Everything about mind-muscle connection, supersets and isolation – interview with Liam Cavanagh

LiamLiam

I met Liam in a Facebook group. We were both looking for people to collaborate with so I asked Liam to do an interview together. We talked mostly about supersets, mind-muscle connection and isolation. Want to know more about these topics? Keep reading!

Can you tell us something more about yourself?

I am a 21 year old student from South-East London. I’m studying psychology and business. I also love football, american football, tennis and of course going to the gym. I have a lot of different interests.

You talk a lot about mind-muscle connection. What is it?

It’s an abstract concept. It’s how well you can feel the muscle that you are trying to work, contract. If you are training your biceps, you can start feeling your forearms. If you have a strong mind-muscle connection, you will be able to feel your biceps very well. By thinking about the muscle you’re training, you can get a better contraction. Knowing exactly which muscle you want to feel and how it should be feeling, you will get more out of your workout.

Do you think you will get stronger and you will grow your muscles more quickly if you use this technique?

I think the biggest difference it would make is how you feel coming away from the gym. If you have a strong mind-muscle connection, you will be aching in the right places the next day. This will also help for your motivation. If you don’t really feel the effects of the workouts, you might think that your workouts are not working. It does help because you are targeting the right muscles and it is going to help for your motivation as well.

Liam playing tennis

It’s hard to find a mind-muscle connection in your back. Do you have any tips for that?

The first trick I tried was bringing a gym partner and asking them to put their hand on the muscle you’re trying to work. This way, you will be able to feel that muscle contract. If you are just starting to get to the gym or if you are not used to contract specific parts of your muscle and you get someone to touch the parts you want to contract, that is really going to help. You also want to find exercises that work for you. In some exercises I can really feel my lats contracting but it is possible that other people find other exercises better to find that contraction. You can do research to see which exercises train which part of your back. You can try them out and see which ones you can feel in the right places. If you are doing a compound movement, it will be harder to feel contraction than when you are doing isolation exercises.

Do you think squeezing your muscles can help to find that contraction?

I understand what you mean. I do that when I am training legs and glutes. When you learn how to use that mind-muscle connection, you will be able to contract that muscle better. If you are sitting down, you can try to contract your glutes and then you can feel how it’s supposed to feel. Once you develop your muscle, you will be able to be more in control.

What are supersets?

You have two sets back to back. You’ve got your normal sets with e.g. 8-10 reps and you pair it with another exercise where you also do your reps e.g. also 8-10. You think of it as one continuous set. You don’t give your muscles time to recover.

Liam at the gym

What are the advantages of doing supersets?

There are a few advantages. It has a positive impact on your body and your heart rate. Because you are not giving yourself that rest break, you’ve got a greater time under tension. You are working harder and you need to use more energy. It will increase your heart rate. When I have a session focused on supersets, I sweat a lot more than if it’s not. If you’re trying to lose weight, that is very good too. You don’t have to do a lot of cardio if you use supersets. I also use it to put on muscle without gaining too much fat. You can work on your strength and you can also work on your heart rate. You can be more flexible if you are comfortable with supersets. You also need to spend less time in the gym if you superset a lot of exercises because you don’t have rest breaks. If you don’t have a lot of time or you go to the gym before work, that’s another benefit. If it’s super busy in the gym, you can do supersets with the same equipment so you don’t have to wait for the equipment to be free all the time.

Do you always train the same muscles in a superset or can you also train completely different muscle groups?

There’s nothing stopping you from training different muscles. As a human, your muscles work together as a team. That can help to build that relationship. I focus on building strength in a specific area or muscle group so I usually focus on exercises who target the same muscle groups. I try to target different areas within the muscle group e.g. I target two different parts of the triceps.

You’ve been talking a lot about isolation. What exactly is isolation?

You focus and target a specific muscle without using any of the surrounding muscles to perform the exercise e.g. when you do bicep curls, you are also training your forearms and your front delt. You are not isolating here. If you go to a seated bicep curl and you can lay your arm in front of you, you can isolate and you can focus on contracting your biceps without the help of surrounding muscles.

Liam training at the gym

What are the advantages of isolation exercises?

It can help build the mind-muscle connection because you know what you’re working and you can focus on one muscle. If you’re trying to gain a good-looking physique, isolation is very good. You are targeting the muscle very specifically. I think you need to incorporate them in your workouts but you also need to do compound movements. Like I said, your muscles naturally work together and you need to do compound movements to get stronger.

What are your best tips for students to find a good balance between studying, free time and health?

I try to use the gym as a way to release tension or stress. I tend to go after I did my work for uni. In the evening, my motivation to work for uni is lower. I am always motivated to go to the gym so I see going to the gym as my treat. I know I’ve worked hard academically throughout the day and then I can treat myself in the gym, get a sweat on… Sometimes I go to the gym first thing in the morning. Sometimes I go around 7am. If I am back, I already got done a big part of my day. I also feel really energized after I went to the gym. I am pumped for the rest of the day. You need to find what works for you. I know that if I go early, I can get a lot done but if I go in the middle of the day, I tend to procrastinate a bit and I don’t get a lot of work done for school.

Liam

A lot of things Liam told me in this interview, I already knew myself but I didn’t know it in that much detail and I think Liam is so good at explaining everything. I wouldn’t have been able to do it myself. I enjoyed it, I hope you did too!

Love,

Jana

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