Visualisation: More powerful than you know.
The sayings goes ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’ – Walt Disney, or “Believe to achieve” – unknown source, and this is exactly true in all aspects of our life, including the gym.
Studies have shown that with mental training, including motivational self-talk and visualisation we can actually help improve our strength and performance in the gym! Brilliant, right? All from a simple mindset – self-belief. With encouraging self talk, and belief in your abilities, you have a greater chance of completing the task at hand. This method is called self-efficacy and it’s brilliant! A definition of self-efficacy:
American Psychology Association
Self–efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). Self–efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behaviour, and social environment.
This form of mental training has additional health benefits, beside strength improvements, and this study is called psychoneuroimmunology: the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease. Benefits include: improved immune system, decreased stress levels, improved cortisol ratio and a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure. Possibly, increasing testosterone also.
A good comparison could be made to a strong mind equals a strong immune system. The science has shown that our thoughts can make us sick or they can even help make us feel better. It’s all related. I relate this theory to Wim ‘the iceman’ Hof . If you don’t know about Wim Hof, I would advise a little google search, there are a couple of excellent videos on Wim here and here. Hof has done some amazing physical feats with total control of his mind – improving his body’s natural response to fight disease (He was injected with an endotoxin and miraculously fought off the disease with interesting health markers – check it out here). There are many others out there proving that mental strength relates to physical strength like David Goggins (thanks for the introduction Ryley!).
Who knew what self-love, belief and visualisation could do?
So, how does this help you in the gym? Next time you set up under that bar, or hear me saying ‘focus, visualise the lift’, try to really imagine the movement with ease and perfect form. A movement so pure that you don’t even notice the weight. Believe you can achieve the weight and you will. If we can continuously overload the muscle and increase intensity, total poundage, form and speed we can get one step closer to a PR or a physiological adaption.
This technique has worked for me many-a-times and I believe it makes the weight easier to manage. I expect much greater than the one I am away to lift and visualise the lift. The weight does not surprise me, the lift is already successful before I have engaged in the motion.
Again, ‘Believe To Achieve‘.
This technique is very similar to the Law of Attraction. Like attracts like – think positive or negative thoughts and all your results will reflect your thinking process.
Let me know if you use visualisation techniques for anything in life! I hope this helps!