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“Visualization for Bodybuilding”: Seeing Muscle Gaining Success before it Happens

Many bodybuilding aficionados have heard about Arnold’s long-ago reference to ‘visualization for bodybuilding’ as he applied it to his extraordinary biceps development:

“I pictured my biceps growing like huge mountains as I worked them” He said.

But this raises more questions than it answers – not the least of which being one of the proverbial ‘chicken and egg’ variety: Did Arnold Schwartzenegger begin seeing his biceps as “huge mountains” because he was getting great results working them? After all, he might have simply had a genetic predisposition for great biceps and responded positively to that with reinforcement. Or did “visualization for bodybuilding” (seeing success in his mind) build his biceps into one of his best body parts? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

We all tend to become more enthusiastic about things that are going well for us. Thus, it’s easy to apply ‘visualization for success’ to something for which we’re already enjoying success and then attribute that success to the visualization. It’s more difficult – and more proving of visualization’s effectiveness – to use ‘visualization for bodybuilding’ (or anything else) in bringing up to par an area in which we’re lagging. To do that effectively, it’s important to first realize that there are different types of visualization techniques – each being an important component to using visualization successfully.

‘Visualization for Bodybuilding’: Seeing the ‘Product’ and the ‘Process’

Whether you want to build biceps “like huge mountains”, a small business into a huge enterprise, or a bare-bones education into a PHD, visualizing your success can be done in two basic ways: seeing the ‘product’ and/or seeing the ‘process.’ Visualizing your biceps as huge mountains is an example of seeing the product goal. Visualizing a successful biceps workout is an example of seeing the process goal. To be effective at using visualization for bodybuilding or any other goal, it’s best to use both methods of this powerful mental training technique. You need to visualize the end product in your future while building positive emotion around that picture. But you also need to identify the key actions and character traits that will lead you to that goal and visualize their successful enactment.


Can 'success visualization' help to "uncuff" your bodbuilding progress? It sure can. And using 'Visualization for Bodybuilding' will strengthen this skill for success in other areas.


‘Visualization for Bodybuilding’: Accurately Identify Components of Success

Achieving your product goal requires an accurate identification of processes that will most efficiently lead to that goal. In other words, you’ll need to identify effective “process goals” or you’ll be less likely to reach your product goal.

Frankly, this is where many adherents to natural bodybuilding get it wrong. They don’t first make the important distinction between effectively training without steroids as compared to the repletion of information that’s only useful if using those drugs. This frequently leads to workout routines and their accompanying ‘process goals’ (workout objectives) being derived from mainstream bodybuilding magazines. The end result is often overtraining and frustration.

Even some top sport’s mental trainers have gotten this wrong. In books and magazine articles on the topic, some merely apply visualization for bodybuilding without first distinguishing between an effective drug-free bodybuilding routine and the routines of pro bodybuilders. But using mental training in an attempt to enhance ineffective bodybuilding techniques is an exercise in futility – comprising all the ease of trying to roll a marble up a steep incline with one’s nose. Not fun!

Following faulty workout advice or simply “winging it” in the gym are often major reasons why so many muscle building enthusiasts shy away from setting ‘product’ goals for bodybuilding and using mental training to reach them. If we subconsciously suspect we’re getting nowhere, it’s easier to fool ourselves otherwise by adopting the “I have good motives – I made it to the gym” mentality instead of one that acknowledges objective outcomes.

My advice: Get your dream body by…

  • Assessing your workouts and eating habits objectively.
  • Setting a solid product goal.
  • Designing a realistic workout program that includes process goals that lead step-by-step to the attainment of your product goal.

‘Visualization for Bodybuilding’: Some tips

When you’ve got your product goal (you want 18-inch biceps/”mountains”), you’ll need an effective strategy for getting them to that size. Only then can you set ‘process goals’ and use ‘visualization for bodybuilding’ to enhance performance. An effective natural muscle building strategy requires paying attention to three important things:

  1. How much workout stress to put on the muscle.
  2. How much rest/recuperation time to use between workouts of the muscle.
  3. How to systematically (yet simply) keep track of progress and know what each workout’s performance objectives are.

If you’ve kept good enough records to know how much inter-workout recuperation is needed by your muscles given a certain amount of stress (sets and reps/intensity of effort), you’ll have those variables covered; you simply need to know what amount of sets/reps in your next workout will move you forward. That’s now your “process goal” and the target of ‘performance visualization.’

Visualization for bodybuilding doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, there’s no such thing as “perfect” mental training techniques. You simply need to start wherever you find yourself and improve on what you have. If you relax, close your eyes, and attempt to see yourself performing an incredible biceps workout in which you break all previous records – and all you see are static, abstract, and fleeting images – that’s okay. Keep practicing. Visualization ability can be strengthened like the muscles of your body that you’re working at strengthening by using it.

But if you’d like to get as proficient at visualization as a professional athlete, you can always use your ‘auditory/digital’ internal representation system to enhance your visual one.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that if you know how to use auto-suggestion (affirmations) to improve your beliefs about your abilities – why not use it to improve your beliefs in your ability to visualize?

You’ve got to admit it’s a good idea; one that could pay huge dividends for you – only beginning with bigger muscles through ‘visualization for bodybuilding.’


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If you’ve kept good enough records to know how much inter-workout recuperation is needed by your muscles given a certain amount of stress (sets and reps/intensity of effort), you’ll have those variables covered; you simply need to know what amount of sets/reps in your next workout will move you forward. That’s now your “process goal” and the target of ‘performance visualization.’


It is true! I read it often that athlets visualizing their success, were a lot better as others who did not.

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