frustrationAre you frustrated you aren’t seeing progress in the gym? Do you wonder if you’re doing an exercise right? Do you feel like giving up because you aren’t seeing the fitness results you hoped for and have been working towards? If so, please read on.

Many of us struggle with creating that mind-muscle connection that Arnold taught. Many have never heard or thought about it. Yet, many of our new fitness coaching clients have problems ‘feeling’ the exercise in the right place. This is VERY common. If you are doing triceps push-downs and you feel it in your shoulders or forearms, listen up.

‘Feeling’ the exercise in the right place is essential for helping it ‘turn on’ or ‘activate’. In other words, if you can’t feel what’s doing the work, whatever needs to be doing the work isn’t, hence not getting the fitness results you want. And if what you’re working on isn’t working, than why do it at all?

Here are 3 simple tips that can help you as you discover this wonderful world of working-out.

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Flex it

I remember back when I was still an intern and a client asked how they were suppose to ‘feel’ an exercise in their upper traps. Upon further listening and questioning with this client, I learned she couldn’t figure out how to flex that muscle when not doing the exercise. Now I realize that this may sound silly and like I’m trying to make everyone into a body builder posing on the stage. That’s not it.

I believe that if you can flex a muscle-any muscle on it’s own you will stand a much better chance of ‘feeling’ that same muscle work during the appropriate exercise. And you will get stronger, ‘toned’ (aka stronger), and more definition.

Let’s look at the glutes. Can you flex them? Can you flex them hard enough that it ‘burns’ or starts to hurt/cramp? If not, you may need to try this drill before trying hundreds of lunges or squats or hip thrusts.

Use the mirrors-they aren’t for vanity checks

Mirrors are a phenomenal teaching tool. Unfortunately, they get a bad rap because they get misused in the gym setting. You have the meat-head who’s too busy checking out his arms to notice he’s missed one too many leg days, or the other guy who’s using the mirror to check out all the girls without getting caught staring them down, or the girl who keeps checking her make-up and/or outfit. Another sad truth is that many people are self-conscious about their appearance and do whatever they can NOT to look at themselves in the mirror. Whatever the reason for avoiding them, please put it aside during your training time.

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Instead use the mirror to check your form. Whether or not you’re leaning to side or not, or whether or not your knees are coming together when you perform a squat. You can use the mirror to see if the muscles you are trying to move are actually moving. (I’ve got my eyes on you).


Too often we get caught just going through the motions and not really bringing a mindfulness to what we are doing. Arnold was famous for his use of visualization during exercise. He’s not the only one, nearly all elite-level athletes engage in some sort of visualization technique before a competition to help them perform at their best. If it works for them, why not you/me?

It can be as simple as paying attention to your body to see if it’s working and fatiguing for a particular exercise. Or you can get more specific and focus on what you want the muscle to look when you are working it, or what you want it to look like ideally.

Speaking of visualizing, I like to think of creating this mind-muscle connection as a road. When you start off the path from your brain to that muscle is like a deer trail. Small, circuitous, and inefficient. The more you focus on it while training you can develop that path into a 5 lane highway.


“Feeling’ an exercise in the right spot is the first step to getting your fitness results whether that means getting stronger or minimizing injuries while in the gym. Using the 3 simple steps of 1-flexing the muscle, 2- using mirrors appropriately and 3-visualizing will get you to your fitness goals faster.