Over the last few months, I received hundreds of emails from people looking to change their physique. Whether they are from novice bodybuilders looking for contest prep advice, or from housewives trying to get back into shape after having a baby, all the emailers posed similar questions: What method of training and diet should I follow to attain my goals?
Many of the individuals who write to me express their dissatisfaction in their physique in a negative manner. They'll say things like, "I'm sick of being skinny." Or, "I am fed up with being fat and flabby." While I think it's great that people are motivated to change, I also think that being positive about your goals can go a long way to helping you achieve them.
More important, I think that instead of focusing on how awful you might look or feel, you need to visualize what you'd like to look or feel like. For example, those who have particular images in mind, like Brad Pitt's abs, or Jessica Alba's butt, are much more likely to be successful.
Visualization, a mind-muscle connection, is fundamental to accomplishing your goals, no matter what they may be. Many athletes use the psychological tools of visualization and imagery to get that last rep, make that final shot, or cross the finish line. I utilize both these to affect my training; and credit, in part, my achievements in both bodybuilding and power lifting to the benefits of both.
The Mind-Muscle Connection
The mind-muscle connection has been scientifically proven. As a student at the University of Limerick, I performed a study on visualization and imagery. To do this, we hooked up EMGs to a subject's specific muscle groups and told him/her to perform an exercise like a squat or a bicep curl. After that, the subject was told to visualize him/herself doing the exercise without actually physically performing it.
The results of the EMG illustrated that even though the subject remained static, and was merely imagining the performance of a movement, the brain sent a message to the muscles and they reacted as if they were actually doing the movement. Of course these messages were of a much smaller frequency, but they still demonstrated the fierce connection between mind and muscle.
Keep in mind however, that no amount of visualization or imagery can alter your genetics and make you look like Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba, or anybody else for that matter. Your genetic makeup will predetermine what kind of physique you will have; some people are blessed with a symmetrical bone structure, which means attaining that fit, athletic look is a little less complicated. Others will have large hips, narrow shoulders, and long-muscle bellies. Or, some might have narrow hips, large shoulders, and short-muscle bellies. The list of various physical and genetic differences from one individual to the next will make every person's transformation a bit different.
Despite these differences, it is possible have a sculpted, muscular physique. You can create the BEST version of YOU! To make the best version of you, try using my "Conceive, Believe, Achieve" technique:
Step One // Conceive
If you're reading this article, chances are you already conceived the idea that you'd like to change. It probably came when you least expected it: when you were watching TV, reading a comic book or when you saw somebody walk down the street. It's the time when you said to yourself, "I'm DONE with this lifestyle. I'm tired of feeling like this. I'm going to do something about it."
Conceiving this idea is the first step to getting what you want. Regardless of your body type, you can change how you look through a positive mental attitude, a sound training program and a balanced nutrition and supplement plan.
Step Two // Believe
Along with visualization, you have to believe you can and will look as you envision yourself looking. Believing in yourself and your ability to achieve your goal will make the difference between success and failure. Believe in your training. Believe every ounce of food you ingest will transform you into the ideal you. Believe every mouthful of salad makes you leaner and leaner, turning your body into a fat-burning furnace. Believe every piece of meat you chew is going straight to the muscle cells, making you bigger, faster and stronger.
There is no such thing as "I can't," no such thing as "impossible." You must surround yourself with positive people, positive quotes, positive images and positive videos. This force-field of positivity will thwart any negativity trying to infiltrate your mind.
Whether you want to buff up or slim down, the methods you use to achieve your objective will remain the same. Visualize your end result, and when you look in the mirror, see yourself as you want to be.
When you're doing cardio, imagine each and every step on the treadmill brings you nearer to a svelte body. Believe each and every rep you push out on the bench press brings you closer and closer to spectacular pecs. Of course there will be doubters.
But these are the same people who said man could never walk on the moon, break the sound barrier or run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds. All these people were WRONG.
With the power of positive thinking and visualization, there is nothing you can't achieve. You can climb mountains, swim oceans or fly to the moon ... okay, maybe not the moon. But you get the idea.
Step Three // Achieve
You conceived the ideal physique you want for yourself and set your plan of action in motion. All you have left on your to-do list is achieve!
To do this, keep your training stimulating so you aren't bored and your body is constantly challenged. Keep your nutrition functional and geared toward your goal. Keep your cardio sessions challenging and keep your weight-training sessions on-line with your goal. And, most importantly, keep your mind ready and willing to do the work!
The right training and mindset make a smooth road to success. If you think you'll need some help achieving your goals, a good trainer can help you stay motivated, track your progress, hold you accountable and inspire you.
Your mind is the only limit to a successful physique transformation. If you can unlock the gates that keep your mind from believing, then anything is possible.
For 2012, shun the naysayers, forget the stereotypes. Conceive your goals, believe in yourself and achieve your dreams.
Nothing is impossible.