be drinking a minimum of 1 gallon a day. A lot of people walk around daily unknowingly being dehydrated. I drink 1.5-2 gallons a day, and I’ll have at least a gallon before I go weight train (I train around 1:30-2:00 p.m. every session).
- Carb Up
Next on the list is nutrition. You want to be taking in enough carbohydrates for your body to facilitate a good pump before, during and after you train. Pre-workout, I make sure to eat a good source of carbohydrates 45 minutes before I hit the weights, use a carb drink during my workout and then a fast-acting source post-workout to spike insulin and natural growth hormone.
- Pre-workout: 40-50 grams of white jasminte rice, sweet potato, oats, applesauce or a banana
- Intra-workout: 30 grams of branched cyclic dextrin
- Post-workout: 90-100 grams of white jasmine rice or oats with honey
- Don’t Shy Away From Sodium
So many people shy away from sodium because they fear water retention. If you don’t have blood pressure issues, then there is no reason to restrict sodium. The only time I’ll restrict sodium is a few days before I have a shoot. Sodium helps transport carbs into the muscles, so you’re missing out on extreme full pumps if you restrict sodium all the time. I’ll season all of my meats with sodium seasonings and I’ll use hot sauce or mustards for condiments.
- Choose the Right Supplement
Once you have all of that down 100 percent, then you can try to incorporate a pre-workout supplement that will be the icing on the cake. I like to use one with my favorite ingredients— agmatine sulfate, caffeine anhydrous, beta-alanine and citrulline malate— to help facilitate a great pump and jolt of energy!