When you engage in a workout, do you sometimes find yourself just going through the motions? Do you occasionally drift through the gym with less than optimal enthusiasm? Does your desire to complete a training session fluctuate from one day to the next?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, you’re a perfect candidate to start incorporating some powerful goal setting, effective strategies, and performance-enhancing “athletic visualization” into your workout efforts.
I talked about goal setting and strategy implementation in an earlier entry right here. In this entry, I’m going to discuss “athletic visualization” – what it is and how I use it for quickly, steadily, and naturally enhancing my strength and muscularity.
Athletic visualization, or any type of ‘success visualization’, is the practice of closing one’s eyes, relaxing the body, and mentally rehearsing positive desired performances/outcomes. Since the subconscious mind often can’t distinguish between that which has been vividly imagined and that which has been actually experienced, the dendrite routes providing patterns for success can be strengthened and reinforced in the mind through these vivid ‘mental rehearsals.’
The practice of ‘visualizing’ might be more appropriately named ‘mentalizing.’ That’s because the notion that one must clearly “see” themselves performing is not necessarily the case. Since we all tend to favor some mental modalities more than others (such as ‘feeling’ over ‘seeing’ – or ‘hearing’ over ‘feeling’), it’s important to note that ‘mental rehearsal’ for success can be accomplished with any combination of the five senses.
'Athletic Visualization' could be the key that enhances your workout performance - leading you to new 'muscle gains' and 'physique enhancement.
Types of ‘Athletic Visualization’
When athletes use visualization for success, they can use any one or a combination of the following types of mental movies:
- End Goal vs. Process
- Concrete vs. Abstract
- General vs. Specific
‘End goal’ versus ‘process’ visualization is the distinction between imagining the accomplishment of an ultimate goal and imagining the successful performance/s that are necessary to achieve that goal. If a tennis player visualizes an ‘end goal’, he or she might see themselves winning a game or major tournament. In utilizing ‘process’ visualization, they might imagine themselves performing a phenomenal ace serve or developing the perfect back hand stroke.
To illustrate ‘concrete’ versus ‘abstract’, let’s recall that Arnold Schwartzenegger once said during his bodybuilding career that he would visualize his biceps as “huge mountains”. This is a great example of abstract imagery. If he were to visualize himself measuring his biceps and getting a reading that he desired to have in the future – it would have been a concrete visualization.
If you were to visualize your muscles as being so strong that you could toy with heavy weights in the gym, your visualization would be ‘general.’ If you were to create an image of yourself lifting a certain poundage for a specific number of desired repetitions, your visualization would be ‘specific.’
For athletic visualization applied to fitness and bodybuilding, I recommend utilizing all three of the techniques mentioned. However, I think process visualization should be utilized more heavily than the end goal variety. In fact, once you have a clear picture of how you want your body to appear; your ultimate bodybuilding goal – then you should make use of process visualization while implementing a strategy that can lead you to that goal.
‘Athletic Visualization’: A good one for strength and bodybuilding
One very simple and effective visualization technique that I use falls under the categories of process, concrete, and general. I create this image in my mind and power it up with positive emotion just before performing critical sets of certain exercises in the gym. For simplicity, let’s just call this the “plyometric visualization.”
Why should we call it that? Because I often visualize myself handling a heavy weight so easily that I can maneuver it in “plyometric style” – even if that’s physically impossible. You’ll recall in my blog entry just previous to this one that plyometric exercises are resistance movements which are performed in an “explosive” manner. What I often visualize is being so strong at the regular, non-plyometric bodybuilding exercise that I’m about to perform – it feels light enough to perform in a plyometric style.
For example, let’s say I’m doing bench presses on a Smith Machine (I only use this visualization on non-free weight exercises because they’re more controlled). In my visualization between sets, I will see myself (in first person – through my own eyes) handling the weight so explosively and commandingly that the momentum causes the bar to leave my hands at the top of each rep and glide halfway up the rack before falling back to my hands where I catch it for the next rep. As I see and feel this image, I power it up with positive emotion and excitement – driving it in to my subconscious mind.
Of course, I might be actually using a heavy weight that only allows me six reps per set and for which plyometric execution is impossible. But visualizing this image just prior to set performance allows me to be un-intimidated by a heavy weight. It tends to maximize my repetition performance with the working weight that I have on the bar.
This type of ‘athletic visualization’ can be used on isolation exercises as well. If I’m doing Pec-Deck flyes, I sometimes visualize bringing the pads/handles together in front of me in such a forceful manner that the handles crumble into pieces from impacting one another. This is an ‘abstract’ visualization. Again, I’m utilizing a heavy weight that won’t even allow attention-getting impact to occur. However, this vivid pre-set imagery allows me to maximize my muscle’s performance.
I also attach these visualizations to specific “anchors” – an exciting technique that I cover extensively in my book.
I highly recommend that you incorporate ‘athletic visualization’ into your physique enhancement – as well as to every other important goal in your life.