Are you tired of going to the gym and doing the same old routine and never seeing results? Maybe you’re one of those guys who’s reached a plateau, and you’re frustrated because you can’t seem to take your training to the next level? Well, you just might be overlooking a key component of your training regimen, one that’s just as important as diet and exercise.
I’m talking about the mental effort that can enable you to dream big, work harder, and achieve just about anything your mind can conjure up. For a few years now, athletes — and successful people from all walks of life — have been utilizing a mental technique called visualization to achieve superior results.
Visualization focuses on the brain-body connection, and it can be utilized with every workout. Here’s the method: Target a muscle or muscle group. Consciously envision the muscle being trained. Block out all distractions. As you perform each rep, keep the targeted muscle under continuous tension, making sure that it is the primary mover throughout the movement. Feel each contraction. Maintain perfect form. Pay attention to the stretch. Repeat the process with each repetition of each set of each exercise.
For example, here’s how you can use visualization to improve your flat-bench barbell press during your chest workout.
Pre-Workout: Find photos of physiques (and/or particular body parts) that you find ideal. Keep an array of these images available for constant inspiration — posted on your phone, the fridge, or the bathroom mirror — to remind you of your ideal physique.
When you get to the gym, know what you want to accomplish. For example, “Today, I am going to have the greatest chest workout ever!” During your warm-up, block out all distractions (i.e. work, fatigue, annoying chatter, etc.).
Workout: For chest, you are going to do three or four major exercises. For now, though, just focus on the first rep of your first set of flat-bench barbell presses.
After loading the desired weight on the bar, recline on the flat bench, feet flat on the floor, and look intently at the barbell above you. Breathe deeply, in and out. Grasp the bar and press the weight into position above your chest. Breathe in as you slowly lower the bar (the negative, or eccentric, phase), being sure not to drop your elbows too low. Then contract your triceps and pectorals powerfully as you push the weight up explosively. With each rep of each set, visualize your pecs working. Call to mind the photo of your ideal chest and concentrate on that image.
Post-Workout: Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to master visualization skills. Generally, the body-brain link is easier to achieve with the muscle groups you enjoy working. The photos in magazines or online are your ideal, but you’re achieving something real and personal. Over time, developing these mental processes — along with hard work — will give you the superlative results you deserve.