Beyond pumping iron there is another kind of preparation for bodybuilding competition, a preparation just as important, and one that involves subtle factors concerning your attitude and mental approach to training and competition.
You can achieve great things with your body if you learn how to use your mind. Learning to harness the power of your mind can advance your physical training a giant step farther. It can also make the difference between winning and losing in competition.
Mind power and success through mind conditioning only comes with a sustained and sincere effort. You can't make a wish and hope that it comes true and forget about working on it. The mind reacts much the same way the body does. If you train and condition it regularly, it responds with great efficiency and effectiveness.
On the other hand, if you assume, as so many bodybuilders do, that it's good enough the way it is, your chances of achieving your maximum potential are greatly diminished. If you had foolishly assumed that attitude about your body, you would never have entered the gym to train in the first place.
Some of the key ingredients to an effective mind conditioning program are:
You've gotta believe. You've gotta believe in yourself, in your talents and capabilities, in your goals and all you hope to achieve, and in your methods for achieving them.
The key to understanding what your mind holds in store for you is a simple realization. Realize that within you is all the power you need to succeed both in training and in competition. Within you is all the potential for success. Within you is the brain power of an infinitely superior person, physically, spiritually and mentally.
Once you make this realization -- that your mind holds a vast wealth of knowledge, information, control, power, ability and potential -- you can start to tap it. You can delve into your own secret depths and find out what you're really made of.
Motivation And Discipline For Mind Conditioning
Motivation is the state of mind that generates positive feelings about achieving a purpose. Some people are motivated by financial rewards, others by primitive urges for physical pleasure. For you, the most highly motivating element in your life MUST become your dream of acquiring unsurpassed, mind-blowing power and mass.
But to be motivated isn't enough. It also takes discipline. Discipline is what keeps you consistently scientific in your actions as you strive to achieve your goal.
Simple Step-By-Step Method To Getting What You Want:
Define your ultimate goals clearly and write them down. This means being specific about what you want. What kind of improvements are you looking for? Do you want simply to increase your overall strength, your lean body mass, or reduce your percent bodyfat? Or, is it the NPC Championships? The Olympia? Maybe you're "of Iron" and chose POWERLIFTING to excel in!
That, friend, is GOOD! Then concentrate specifically on the actual aspects you wish to improve, and write them down. You'll be surprised at how much clearer you can make it by simply putting it in words. When you have to select the exact words to define what you want, you tend to develop a super-clear image of your goal.
Devise a series of short-term goals which will ultimately lead to realizing your main goals. It's easier to attain a short-term goal that's within reach than to try and make great leaps in progress all at once. When you try too much at once and fail you tend to get discouraged. Instead, set a number of short-term goals that you can accomplish and then knock them off one at a time. Focus exclusively on the short-term goal you wish to achieve most of all, not even thinking about the next short-term goal or the long run.
Each one of your short-term goals should lead you to completion of your major goal. Each short-term goal is a stepping stone, not an end in itself. That's why they have to be accomplished one at a time. And as you complete each short-term goal, you will find that you are all the more motivated to continue your trek to greatness.
Create your strategy for success. This is your game plan, your INTEGRATED training program. On the same sheet that you wrote your long-term goal and listed the short-term goals that will get you there, you should break down your daily activities into the best means to get you where you're going. This means the routines, exercises, sets, reps, intensity, practice, rest periods, diet, naps, posing practice and so on. Follow your own plan to success.
Prepare a daily schedule that takes you in the direction you want to go, and recognize right from the start that you are a unique individual, and require a program that's necessarily different from anyone else's. Keep your goal sheet current and review it day by day. A good place to start is with the "daily clocks" presented in this book. These daily clocks are devised to allow you to take advantage of all the various technologies science has to offer and -- at the same time -- allow you to thoroughly PERSONALIZE your goal-oriented training. So, the hardest part is already done for you!
Visualize yourself succeeding. No one would attempt to build a house without a set of blueprints. Likewise, you must plan your success strategy, and actually "see" yourself, in your mind's eye, accomplishing your goals. Your inner feelings, your thoughts, your daydreams must all be filled with images of your ultimate success. Twice a day -- once after training and once before bedtime -- read your goal sheet out loud.
Then close your eyes and with crystal clarity see yourself becoming exactly as you want to. But see yourself actually accomplishing your goals of acquiring great muscular size and proportioning, not just wistfully thinking about how nice it would be to look that way.
Align your mind, body and spirit with achievement. By affirming your commitment to your stated goals, and actually visualizing and verbalizing your commitment, you will find that your mind, body, spirit and emotional self all become one. The power of this union will send an emotional supercharge to your body by actually stimulating secretion of your body's "emotion-producing" biochemicals. The alignment is accomplished by actually verbalizing your commitment while visualizing it. For example, say, "I am committed to becoming the most massive and cut bodybuilder in history." Repeat your commitment statement before, during and after your success visualization every day.
Give yourself a reward for your accomplishments. After you've achieved a sub-goal or your ultimate goal(s), reward yourself in a significant fashion. I don't mean just having an ice cream cone after a contest peaking cycle! That's not significant enough to "anchor" the significance of your achievement firmly in your mind and soul. Personally dwell upon your achievement and your success. Congratulate yourself and savor the feelings of pride and confidence in having taken direct action to make yourself bigger and stronger.
The key to mental conditioning is to make your new thoughts and new approach a habit. The more regular your new habit becomes, the more quickly old and destructive habits fade away. The only way to continue making progress is to regularly reinforce your new, goal-directed integrated training.
It usually takes about three weeks to implement this revised way of thinking. During that time you're likely to feel tempted to return to old patterns and habits, feeling that the old way was easier and "good enough."
Don't do it!
The more you resist old habits, the stronger you'll become until you develop an iron will to succeed and you no longer even think about returning to old habits. Going back to your old mental habits would be akin to leaving the gym forever.
Remember to create a goal, visualize it as real, and work regularly to successfully attain firm footing on each of the stepping stones that will take you to it. When you get there, you'll know.
How To Get Motivated And Stay Motivated
Let's back up for a minute before we review the steps toward goal achievement. What got you into bodybuilding? Was it seeing a bodybuilding show? Was it the incredibly huge and muscular kid next door? Your older brother or sister who bodybuilds? Whatever it was, it no doubt fostered in you a deep, abiding sense of passion for bodybuilding.
That's the way all champions begin. With abiding passion for what they do. With such passion, motivation almost always comes naturally.
Passion is a hard word to define. What "turns your crank" may be different from anyone else. It's easier to describe what passion is NOT:
Passion is NOT need to achieve. Instead, it's a burning desire to exceed ALL bounds! It's NOT commitment to excellence, but utter disdain for anything less! And, it's NOT endless hours of practice. It's PERFECT practice! It's NOT ability to cope. Rather, it's total domination of ALL situations! And it's NOT setting unrealistic or vague goals, because doing so too often prescribes performance limits! Passion is NOT doing what it takes to win. Instead, it's doing what it takes to EXCEED! It most certainly is NOT force of skill or muscle. Rather, it's the explosive, calamitous force of WILL!
If you believe in and practice these things, then for you, winning is neither everything nor the only thing. It's a FOREGONE CONCLUSION! But if, along the way, you somehow stumble, PROFIT from the experience! Then, vow, by the power of Almighty God, it'll NEVER happen again! So, you see, PASSION is all-consuming. That is what it takes to become a champion, and that is what it'll take for you to achieve your ultimate bodybuilding goals. If you haven't acquired passion, seek it first. Find it. Do not begin without it, for you will be severely limited in your quest for greatness.
Incentive: The Mother Of Motivation
Motivation -- and passion -- begins and ends with incentive. You have to know what you want and why you want it, and achieving it may be reward in and of itself. This is called "intrinsic" reward. "Extrinsic" rewards are such things as money, trophies or prizes. In both cases, the rewards serve as incentive to continue.
In bodybuilding, this may mean that achieving a specific improvement provides the incentive for going after it. More strength, stamina, cuts or sheer muscle mass are various incentives. But they may also be a part of larger incentives such as being liked and admired, being a winner or achiever, enjoying success, shaping a personal identity, gaining peer acceptance, and so on. Recognize incentive as a powerful motivating force, not as something potentially destructive, evil, trivial or shameful.
Steps To Goal Attainment:
- Set realistic short-term goals.
- Short-term goals should lead you to a long-term goal. Allow for occasional setbacks along the way, but regard them as learning experiences, thereby turning those setbacks into something positive.
- Set a training schedule and stick to it. (Search through hundreds of workouts, click here!)
- Make pain and fatigue work for you, as signs that your all-out effort is helping you attain your goals.
- Constantly challenge yourself in your training.
- Devise your own, personal definition of success. It's what you say it is, not what someone else says.
- Believe in yourself and foster positive aggression in your training.
- Build a strong ego, but a restrained one.
Your Emotional State
Your mind and your emotions are tightly tied together. It's up to you to find a balance between them and exert absolute control over them. Your emotional state plays a large role in your overall training. The way you're feeling inside has repercussions for your behavior and performance on the outside. There are many different factors which go into the makeup of a solid emotional base.
Some Of These Factors Are:
- Personal life
- Sexual life
- Family life
- Daily schedule
- Financial matters
- Health concerns, and, most importantly ...
Your own self-esteem contributes greatly to the level of your sports performance. Self-esteem can vary greatly within the time confines of a single training session, and it can mean the difference between winning and losing in a competition setting. One minute you may hate yourself over an error you've committed on the posing platform or in the gym, and a few moments later you could reverse that feeling completely by performing exceptionally.
This sort of event can -- and often does -- lead to superlative performance throughout the remainder of your training session in the gym, or in your onstage performance. In either case, your mental appraisal of yourself -- your self esteem -- counts for a great deal in your performance.
However common this sort of scenario may be, it is not the sort of thing to be sought after. It would be far better if your self esteem going into the gym or competition was such that ONLY superlative performance throughout was possible. Day after day, month after month, building ONLY the possibility of success into your training by careful, integrated application of science will tend to maintain peak mental attitude and feelings of self esteem. Success begets success.
Fear And Self-Esteem
Fear of Failure:
Fear, depression, anxiety or over-arousal can all lead to sub-par training or competition performance. For every winner, there are many losers, and often the distinguishing feature between the two is attitude, positive thinking and the absence of inhibiting fear. Fear of the competition, for instance, can put you in a defeatist frame of mind even before the competition begins. If you're so "psyched out" that you consider your opponent unbeatable, then you have defeated yourself. Instead, your goal is to foster belief in yourself, train hard to achieve the means to victory, then realize you have made your belief work for you.
All your success comes first out of belief in yourself. In fact, belief and success go hand in hand. Once you rid yourself of fear, you begin to see yourself as potentially better than your opponent, and that's the key to winning!
In a state of fear, you will never see yourself as potentially better than your opponent. So, it's obvious then, that your state of mind determines, to a large extent, whether or not you ever "see" victory.
Fear of Injury:
Fear of injury is another inhibiting factor. Doubtless you've heard of the "oft-injured" athlete who is forever on the disabled list. Sometimes, when this athlete returns to active play, he/she tends to be slightly gun-shy, afraid of injury, and might even alter his/her style of play to protect from injury. Ironically, playing to protect yourself against injury often leads to it, because you're pulling up, not following through with movements and contracting your muscles irregularly.
The same sort of protective training occurs in bodybuilding. The effects of a torn rotator cuff, a pulled hamstring or whatever injury you may have suffered, all tend to linger long after the injury is healed sufficiently to be trained again. Being careful is prudent. But being unreasonably careful will serve naught but keeping you from your goal.
Fear of Success:
Picture this scenario. Your best buddy is your training partner. He means a lot to you, and you don't want to embarrass him by showing him up with your superior physique, strength or pain tolerance. Whatever.
Were does this lead? Believe me, this sort of "fear" is not all that uncommon! Being pals is one thing. But a real pal will recognize (although perhaps not acknowledge or accept at permanent) your superior abilities. Turn your friendship with your training partner into a healthy, constructive, friendly competitive situation!
If you feel that your training partner is holding you back, don't train with him anymore! If you're an aspiring elite bodybuilder, your training program isn't going to match his anyway. Being buddy-buddy to the extent of following the identical training programs rep-per-rep, exercise-per-exercise, day after day is downright stupid. Other situations involving unreasonable fear of succeeding are:
- Not wishing to attain your ultimate goal for fear of no longer having anything to strive for;
- Not wishing to be forced to accept the socio-psychological responsibilities associated with being the champion, and
- Not wanting to totally commit to doing everything necessary in order to become the champion.
The first step in eliminating these sorts of fears is to realize that they exist. Then, it's a simple matter of intellectually reasoning as to why such fears exist and how utterly silly such fears really are.
A skilled sports hypnotherapist or sports psychologist may be able to assist you in eliminating these potentially debilitating roadblocks to success.
Success in sports performance can be likened to the practice of Zen masters. The concentration is so complete, there is no consciousness of concentration. The player must be one with his sport in order to execute it to his/her optimal ability.
You have no doubt been in a situation where your entire attention was so rapt and absorbed in one thought that you completely blocked out all others. This was probably due to your high concentration level on some thought of great importance to you.
This kind of focus can be a confidence builder.
The more you focus on what you're working to achieve, the less distractions enter your awareness. This lifts you out of the state of mind that can't "see" success. Once you begin to "see" success, you consider yourself potentially better than the competition.
Little by little, you concentrate more and more, until you're unaware of anything in your way. You see your way clearly to victory and success. This is total concentration.
This kind of total concentration comes to those who develop total self-confidence. You must have high self-esteem, high motivation, and be consistent in your training program. You must develop your mind to the point that total concentration is merely a learned response, one you never consciously think about anymore.
Then, apply this sort of laser focus rep-per-rep and set-per-set in your workouts. Apply it in following your daily integrated training program. Just as success begets success, imperfect practice makes your performance imperfect.