Mind Over Muscle

If I have a strong belief and the information to prove it, I will say it with full confidence.
In my last few articles, I've used science to back up what I say. Why did I pain-stakingly scrutinize over pages and pages of dry, boring research just to prove a point? Because a lot of what I believe and say goes against the grain of traditional bodybuilding methods. In today's society we all look to the scientists to prove or disprove certain things, and bodybuilding is no different. When it comes to supplementation and dietary needs, everyone is looking for the latest in applied science to get the edge on the competition.

I feel I can and have given all of you a look at some of those latest techniques. And I plan to continue to do so in the future. If you haven't noticed by now, I don't take sides, play favorites or bow down to majority rule. If I have a strong believe and the information to prove it, I will say it with full confidence.

However, this time will be different. There will be no scientific studies, or research. There won't be any references or proof for what I say. Why? Because this article is about the mind, the abstract entity that makes each of us who we are and determines what we do.

I believe that will all the muscle we pack on, the mind is will always be the strongest part of the human being. It has control over every aspect of our lives. Whether it be in the conscious or unconscious, the mind reigns supreme.

I truly believe that if we can understand how our minds work, we can make it work in our favor whenever and however we want. There are 2 things the human mind places priority above all else in any situation. They are survival, and seeking the path of least resistance. These two things are like night and day. And for all functional purposes, set us up for failure.

Survival

Survival is a good thing in our cases. We go into the gym and literally tear our bodies apart. It is the natural priority that allows us to grow. When we use heavy overloading weight we are calling upon our bodies ability to adapt to the situation so it can survive with a greater ease if that same stimulus were to happen again.

In, other words muscle growth is a result of your body trying to survive the trauma we place on it intentionally. This is all fine and good, but there is one thing that stands in our way. And that is our bodies second priority, seeking the path of least resistance.

Path Of Least Resistance

Because our bodies are our number one priority is survival, the mind makes it hard to place ourselves in traumatic situations, both mental and physical. Our mind will instinctively avoid pain and seek pleasure. The two things that bodybuilding doesn't provide.

The pain of heavy weight, the pain of strict dieting, the mental pain we deal with when we don't get the results we want. The deck is stacked against us from the get go. There comes a time for all of us when things become stagnant. The weight isn't moving up, the scale isn't moving up, we can't stay on a good diet, we aren't growing like we used to.

Then the all powerful word comes up, "genetics". Maybe we aren't meant to be bodybuilders. Maybe there is something I just don't have control over. Trust me when I tell you, genetics is the last thing that is preventing you from progressing. Its all in your head!

Avoid pain and seek pleasure. Lifting the heaviest weights possible goes against that principle rule. There are too many people who justify lifting lighter than they know they should. Some will say it's just a bad day, or they are at a plateau, or that they have reached their genetic potential.

There is a phrase that pops up fairly often in the bodybuilding world, "Pick a weight you can do six times and then do it eight times. Do you see one of those justifications buried in that phrase? Let me ask you this, if you picked a weight you could only do six times, how is it that you were able to get eight? It was really a weight you could get eight times, wasn't it?

Or what about the infamous periodization when people will lighten the weight, raise the reps and increase the volume. Yes, it is true that periodization has been shown to be effective in strength and size increases. However, periodization is not limited to volume and weight loads, oh no! Simply by rotating the days you work out, switching the order of exercises, or picking new exercises all around the board, or just so much as switching bars or the width of a grip are all examples of periodization.

In all honesty, I don't think it's the
actual changing of a routine that causes the progress, I think it's the fact that your mind has something fresh to work with. The work out that was old family dog has become a brand new Ferrari and you are going to drive that thing full bore till the tank runs dry.

Maybe you've used the excuse of not having the energy, or feeling "off" one day. You didn't get the same weight or number of reps as last week? I'd have to say it's all in your mind again. Most of us keep a record of our workouts either mentally or physically documented. We know what we did last week. If you were to set last week's performance as a minimum standard there would be no such thing as an "off" day, would there?

Once you've gone through warm-up sets, why even bother with anything less? Just slap on the maximum weight and work to improve. I believe every time you put your hand on a weight or bar, your #1 goal should be to improve and to stimulate muscles to grow by invoking the survival response.

If you lift any lighter, you've done nothing; you've wasted time and energy. You can justify that all you want, but that is simply how adaptation works. Heavyweights are intimidating and your mind isn't going to let you put your body in harm's way forever.

Harnessing The Mind

We all have a favorite exercise and that exercise usually reflects our favorite body part. And consequently that body part is most likely the biggest or best-looking one. What is it that makes that so. I think it is because that we associate
pleasure with that exercise and with
working that body part.

Remember, the mind will seek pleasure. Guys associate pleasure with big pecs because we think that women love really big pecs. And some how if we have bigger pecs than the next guy, we'll get all the girls. So it isn't all that uncommon to see every bench in the gym being used at one time with guys trying to lift more weight than they know they can handle.

Conversely, too many of us associate pain with heavy squats. This aspect prevents us from lifting as heavy as we can. When was the last time you saw someone fail and crash under the bar while squatting? When was the last time that happened to you? It doesn't happen too often.

Now, think for a minute about what your favorite body part is. And think which exercise you love to do the most. I bet you can do more weight on that particular exercise than anyone else you know, right? I know I can. My favorite body part is my traps. My favorite exercise is barbell shrugs. And consequently, I can shrug over 500lbs. Mind you I'm barely 200 pounds myself. This is free weights, no assistance, I can stand upright with 500 pounds in my hands and crank out reps. There aren't many people I know that can do that. I bet its that same way for you.

I can also be that thee is some kind of a ritual that you go through to put yourself in the right frame of mind to really pile on the weigh for that particular lift too. Maybe you say something to yourself, or go down a checklist, or a put yourself in a certain body position. Whatever it is, you should make it a point to go through that on every lift. Put your mind in its most powerful state every time you pick up a weight! If you can recreate that sense of urgency and confidence for every lift, you'll continue progress.

I used to hate squatting. I could only squat about 285 for reps of about 5. After reconditioning my mind, I've started to enjoy squatting and in only a few short weeks, I've moved up to 350 and squatting well below parallel. The numbers are really not the point here, but they are just an example of what a specific mind set can accomplish when your body refuses to do what you want.

It is hard to condition your mind to enjoy pain, but once you have it well pay big dividends. I'm sure many of you read my article Anabolic Aerobics. I pieced together research involving people from all walks of life and all kinds of lifestyles and the results were always the same.

High intensity, I mean extremely high intensity cardio helps you build more muscle faster. I'm sure that there are a number of you who decided to blow it off and ignore every word I said. Is it because you really believe that I'm wrong, or is it because you are seeking the path of least resistance. I'll be the first to admit, high intensity cardio is painful. But I make sure to do it because I associate more pleasure with the end result than the amount of pain associated with the act itself.

It's funny, but when a new supplement comes out that guarantees increases in muscle mass, no matter how ridiculous the product is, every last one of us will give buying it an honest thought. Those new products that claim to block the myostatin gene and create explosive gains in muscle mass, literally OVERNIGHT ... we know it's a load of crap, but I'll bet there are more than a few of you who have either gone to a Bodybuilding.com store or Bodybuilding.com looking for it or even have a tub of it in your house right now! But how many of you actually went down to the gym a cranked out a 13-minute cardio session after reading my article?

The mind is an awesome tool to our bodybuilding goals, IF we know how to use it in our favor. Hopefully, I've given you a little insight into my mindset and you can start to apply this tomorrow. I think the only thing preventing us from our dreams is ourselves. Not someone else, not time, not money, and certainly not genetics. So if you were to think for a minute about the next ten years, and put yourself in the right mindset, where do you think you would be? What they say really is true, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!" So, what's stopping you?

Thanks,