Let's face it, we all want it. We all want to be that guy who walks into the gym and throws up crazy amounts of weight like it's nothing.
Trust me, there is no greater feeling than pushing up an insane amount of weight, and as much as many people will deny it these days, we all would like to have a bigger bench press.
Nobody really cares how much you can do on the calf raise, what you can curl, or that you set the world record for the most jumping jacks in an hour. The bench press is king.
The problem is, most people's bench press totally sucks, and it isn't that they aren't using good technique, or that they are weak, it is more due to a lack of concentration, improper focus, and letting mental barriers get in the way of success.
The good news is that all of these weaknesses can be overcome by using visualization.
Visualization is the process of creating a mental image of what you want to happen or feel. It is well documented that many elite athletes regularly use visualization techniques in training and competition.
By using visualization, athletes can mentally rehearse or make a mental movie of every phase of their competition. This helps them picture themselves winning, which can then increase their chance of pulling off a victory.
Research has shown that visualization techniques can create a significant competitive advantage, boost your confidence, and also strengthen muscles.
In fact, a research group reported that test subjects maintained muscle strength by simply thinking of training a muscle. Apparently, visualization sessions can improve the brain's ability to signal muscle activity!
So what does this mean for you?
It means that you can harness the power of visualization to help you overcome that annoying bench press plateau and lift more weight.
So today, I'm going to share some of my favorite visualization techniques that have helped me get my bench press from a measly 225 pounds to over 400 pounds. Hopefully they can help you increase your bench press number as well.
There are many ways to do this, and meditation has become one of the most popular. During a session of mind relaxation you will slow down and calm the mind. You will not clutter it with thoughts of the future, past, or present, and you will basically tune out the exterior world.
You want to flip the switch so to speak, and turn off your mind from external stresses and worries and reach a deep level of subconscious.
The main goal here is to reduce and manage stress and get your emotions under the control of your mind so you can remain calm and relaxed.
By controlling your thoughts and relaxing the mind, you can create a mind muscle connection that can heighten your muscles sensitivity to any activity.
When the brain is totally relaxed it does not expend energy on unimportant tasks and can send larger signals to your motor neurons causing your muscles to function better. This can help make you stronger.
When you first wake up and before you go to sleep at night, perform a mind relaxation session. Sit comfortably in a relaxed environment, close the door, turn off your cell phone, sit on the floor, and close your eyes.
Try to relax and focus your attention on slow deep breathing. Inhale through your nose for 3 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for 5 seconds. Maintain a slow, deep, consistent breathing rhythm.
As you slow down your breathing with each breath, feel yourself sinking deeper into a complete peaceful, relaxed state. Do this for 15-20 minutes.
This is an advanced technique where you make your mental movie as real as you can by bringing all five senses into play. What you want to do here is try to get as close to reality as you can inside your mind.
Try to dig deep and use all of your senses. Think about what your gym smells like and what noises you hear.
Perhaps you chew gum while lifting so let's taste that as well. What is the atmosphere like in the gym? How will the resistance of the weight feel in your hands?
Picture the bench, the stacks of iron plates, the music, voices around you, weights clanging on the racks, the people around you, and whatever other variables that may occur at your particular gym.
Become more aware of all of the muscles in your body. Try to feel and observe the sensations in all of your muscles. Visualize exactly how you want the scenario play out. Make sure you see, taste, feel, smell, etc everything exactly as it will happen.
This will help create a mind/muscle connection, help reduce your pre-lift anxiety, and eliminate any doubt that you can't put up the weight.
Now visualize yourself stacking the plates on the bar, every plate, one by one.
Then picture yourself lying on the bench, gripping the weight. Keeping your breathing normal and relaxed, try to feel the sensation of the bar on your hands, and how the weight feels.
Grip it and think about the unique feel that the bar gives your hands. Think about your grip, is it tight or loose? Are your hands sweaty or dry? Note the way the cold bar feels in your hands.
Unrack the weight and picture yourself performing the bench press, every set, every rep. Feel the burn of your muscles as you push through each rep. Picture yourself executing the exercise to perfection, effortlessly, with flawless form.
Visualize in high def, and in as great a detail as you can while being sure to focus on your breathing.
Now imagine how you will feel after you successfully complete your lift. The great feeling of accomplishment, the sense of success, your feeling of pride. Think about the pump in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Think of your fatigue level, the burn in your arms, chest, and lungs.
Before your workout, start thinking about your bench press session. Mentally play out the entire scenario in your head as you prepare for the big lift. You don't have to spend much time doing this, 5 minutes or so is sufficient.
Don't underestimate the importance of the pre-lift visualization exercise because this small factor may be the very boost you need to push the weight up.
Once you get to the gym and actually do your lift, you will have played out the scenario in your mind so many times, it will feel as if you have "been there done that" and you will be completely convinced that you can do it. There will be no doubts. Your mind will be completely focused, and you will be 100% ready.
Now all you have to do is take action before your mind gets tired and doubt creeps in.
If you have visualized effectively, when the time comes for you to bench, your mind will not allow any self-doubt to creep into the picture. Your mental preparation will help you overcome any sort of mental roadblock that may try to get in your way.
You have already won in your mind, so now it is just a matter of having your muscles follow your brains lead.
If you want to overcome an annoying bench press plateau you need to have the proper mindset and attitude. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. The second you get into the car and start driving to the gym, you need to go into bad-ass mode.
It is now that you should begin visualizing yourself lifting MORE weight than you intend to lift, and replaying that mental movie over and over in your head. Start telling yourself how easy it will be. Remind yourself how strong you are and how you refuse to lose to the weights that day.
You may even want to blast some of your favorite music during this time. Music always helps me get more energized, boosts my intensity, and gets me amped up. This routine will help you get in the right state of mind to go in the gym and beat the weights.
Once you get to the gym you should be so focused, you won't even notice people or sounds around you. You'll be in the zone.
Always remember, it is your mindset that dictates who will win or lose that day, you or the weights. The weight will remain the same, it is you that changes from day to day.
The weight is the constant, you are the variable. You can adapt and improve, the weight can't. Don't let the weight beat you.
Visualization can be your secret weapon to a bigger bench. Mentally playing out the scenario of pushing up more weight in your head repetitively can help you achieve just about any realistic bench press goal.
The best part is that you can use visualization to create any scene that you want, whether it is a better bench press, or another lift. The key is to make the mental image as real as you can, replay it over and over, until your mind knows it by heart.
Visualization works, but it takes practice, focus, and concentration, so stick with it until you are good at it. Don't give up on it because it didn't work after a few tries. By simply practicing a lift in your head, it can be the difference between overcoming a bench press plateau or staying at the same weight year after year.
Most lifters underestimate the practice of the pre-lift visualization. If you can see it, you can be it. The first step is going through the lift in your head, and seeing yourself put the weight up successfully.
If you can't picture it, chances are it will never happen. Don't let a mental barrier hold you back from success.