Elite athletes and legendary bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane know the importance of a positive and strong mind in the quest to achieve their goals. You too, can gain the mental edge to achieve your goals by utilizing the weapon of visualization.
Visualization, or imagery, is the ability to create vivid images in your mind of a desired outcome. Visualization can actually reprogram the subconscious mind, the part of the brain that processes thoughts, and triggers emotions, decisions and bodily responses. By visualizing positive outcomes in the quest to build your best physique and by embracing the journey you will be able to turn a daydream into a reality.
Step 1: Write The Script
You don't have to be James Cameron to create a vivid and clear-cut image of the motion picture you are trying to create mentally, but your image must be as well defined as the hard body you are after.
Look To Role Models
Great bodybuilders learn from great bodybuilders. In The Education of a Bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger writes about the first time he saw a photo of Reg Park. He describes him as an "animal." Arnold was after being big-everywhere, rough, and rustic. He refers to Reg Park as "the epitome" of his dream to be the best built man. Who epitomizes your ultimate body? Jay Cutler, perhaps or maybe David Beckham? If you're a woman, maybe you admire the classic physique of Monica Brant or the curves of Sonia Gonzales.
Look at the guy or girl on the cover of the magazines. What appeals to you? What does he or she have that you're lacking? Maybe he has great calves, striated shoulders, mass, or maybe as a woman you admire her tight glutes and midsection. Use these visual images to help create your mental image.
Now, look in the mirror at your own reflection, analyze it. Next envision the body you want looking back - ripped abs, striated legs and muscles you didn't even know existed popping from your back. Remember, to be realistic with your vision. It takes time and a lot of hard work to build a great physique, but genetics definitely play a significant role.
Step 2: Meditation
The ability to utilize visualization requires focus, concentration and mindfulness. These skills are in the arsenal of nearly every single elite athlete. 3 times Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane was a huge advocate for the power of mental practice, and most likely the most recognized bodybuilder for mind training.
In a past interview with Muscle & Fitness, he stated his technique by saying, "The technique I use is to sit in a quiet place, preferably a darkened room; close my eyes; and focus my attention on my forehead. I'd imagine a large movie or TV screen there, and then I'd see an image of what I looked like then, and then I'd gradually transform into what I wanted to look like."
Zane also applied deep prolonged concentration commonly referred to as meditation. The foundation of meditation is mindfulness. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."
Mindfulness is about slowing down and turning inward to assess your feelings and thoughts. Zinn states that, "Meditation exercises encourage individuals to engage in nonjudging awareness of their internal experience occurring at each moment, such as bodily sensations, cognition and emotions and to environmental stimuli, such as sights and sounds."
It's about quieting the mind and letting thoughts pass by and being in the moment. When you are able to practice mindfulness you are better able to regulate emotion, improve thinking patterns, decrease negative mindsets, improve bodily function, and improve relationships with others.
In sports psychology mindfulness was found to enhance the flow state - the intrinsically rewarding state like experience characterized by total involvement and immersion in an activity. This "total immersion" in your workouts is the mental edge you need to reach the next level. Mindfulness can help you get in touch with your muscles forcing them to work for you.
The Body Scan
To become more mindful try implementing Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn's body scan technique. According to Zinn, "When we put energy into actually experiencing our body and we refuse to get caught up in the overlay of judgmental thinking about it, our whole view of it and of ourselves can change dramatically."
You can perform a body scan laying down, standing or sitting. First, breathe in deeply being aware of the flow of your breath, next breathe into every body part - down through one leg, back up to your pelvis, down the other leg all the way to your toes, back up, and continue breathing into and experiencing each body part, every muscle. Take note of where you are tight, sore, and experience fatigue.
The body scan is an excellent tool to use before training sessions. If you are going to train your chest, first get in touch with the muscles that you are asking to work momentarily. What kind of state are they in now? Imagine blowing air into the muscles you want to develop and hypertrophy just as if you're inflating a balloon. Try to imagine the feeling of the muscles gradually growing beneath the skin.
Step 3: Implement 5 Methods For Imagery
Sport psychologists have conducted numerous studies regarding the effects and abilities of athletes to utilize imagery to enhance performance. To study the phenomena of imagery function, psychologists have devised the Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ), a 30-item self-report questionnaire that athletes rate their use of imagery on a 7-point scale marking degrees of use 1 being rarely, and 7 being often. The SIQ measures use of imagery in 5 different ways:
- Cognitive Specific (e.g., imaging perfectly executed sport skills)
- Cognitive General (e.g., imaging strategies of play)
- Motivation General-Mastery (e.g., imaging staying focused and solving problems)
- Motivational General-Arousal (e.g., imaging the arousal, stress and anxiety that may accompany performance)
- Motivation Specific (e.g., imaging specific goals and outcomes)
When it comes to building more lean muscle mass and having the body you desire for the sport of bodybuilding utilizing the 5 different methods of imagery to create as much detail and vividness as possible will be of importance throughout the journey.
Before You Hit The Gym
Take about 10 minutes before your workout to sit in a darkly lit room with little distraction. Close your eyes, and let your body relax and allow every thought to flow out of your mind except your long-term goal - your desired physique; the clear mental image you've created.
Then, focus on your short-term goals - what you're going to do in your workout. Imagine performing the lifts with perfect form and control. Visualize how you move from one piece of equipment to another with determination, and the attitude in which you attack it. Try to feel your muscles contracting, and the satisfaction and confidence you feel when you see your muscles flex in the mirror. Then, think of your muscles growing and shaping into your ideal mental image.
Remember to keep your thoughts positive. If a negative thought comes to mind - reverse it and always end your mental practice with a positive thought. These thoughts should ignite passion within you, and psych you up to perform your workout.
Step 4: Extraordinary Effort
Visualization is a skill that needs to be developed and built upon. Start your practice with 3-5 minutes and slowly build up. Practice visualization daily to hone your skills. Eventually you'll find that it becomes easy for you to control your thoughts and concentrate on your vision. You'll be able to call upon the skill for various life events.
Visualization and desire without action don't mean squat. You have to make the effort to make your mental images a reality. A lean, sculpted body is created through hard work, and encompasses many components with visualization and mental practice being one of them.
Visualization can enhance performance, overall attitude, and willingness to chase the dream until you're blue in the face. There is not a singular component that will provide you with the physique of a champion. Put in the effort to learn training techniques, programs, nutrition, do your workouts with enthusiasm and intensity, eat for lean muscle mass, and of course implement a sound body and mind approach to training through mental practices and a positive attitude.
It's like Arnold says, "The most important thing is to be straight in your mind, to be honest with yourself. The exercises are the easy part." Are you ready for the journey?
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