Mental Approach - Generating Mental And Physical Intensity.

You need to have the motivation in order to generate the intensity required to spark muscle growth. Find the inspiration you need ... get motivated with these great tips on goal setting, visualization and more!

Building muscle is just as much mental as it is physical. Remember that the mind controls the body. If the mind does not want to go through hard and heavy workouts, the body will not either. You will end up going through the motions, but not doing the kind of heavy training necessary to properly develop your body. So start with the mind and the body will follow.

You need to have the motivation in order to generate the intensity required to spark muscle growth. Find the inspiration you need to fuel your workouts. You can possibly do this by flipping through a muscle magazine before heading off to the gym. Find pictures or videos of bodybuilders that inspire you to train hard and push yourself each workout.

Before each workout it is important to mentally envision your entire routine. Picture each exercise you are going to do for that day. As you play your workout through your mind, envision the weight you will use for each set.

Define your goal by establishing a weight you want to lift for each movement. By picturing a successful execution of the weight for your exercises, you will become focused and generate mental and physical intensity.

Never just walk into the gym without a clear plan of action. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Without a plan, you will walk into the gym with a lack of focus. With that lack of focus, your workout will most likely be unproductive. You must be mentally prepared for intense training and primed to go through the pain. Otherwise your goal will become merely a wish.


Goal Setting

In bodybuilding if you take care of the improvements that need to be made every day, the long-term goals will take care of themselves. Without a goal to shoot for each day, you are wasting your time; you are training for no reason at all. Your mind will not get excited and your training becomes a half-@ssed affair.

You need to be totally involved in the effort you put forth in the gym and exert yourself to the extent necessary for success in bodybuilding.

-> Short Term Goals:

    I set mental, obtainable goals before heading to the gym. A mental goal allows for flexibility and gives you motivation to improve. It's not enough to go to the gym and say, "Someday I want to be a pro bodybuilder."

James Kohler James Kohler
Click Image To Enlarge.
James Kohler.

    That's too vague and too far down the road. That would be considered a long-term goal. Everyone needs small, daily goals to give their workouts meaning and intensity. Small goals break your long-term goals into incremental and more manageable segments.

    For instance, if you did 225 pounds on the bench press for 10 reps last chest workout, you need to try and do 235 pounds next chest workout. Keep working until you can do 235 pound for 10 reps and then add more weight onto the bar again. If you did 10 chins the last back workout, try getting 11 the next time you train. Your training should be progressive, trying to beat what you have done previously.

    This will give each workout special meaning and is the only way to keep making improvements. If you are not training progressively, you are just spinning your wheels.

    When you see a person at the gym who always uses the same weights and exercises, who always does the same sets and reps, and who never improves, you know you are looking at a person that has forgotten the importance of setting small daily goals. Training without goals is meaningless because you have nothing to aim for and no sense of purpose.

    Goal Setting:

-> Long Term Goals:

    You also need to set long-term goals, goals that are currently unobtainable. By setting unobtainable goals, you are able to train at an ultra-high level by striving for that big, long-term goal. "Aim for the stars and maybe you'll reach the sky" is a phrase that I keep in mind.

    "Aim For The Stars And Maybe You'll Reach The Sky."

    Then by achieving my short-term goal, I maintain continued motivation by meeting or exceeding my intermediate expectations. Never set a goal too low just to be able to achieve it, always try and push yourself. You are capable of great things when you set your sights high.

    Long-term goals may include what competition you want to win, what body fat you want to get down to, and the kind of physique you ultimately want to create. Your long-term goals should be SMART- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. An example would be: "I want my calves to measure 19 inches by the end of December."

Calves Calves
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Some Of The Best Calves On The Forum!

    It is not enough to say, "I want bigger calves." That's not specific enough, nor is it measurable and timely. For a goal to be effective, you have to make them specific, measurable and timely. The goal should also be attainable and realistic.

    Obviously if your calves measure 16 inches, it would not be possible to make them grow 3 inches in a year or less. They have to be built up to 17 inches first, then 18 inches.

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    Sometimes focusing on long-term goals can be discouraging. But as the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. That is why you need to learn how to set smaller goals along with your big goals. It will make your long-term goals less intimidating.

-> Write Things Down:

    Write your long-term goals down and review them each day, keeping them fresh in your head. Reviewing your goals daily is a crucial part of your success and should become apart of your everyday routine. This process will start both your subconscious and conscious mind on working toward your goals. It will also replace any negative self-talk you may have and replace it with positive self-talk.

    If you write your goals down, you increase your chance of attaining them by 50%. You should also share your goals with others. If you share your goals with others around you, you increase your chance of achieving them by 95%.

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Do You Write Down Your Goals?

Yes - Always.
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Sometimes.

-> Think Big!

    It is a lot easier to let yourself down than to let someone else down. So start thinking big and dream big. Get charged up about what you are trying to accomplish, because wonderful things can happen when the mind is excited.

    Don't necessarily get caught up in how you are going to accomplish your long-term goals. That is one reason why many of us fail to set goals, not knowing every precise detail in reaching the goal. The mind doesn't work that way.

    Once you set an ambitious goal, no matter how far away you think it may be, your subconscious mind will search for every possible way to reach that goal. If you look on a map, and you're trying to get from point A to point B, there are several different routes you can take in order to get to point B.

    In other words, there is no exact way to reach your long-term goals. The key is to be positive, self confident, determined and consistent.

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Visualization

Not only should you define goals with the poundage you lift, you should also define your physical goal. How much muscle do you want to develop? How big do you want your arms and calves to measure? How wide do you want your back and shoulders? How thick do you want your chest to be? Brand this image of yourself in your mind. By visualizing where you want to be you keep a focused mindset throughout your entire workout.

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I used to visualize myself becoming more and more like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although I was tall and skinny as a teenager, I believed one day I could develop a massive physique like Arnold's too.

I felt like he was the bodybuilder I should try and emulate, because our genetics were similar. We both were of Austrian descent, tall with similar frames, and had similar muscle bellies and insertions. I decided to make Arnold my mentor and I learned all I could from his writings.

The more I focused on his image and trained and grew, the more I saw the real possibility of being like him. Focus on negative thoughts and you fail, focus on positive thoughts and you succeed. Some bodybuilders state, "I want to have 20-inch arms someday," but then in the same breath add, "but I just don't think that's possible."

James Kohler James Kohler
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Author, James Kohler.

They will never develop 20-inch arms with that attitude. They have already defeated themselves mentally. Lots of people compare their talent to someone else's and when they find themselves lacking, they give up. It's the bodybuilder who thinks, "I don't have the genetics to become Mr. Olympia, so why even bother to try." So he doesn't even use the talent that he does have to reach his own capabilities.

Bodybuilding is much like sculpture. You have to look in the mirror and see yourself as you are and then as what you want to ultimately achieve. I studied Arnold's photographs constantly and focused on building a physique more and more like his. I mimicked his training style and used his strategies. This helped me to individualize my workouts, learning what specific movements worked well for me and what did not.

I advise other bodybuilders to do the same. Find a bodybuilder to emulate, based on your genetics. It wouldn't make sense for someone who is medium-sized and aesthetic to use Dorian Yates as their role model. Visualization would not be a powerful tool because the transformation would be unrealistic.

Dorian Yates
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Dorian Yates.

That bodybuilder would be better off choosing someone with a similar build, like Frank Zane or Shawn Ray. Use someone who represents your ideal physique and study photos of them. Get a clear picture of where you want to go, and then you can devise a plan of how to get there.

Frank Zane Shawn Ray
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Frank Zane & Shawn Ray.

Trying to create a plan from scratch takes too much time. Don't try and reinvent the wheel so to speak. Research the proven routes of success and you will be giving yourself the best chance to duplicate it, in a quicker amount of time. Model what other successful bodybuilders have done to make your training, nutrition and supplementation most efficient.

Uncover their philosophies and you will cut your education time drastically. Knowledge is power. Continue to learn throughout your journey as a bodybuilder, but keep in mind that you will never know it all.


Positive Thinking

Once you have set your goals and created a clear picture of the physique you wish to attain, it is inevitable that you will run into obstacles. You can't let this defeat you in reaching your goals. Everyone has come across roadblocks at some point in their quest for success. You can't let that stop you.

Figure out how to go through them, climb them or go around them. Stay on track and committed to your goals. Having a positive attitude and how you deal with what happens to you is 99% of the battle. So keep pushing forward and don't lose sight of your goal.

Your attitude is what is going to carry you through in achieving what you want to accomplish. A common characteristic of bodybuilding champions is having a positive attitude. They can focus completely on achieving their goals and shut out any negative thoughts.

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They have total confidence in their ability to become champions, no matter how many times they fail or how long it takes. They don't let other people's opinions and negativity dissuade them from their dream.

Believe in yourself and don't ever give up. If you feel like you are worthy enough to be where you want to be and do what you want to do in life, then go for it. Don't let anything hold you back. Anything. You only have one life to live and it should be spent doing the things that make you happy.

If you feel like your worthy to have the best life has to offer, you will have the best chance of having that vision become a reality. On the contrast, if you don't think you're worthy, you will make that vision of your life come true.

"All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea,"
Napoleon Hill wrote.

Energy follows thought. You should think about what you want in life, not about what you don't want. What you focus on in life will expand and eventually will become a reality.

Your thoughts and actions will lead you to where you feel you ought to be. You must focus on what you really want in life-not on what you think you can have.

No matter what has happened to you in your past or what obstacles you have come face to face with, you must keep a positive attitude and work through it. If you think you are going to achieve your ultimate physique, you will. If you are convinced you cannot reach that level, you won't.

You are where you are in life right now because of your way of thinking. Your way of thinking will dictate your actions and therefore determine your results. It is your thoughts that first lead you to any outstanding accomplishment or disappointing failure.

Athletes, entertainers, artists, businessman, doctors, educators and politicians have all used the power of positive thinking to get them where they are today. Positive thinking can be applied to any life endeavor. Passion and enthusiasm toward any goal creates positive energy and becomes contagious around us.


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James Kohler.


Drive And Determination

Your will to succeed and drive forward comes from with inside you. Nobody can do it for you. You have to want it to happen. People can give you advice and that's all. It is your efforts and nobody else's that will give you progress and success.

Like Bruce Lee once said, "To know is not enough, we must apply." You have to apply what you have learned on nutrition, training, goal setting and positive thinking in order to reach your goals. You can plan what you are going to do all you want, but if you don't actually do it - nothing is going to happen.

The greater the adversity you must overcome in obtaining your goal, the greater the enjoyment you will experience. Know that everyone eventually experiences a setback or makes a mistake. We are going to fail one way or another as we travel along life's path, we're only human.

It will all come down to the passion of your conviction, the desire to keep going and your refusal to quit. You'll find a way to get around a setback if your heart is truly in it and you believe in yourself. No matter what knocks you down you just have to get back up again.

Trust your decisions and then stand by them. Don't suddenly doubt yourself if you trip up. Don't let other's pessimism dissuade you. Be patient and believe in your abilities. If you are persistent enough you will eventually attain your goals.


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Don't Doubt Yourself.

My formula for success has been hard work, self-confidence and positive thinking. Keep striving forward, no matter what happens. Realize you can do it. If you really want it- then go for it.

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Mind In The Muscle

Going through the motions means nothing and you will achieve little results by doing this. You have to have what is called the "mind-muscle" connection. This link is something that is very difficult for many people to master. I feel that establishing this ability is what separates those that excel from those that don't.

Focus on the muscle that you are working, not on the weight in your hands. Visualize how you want that muscle to look and concentrate on how it feels throughout the movements. This will allow you to establish the "mind-muscle" connection.

As a personal trainer I often encountered clients that had difficulty establishing the mind into the muscle. Training back, they often gave me feedback how they felt it more in their biceps than anything. I explained to them that they have to imagine their arms as simply hooks or links to the weight.

Focus on pulling with your lat muscles. As their concentration grew and gained more experience, they soon found it easy to grasp the "mind-muscle" connection. It is important that you are feeling the muscle being targeted and controlling the weight during each and every set you perform. Soon you won't even have to think about it.

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Fear Of Failure

When you face challenges, it is always the mind that fails first, not the body. The fear of failing can get in the way of achieving success. This fear prevents you from trying really hard, releasing all of your energies and mustering up total motivation.

Norman Peale once wrote, "If you put everything off until you're sure of it, you'll get nothing done." You have to be willing to take risks and step away from being totally secure.

"If You Put Everything Off Until You're Sure Of It,
You'll Get Nothing Done."

Failure can actually be a good learning tool. It instructs which part of your plan is working and which is not. It defines limits for you. Do not fear to test your limits. There is an enormous amount of satisfaction that comes from stepping over your supposed limit.

Push yourself as far as you can go, until you run into a wall and can go no further. Attempt to make a lift you know will be a great struggle to make. What is the worse that can happen? You cannot get the weight up. If you can't lift it at this point in time, keep working at it.

Once you have experienced failure you will know that much more about yourself and training program. Then you can plan the next stage more intelligently. Knowing what worked and what didn't work will allow you to grow from the experience.

After each workout, reflect back on how you felt while you trained. On a scale of one to ten, how was your intensity? Were you focused?

How were your energy levels? Did you get the most you possibly could from each and every rep? What could you have done better? By giving yourself a self-evaluation after each workout, you make yourself more accountable. A workout summary can teach you what went well and what to improve upon next time. Concentrating on maximizing your workout will maximize your gains.

You have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and take risks. In fact, the only time you are actually growing in life is when you are uncomfortable. Making changes is not a walk in the park. We all possess the personal power required to make changes.

Cultivate that power, you are in charge of your own life. You can change the quantity of personal power you possess, from weak to strong. Only you can decide which power flourishes within you. Before you attempt to make a lift, say to yourself, "This is going to go up" and don't doubt it.

Like Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman always says, "Light weight baby." His personal power is so strong that he has absolutely no doubt that weight is going to go up.


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Ronnie At The 2006 Olympia Pre-Judging.
View More Pics From The 2006 Olympia Here.


A Credo For Success

Seeing tremendous growth and change in yourself can help you attain a new and better life. Bodybuilding has taught me how to set and reach goals effectively. It has taught me the power of positive thinking and how to overcome adversity with determination.

My self-esteem grew along with my muscles and I learned discipline and dedication. My work ethic became much stronger. I have been able to apply these same principles to other areas of my life as well- such as my work, education and personal relationships. I truly believe success in bodybuilding can teach you to become successful in anything in life.

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When you utilize the power of your mind, nothing can stop you- you can accomplish anything. Albert Einstein claimed you cannot achieve a new goal by applying the same level of thinking that got you where you are today. Take these concepts and start applying them. Set your standards high and have no fear of failing during your pursuit of success.