The great bodybuilding champions of our time had relied upon many strategies to power their way through arduous workouts and create physiques which continue to inspire the up and comers of today. Training and diet are two obvious key aspects associated with the attainment of physical perfection, but there is another, more intrinsic, variable, which has assisted, to a greater or lesser degree, the Schwarzenegger's, Haney's and Coleman's of this world: the notion of mind-power.
The ability to connect psychologically with ones muscles through various strategies is a very important, albeit often overlooked, aspect in the quest for physical superiority. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously envisaged his biceps growing to become mountain peaks, and achieved amazing, some would argue unparalleled, development in this area.
Tom Platz imagined his quads blowing up like massive balloons. Has his leg development ever been rivaled? Although imagining the unthinkable might evoke massive gains, using mind power as a whole, to assist one's bodybuilding endeavors, is considerably more complex.
To really channel the mind toward bodybuilding success, through attaining complete concentration and total absorption throughout every training session, a multi-pronged attack is required. This entails focusing the mind, maintaining a positive mind-set, strengthening the mind/body link and conditioning the subconscious.
Focus The Mind
Focusing the mind requires a tremendous effort if total concentration is sought. The key to completing any set with sufficient intensity, attention to correct form and visualization, demands complete focus. A good strategy for developing focus is to sit quietly before each set and consider the task ahead, while blocking out all extraneous information.
Other peoples conversations, the radio, distracting thoughts and people in one's immediate proximity all qualify as useless and irrelevant as far as the impending set is concerned. Also, it is useful to map out exactly what is to be achieved for a particular set. Number of repetitions, feeling within the muscle and correct form all qualify as relevant and worth attending to.
Many top-level bodybuilders are regarded as arrogant in that they seem to be tied up in their own self importance and not interested in anybody or anything when training in the gym. This is probably not arrogance. It is more than likely to be focus. Their physiques are an outward manifestation of this inward focus.
Maintaining A Positive Mind-Set
Although maintaining focus is very important, as illustrated in the preceding section, it is equally as important to maintain a positive mind-set at all times.
In today's fast-paced world, with an increasing number of social problems, it is not easy to maintain calm and focused for any appreciable period of time. However, it is extremely desirable to try to develop and maintain a positive mindset. The top professionals, in any sport, have few outside distractions, and this, in turn, allows them to concentrate on their training objectives with relative efficiency.
The key during any physical event, and this includes weight-training, is to put oneself in the moment to the highest possible degree. To do this, one must not be preoccupied with what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. These things are irrelevant to the task at hand.
By maintaining a positive mindset, it is easier to switch off and immerse oneself in the training experience. Focusing on negative aspects of life will only serve to dilute the present and, resultantly, impede training performance.
Ways to enhance positive thinking include, dissociating with negative people and refraining from negative pursuits such as sedentariness, excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking.
Positive visualization and goal-setting are also important variables when seeking to improve ones mind-set.
Before each set imagine exactly what is to be achieved during that set. Also, doing this within the hour before each training-session has merit.
However, it has to be said that thinking about one's workout 24-hours-per-day is probably not conducive to developing a positive mindset. This could, instead, lead to burn-out and disillusionment.
In order to attain complete focus, it is vitally important to develop the mind/muscle link. It has been shown that the greater the ability an athlete has in performing in their chosen sport, the more adept they are at using a particular action, or exercise, to specifically target a particular muscle group, or groups.
Indeed, as far as bodybuilding goes, it is important to see in one's mind exactly the impact a particular exercise is having on a particular muscle. The better one is at this, the better they will be at developing their mind/muscle link.
What is the best way to do this? Through studying all of the different muscle groupings, and acquiring the ability to identify individual muscles and the effect a particular training stimulus has on these muscles, one will eventually learn to, seemingly intuitively, know if the exercises they are doing are having the desired effect.
Anyone can simply lift a weight for a prescribed number of repetitions, but very few are probably adept at knowing, through their mind/muscle link, exactly how this weight is assisting muscular growth. Another way in which to develop the mind/muscle link is to, as Arnold recommended, flex an body-part before actually training it. He called this "getting in touch with your muscles."
For example, flexing the chest by pushing the arms out will replicate the action of the bench press. The pushing action will be exactly how the bench press itself should feel. The subsequent bench-press will activate more fibres as the lifter will have found the right groove through the continual pre-flexing of the muscle.
A further way to strengthen the mind/muscle link is to have ones training partner lightly touch the area to be trained. Ones attention will be subsequently directed onto this area and, as a result, training energy will be more precisely focused in line with the mechanics of the exercise.
A strengthened mind/muscle link will also help to negate muscular inhibition. Muscular inhibition is a necessary regulatory mechanism put in place to off-set any potential muscular damage which might occur during a stressful event. A heavy set of squats for example.
By re-educating your muscular system to circumvent the inhibition mechanism, a stronger muscular contraction will be possible, and greater growth will result. Arnold once said that "the harder you concentrate and focus the mind into the muscle, the more you break through the inhibitory limitations your brain is creating and the more rapid your progress."
Condition The Subconscious
Gaining massive amounts of muscle takes more than merely psyching oneself up for a training session, or blocking out irrelevant cues. Granted, these things are important, but to achieve outstanding success one must also condition their subconscious mind. The subconscious is thought to be the area of the mind which functions just below the level of awareness. Anything in life, real or imagined, can stimulate the subconscious, and cause one to act or think in a certain way.
In short: people who think negatively tend to experience negative life events, while people who think positively tend to get the most out of life. Bodybuilding's real champions tend to never speak about themselves in negative terms, but, rather, in a positive light. Furthermore, they tend to be similarly positive in most other areas of their life.
Becoming, and remaining, an eternal optimist is, in fact, probably the single most important step an aspiring champion can make. One important way to condition the subconscious is to practice positive affirmation on a constant basis.
An affirmation is a positive thought or statement that you repeat to yourself and implant in your subconscious mind as a source of inspiration for your present and future actions. Affirmations can instruct your subconscious to overcome physical and mental barriers previously thought insurmountable. They are one of the best tools to overcome negative thinking, and enhance self-esteem.
Good Bodybuilding Affirmations Include
"I will power through todays workout and overcome all barriers"
"I will surpass all personal bests today"
"The food I am eating will assist my muscle growth"
Although these affirmations are a good start, it is always best to choose them on the basis of specifically predicated goals, and use trigger words which will personally motivate and enthuse. An example of a trigger word would be "stunning" as in "I will experience stunning results today". Use words which stimulate.
The Keys To Effective Affirmation Usage
- Use affirmations specific to ones problem or goal.
- Start ones day with a positive affirmation.
- Use affirmations regularly.
- Use only positive words. Always avoid negative ones.
- Act as if the affirmations are already working.
Mind training, as conveyed in this article, is equally as important as muscle training, if superior results are the aim. In reading the various bodybuilding champions texts it is apparent, when it comes to motivation, that one can literally condition their mind for greatness. A well conditioned mind seems to be half the battle as far as building muscle is concerned. But conditioning the mind for greatness is not a simple process.
Indeed, it takes a lot of planning and effort. Through focusing the mind, attaining and maintaining a positive mind-set, strengthening the mind/muscle link, and conditioning the subconscious, unbelievable results can be realized. Begin thinking your way to a great physique.