Use the power of your mind to reach your potential
Equipment, training techniques, and nutrition have all changed over the many years, but there is one common factor in all athletes and bodybuilders that hasn't changed at all – the mind. Having the ability to visualize in your training has proven to be key factors in almost all legendary figures like, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wayne Gretzky, and Tiger Woods.
Often the difference between a so-so workout and a great work out is your mental attitude. Henry Ford once said: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." I firmly believe that storing that message in your mind is well worth it.
We all know the mind can accomplish some amazing things; I am sure you have either read about or maybe even experienced your own amazing incident. The phrase "Mind over Matter" bears even more significance today as more and more studies show the amazing powers of the mind in healing, sports, and more.
How important is the mind in physical training? It's absolutely critical. Without our mind truly focused we are just going through the motions, and impeding any real possibility of substantial gains or performance improvement.
What you will need
The great thing about visualization is you won't need any fancy equipment; don't get suckered into hypnosis, special headsets or music, etc. All you need is what you were born with and most importantly: A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
The Positive Attitude
It can't be stressed more, how important this is. It is also quite possibly the hardest thing to maintain. If you are able to keep a positive attitude not only will things in your training or bodybuilding improve but things in your life will as well.
The positive attitude isn't something that comes out of the gym bag when we hit the fitness center or is it something that gets put away after, it needs to be worn at all times.
One way of achieving this daunting task is to break down your goals into small manageable chunks. As an example, Bear Grylls, former SAS soldier and survival expert (TV series: Man vs. Wild) has said repeatedly in his shows that in order to survive in extremely adverse circumstances you need break down your ‘escape' and ‘survival' in to small manageable goals so that the massive task ahead doesn't overwhelm you.
The basic concept is to rehearse the action or situation mentally in order to prepare and establish mental pathways much the physically doing it will. In our mental rehearsals we can do the movements perfectly or break through hurdles with visual imagery.
Use Visual Imagery
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that he imagined his biceps as mountains as he did his biceps curls getting bigger with each repetition. A lot of bodybuilders use this type of mental imagery to help push them further.
Perfect the motion in your head and see it through
A study of basketball free throws included 2 groups of subjects. One group trained for one hour a day throwing free throws over a 2-week period. The other group did not pick up a ball for 2 weeks and just mentally rehearsed making the shot. After the training period, the group physically training saw a 24% increase in accuracy.
However, and quite amazingly, the visualization group saw an increase of 23% accuracy when asked to attempt real free throws. That's almost the same improvement without even so much as picking up a ball or looking at a real basket.
Know your body
In possibly one of the most influential books I have ever read: Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams, the author recounts his experience with mental strength and visualization.
After badly breaking some bones in his arm and hand, every night as he was trying to fall asleep he imagined crews of tiny workers coming out and repairing the bones (he even went into such details as the actual tools they used) much like any real life construction crew would come out and work on a house, etc. His recovery was unbelievable, and shocked the doctors. One of the reasons the author was able to do this was, he researched how the bones would knit, and had a good understanding of physiology in order to aid his visualization process.
Knowledge is Power
In order to fully utilize your mental abilities you need a strong understanding what it is you need to achieve and how your body works. Learn more about muscles and how they work, about protein synthesis and muscle building, and with this knowledge you can build your own visualizations. For sports, practice the motion ‘correctly' in your mind over and over again. Knowing the proper technique first is important, as you don't want to ingrain bad habits!
Good luck in your training!