So we know that a positive mindset can be beneficial for your training in the gym leading to better energy levels and better technique – but how can it help you out of the gym? As we’ll see bodybuilding is a way of life and you can improve your training through visualization and other techniques even when you’re not actually at the gym.
Visualizing the movements when not in the gym has even been shown to improve technique by firing the same network of neurons in your brain and improving muscle memory. Basically each time a neuron fires in your brain it strengthens that connection making it more easily available for use next time you want to sing that song/repeat that dance more/use good form on the squat rack. That’s why we improve with practice and that’s why golfers and other athletes are encouraged to imagine the perfect golf swing or the best long jump.
You can reap the same benefits from imagining perfect technique in the weights room. Furthermore, some studies have even suggested that this can lead to slight growth in the muscles even without the actual gym work itself!
What’s even more interesting is that the brain itself can be trained to grow in areas just like the skeletal muscle. This is possible due to an effect known as ‘brain plasticity’ which is a recent buzzword in psychological circles. In one study the brains of cellists were compared to the brain of ‘normal’ people and resulted in the finding that the cellists had a larger brain area related to their fingers which were obviously the result of their training (it is possible that they became cellists due to that brain difference, however subsequent longitudinal studies, as well as common sense, suggest this isn’t the case).
So when you’re training in the gym you’re not just changing the shape of your body, but also the very physical structure of your brain. And you can probably reap these same rewards from visualization.
You can also use visualization in other ways – to imagine yourself with the physique you want, or winning Mr. Olympia five years down the line. This will not only keep you focused and motivated by giving you a distinct goal, but will also trick your brain into thinking you’re already a winner. Anyone who’s heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy will know that simply by thinking like a winner, you can actually become one in reality through acting like one. So train your muscles and take your protein shakes but don’t forget to train your brain as well.