Remember the famous words of Arnold in his first film in 1979 ?
If you haven’t seen Pumping Iron, you have to see it immediately, no excuse.
I remember hearing him saying it and I thinking, “My mind can really create my body, what is this crap!?! “.
After years of research, I better understood what they meant. When he said that, it was for the aesthetics of the body, the sexiness. And how you want to create a sexy body ?
It can be very subjective as a definition but for most people this means increasing muscular size and losing body fat.
The question is: can we prove that this can, or at least partially, done by using the power of our minds ?
The response is overwhelming: YES
Good news, right? Now talking about the first half of the question.
Can you increase your muscle size ?
During my Taekwondo’s training, I tried several types of tricks to improve my performance. My favorite, visualization. When it came time to test our best, I sat in a corner for 1-2 minutes, I imagined beat my opponent who was stronger than me.
My coach, of course, knew this, but as I did every time before every fight, it was weird. I continued to use this technique in the gym and I’m happy to have exceeded most guys who were stronger than me before.
And you know what happens when I continue to be stronger ? My muscles increases, yeah !
Research on the subject
During the research of the University of Bishop, researchers set out to see if visualization (guys imagining themselves lifting weights) could create a similar result with someone who actually does it ( guys lifting weights for real) .
In the study, 30 guys they separate into 3 differents groups to look at the strength of the hip flexors and performance over a period of 2 weeks.
Group A: the guys don’t do anything during 2 weeks
Group B: the guys did 4 sets of 8 reps, 5 days per week for 2 weeks
Group C: the guys visualize 4 sets of 8 reps, 5 days per week for 2 weeks. To clarify, this means they didn’t touch any weights, they imagine themselves become stronger.
At the end of 2 weeks, the researchers found that the Group A which has done nothing, not significantly increase strength (as expected). Group B has lifted weights has a 28% power increase and the Group C that has only visualized has a 24% power increase.
Guys who have lifted weights and those who just imagined almost won the same percentage of strenght.
What’s even crazier is that all participants of this study were athletes.
Another study from the University of Chester looked at the effect of doing physically biceps curl and 2 different types of visualizations. In the study, 50 participants were divided into 5 groups to be tested over a period of 6 weeks.
Group A: the guys do nothing
Group B: the guys physically did biceps curl twice a week, every weeks
Group C: the guys visualize themselves doing bicep curl twice a week, every weeks.
Group D: the guys are doing a type of visualization called PETTLEP Imagery, twice a week, every weeks. The PETTLEP Imagery is a visualization that incorporates a physical element, a specific task or emotional element. It’s a very intense form of visualization to make you feel that you are doing the movement.
Group E: The guys did physically biceps curl once a week and the PETTLEP Imagery once a week, every weeks.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that participants who did nothing, had no result. Participants who did a normal visualization had a slight increase in strength. The group that did the PETTLEP Imagery and the group that just did the physical practice had the same result, and finally, the group that did the combination of imagery and physical practice had the best result.
These results tell us that visualization and physical practice create almost the same increase in strength and when you combine the two techniques, you have the best results possible.
What does that mean to you
These two studies show that we can stimulate the gains of strength and muscle with the intervention of mental visualization.
Is it possible to use it as a pre-workout ritual ? Before you start your first set, take a moment to visualize a perfect execution of the exercise and begin your workout with this mindset.
OK, but do what you can lose body fat ?
Yeah. In a study from University of Harvard that assessed the physical activity of housekeepers, researchers learned that the perception of the activity you’re doing can be as important as the activity itself.
Researchers explained to a group of housekeeper how physical activity helping to burn body fat. The other group of housekeeper has received no information.
After 4 weeks, the group that had received the information about how their jobs help burn bodyfat, they have lost about 3 lbs (1.3 kg) each. The group that had no information, they have kept the same weight.
What it means for you
Your perception of an activity may influence the amount of fat you burn. Next time you’re climbing stairs or going to a walk, instead of thinking that it is a normal routine of the day, think of it as an exercise.
If the example of the housekeepers is a bit abstract for you, look this: it’s clear that high cortisol levels are linked to increased body fat percentage but one of the best method to reduce the levels of cortisol is meditation, another form of visualization.
In a study to see the effects of meditation, researchers found that cortisol levels decreased after incorporating meditation into their daily activities.
The coolest thing about this study is that it didn’t take months or years to see cortisol levels decrease. After 4 days of meditation practice, researchers saw a significant decrease in their cortisol levels.
Setting time to meditation perhaps as important as reserving time for your workouts.
OK, you got complete information
the next time you go to the gym, trying these things simple:
Visualize a successful exercise and perfectly executed before you physically attempt them.
Consider all your physical activities in your mind as activities that help you to lose body fat.
Practice at least 10 minutes of meditation per day to decrease stress hormones.