I always talk about positive visualization. If you can’t see yourself doing the lift, you probably won’t actually be able to do it when the time comes. With my meet coming up on Saturday, I thought I’d share an article I read on EliteFTS today about VISUALIZING the LIFT, since that’s what I’ll be doing all week. Enjoy…
by, Cain Morano – Rockville, MD – of SSPT
Visualization is the mental act of rehearsal. It is creating or recreating a lift in our imagination. This includes daydreaming, fantasizing, and guided tours in La-La Land. In our case, it’s picturing the successful completion of a lift. It’s positive thinking.
Sports science has taught us that visualization electrically activates the corresponding muscle groups. Professional athletes and their coaches acknowledge the utility and importance of visualization in performance. Mental rehearsal can boost your performance because of the mind/body connection. Your mind as well as your muscles must learn and rehearse motor skills to maximize performance.
The psychology and programming of visualization goes much deeper than what is presented here. This article will serve as a small taste of a practical idea. For more information, find a sports psychologist, life coach, or specialist familiar with these mental skills.
The barbell was heavy and intimidating
In 2010, I started barbell training. New to max effort lifts, I experienced great anxiety on ‘find your 1RM’ days. I just wanted the lifts to be over. I wanted all moments to exist except for the one where I was in the lift, doing the lift, and holding the bar. However, I think the one rep max is one of the coolest training ideas. The Sisyphean task of pursuing ever greater one rep maxes ranks above all else in my mind. Even now, though my programming has changed and my barbell knowledge and experience has expanded, I still hold the act of finding ‘the heaviest single’ to be the primal element of strength and power training.
What helped me through these lifts and eased my anxiety was the use of visualization. As each session passed and I gained experience, I had more sensory information to draw from to enrich my visualizations, to make them more real. As I gained experience, I learned to be ‘in the moment’ and enjoy it. This emotionally positive approach helped me gain further awareness—even and especially from the failed attempts.
Before, after, here, or there?
When you visualize a lift, you can do it in different ways. You can be associated or dissociated (here or there), and you can also visualize the process or the result (before or after). If you visualize your lifts and see everything through your own eyes as in reality, you’re associated. You’re visualizing in the first person. If you imagine your lifts from outside of your body, like watching yourself on television, you’re dissociated. You’re visualizing in the third person. When you visualize a lift and you only see the end, you’re visualizing the results. For example, if you are about to snatch and you visualize the bar overhead, you’re seeing the results. If you visualize what the lift is like from the set up through the lifting motion to the finish, you’re visualizing the process.
Everyone visualizes differently. Figure out which way you visualize and what details are naturally included and emphasized in your visualizations. Then to sharpen your visualization skills, try to visualize in a different way. You may find that you visualize better with a different method. A simple way to alter your visualization method is as follows. For the sake of this example, let us say that you daydream from an associated point of view, meaning through your own eyes. First, have a short daydream about yourself. See it through your own eyes as you normally do. Then recreate your daydream from another point of view, outside of you, from the point of view of a television camera. Follow your daydream through and watch the scene with you in it.
Try this method with a lift. Daydream your lift from within your own eyes. Then reverse your point of view from associated to dissociated (first person to third person). This will look like recording your lift with a digital camera. Attempt the lift in your mind and then go to the platform. Don’t immediately rule out that one perspective isn’t effective for you. It’s possible that a bit more practice with a new perspective could lead to better results than your original perspective.
Once you can manage shifting your perspective in visualizing, alter the process/results visualization. Go back to your daydream or your low weight lift. Perform the visualization. If you fully visualized the scene from beginning to end, including the lift, imagine only the ending. See yourself victorious. If you usually see the end of the lift only, contemplate all those other details. See the set up and the lift, feel the weight and the stress, and hear your buddies cheering. This part might be tedious. Sometimes it’s hard to change a thought process, but give it a try. Have the daydream, but see the entire lift.
You might also find that you visualize the set up and the finish but not the lift. You might visualize only certain parts. In other words, your natural or your best method of visualizing might be mixed methods. That’s fine. Some people visualize like a movie, part of the process, from different people’s point of view with different soundtracks. These visualization models are rules-of-thumb to guide you in improving your mind.
For a totally different frame of reference
Once you’re capable of changing perspectives and paths, add them together. If you usually daydream the entire process in the third person, imagine only the result from the first person. If you like sharpening your mind, attempt to be proficient at all four combinations in your day dreams and visualizations:
● first person—process
● first person—result
● third person—process
● third person—result
Some words of caution
One day at the gym, pick a lift, set up the bar, load some weight, and then give each method a try. Visualizing takes as much practice as lifting to become proficient, so get your reps in. Learn to visualize and test your methods under safe, controlled, low intensity conditions. Visualization can be distracting and therefore dangerous. It can actually lower your focus if you aren’t used to it or do it wrong. ‘Thinking’ and doing the wrong kind of thinking before a lift can crush you.
Don’t try something totally new at a crucial moment. This is for two reasons. One, we don’t rise to occasions. We default to our level of training, meaning we do what we know how to do. Second, introducing new, unknown variables can be disastrous. You wouldn’t make an exotic, spicy dish that you’ve never tried before on the eve of your next big meet. These are things that wait to haunt us until we get under the load. Therefore, a low to medium load is better when learning to visualize.
Level of detail
Let us walk one step further with the methods of visualization. Imagine yourself about to do a lift. Where are you? What does the platform look like? What lift are you about to perform? What music are you listening to? How do you feel physically and mentally? When visualizations are drawn from experience, you’ll have more concrete details to include. There are numerous details involved in constructing a reality in your head, but you need to figure out what the relevant details are. During certain visualizations, enormous detail can help, such as when you aren’t in a lifting session and you’re working on your visualization skills. If you’re about to do a lift, you will need to see the lift without distractions or things that take away your focus. Examine what the most powerful things are in your thoughts. What senses, emotions, and thoughts dominate when you think about and then successfully execute a lift? Are there any details you could add or modify that are positive cues? Put these to work in your future visualizations as emotional cues that will inspire your mind and ignite your nerves and muscles to complete the task.
The methods of visualization described are applicable to sets as well as to singles. Through greater experience, I began to see a set as a string of singles. For me, it’s easier to get through a set with good form if I see each rep individually. When performing a single, there is only one ‘first rep,’ which happens to be all the work of the entire set. In a set of multiple reps, there is still only one ‘first rep,’ but then there are also the rest of the reps that each require as much attention and effort. Visualization can help separate the larger goal of completing the set into several small goals of completing each rep.
This is how visualization skills carry over into goal setting. These visualization combinations can be used to help you identify each step in achieving a higher goal. For example, to set a class record at your next meet, you have to do things other than just see yourself on the podium with a medal. You have to train, you need a program, you need to perform each lift, you need sleep and recovery, and you need to work on joint mobility. You can and should visualize it all.
Visualization works. However you do it, whatever method you use, and whatever perspective your imagination works from, you can accomplish more by using positive thinking. Visualization is a simple, convenient, easy, legal performance and lift assist. Your hopes and dreams make a difference because they’re the starting place of action. Visualization in lifting is a simple act of picturing what you’re about to do and then making it happen. It isn’t witchcraft or folklore. Strengthen your mind and shape your victory.
About the Author
Cain Morano is a regular guy who wants to do things better. He trains at
Supreme Sports Performance and Training (SSPT) in Rockville, Maryland. He competes in local Olympic lifting meets in the Masters division. Formerly an NASM certified personal trainer, he now uses his bachelor’s degree in medicinal chemistry and his MBA.