Imagery For Your Strength Training…The Good, The Bad, And The Scary!
So Halloween is around the corner which is why I felt that today’s post would be very appropriate for the occasion. So I know what you’re thinking, what do you mean by imagery? I mean if I were talking about something good, bad, and scary then the picture of Chucky alone should qualify for all three, right? Well, almost. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out!
The Application Of Imagery
Now settle down my young Jedi. I know Chucky is creepy as hell, but in both the celebration of Halloween and to make my point I had to use him to help drive home my message. What message is that you ask? Well today I’m talking about imagery. No, not necessarily the imagery of a creepy little murdering doll that wields around a giant kitchen knife screaming expletives, but more like what you would use for the set up and success of executing an intense strength lift.
Essentially imagery is used when someone uses his or her senses to create or recreate an image or picture in their mind. This is something that we’ve all heard, but imagery is a particular variable that hasn’t been utilized quite enough by athletes in their strength training programs. Imagery is a very powerful tool my friend.
I work with both the average fitness Joes and Janes as well as competing athletes and I am always stressing the importance of imagery particularly in the set up of a particular exercise or drill. Over the years I have noticed a bit of difference in the approach of what us strength coaches recognize as the initial set up of a lift or drill when comparing the average fitness junkie to the more serious athlete.
That difference is that most athletes (not all) tend to almost engage in a ritual for the set up of a lift or exercise. Conversely the average Joe and Jane generally tend to want to jump in without thinking. With the athletes it’s evident that they are thinking about what they are about to do before they just try to jump in with both feet and do it.
To me they are certainly expressing an attempt at imagery during the moments leading up to the execution of whatever lift or drill they are about to perform. Now everyone is different, but the point is that some groups of people that have a bit more experience with handling and being under a bar tend to think themselves through the lift or drill.
Mental imagery consists of imaging oneself from either an internal or external perspective. The internal perspective is basically like imaging yourself from the first person. For instance, if either myself or one of my students is about to go all Chucky-Like Psycho on the deadlift we see ourselves from behind our own eyes through the imagery process before we actually perform the lift.
Personally the way that I do this is that I like thinking of myself walking up to the bar, then getting myself into position, feeling the bar, tensing my hips, crushing my grip, engaging my lats, etc.. I might even image the surrounding environment such as the air, temperature, smell, etc.. I am basically going through the entire process in real time inside of my head before I actually perform the lift. This is the type of imagery that I like to teach to my students. Essentially it is a ritual.
Now the external perspective is like looking at yourself from the third person. This visual can be beneficial because it’s like watching yourself on TV and many angles of you can be seen throughout the performance of the lift. This could be beneficial from the standpoint of making yourself more aware of some personal technical flaws you may have had to deal with in the past. By imaging yourself from this perspective it may enable you to be more aware of your body in space so that you can make the necessary adjustments in your lifting or performance technique where needed. The point is that both the internal can external perspectives can improve your kinesthetic sense.
If you are as serious about your strength training as that crazy ass little Chucky doll is about scaring the hell out of all us on Halloween then you can even take the imagery process even further. To do this you can create a sort of script of yourself preparing for a big lift if needed to help with the seamless execution of hitting a new PR. If you are kind of rusty on some of your technique and are aware of it then you may want to take the time to write yourself a script. Just make the experience similar to how I told you that I did with myself earlier in the article. Just make sure the lift is does not involve a mindless machine. Deadlifts on a smith are not image worthy so don’t waste your time! Yes, I did say deadlifts on a smith…On that note I just had to stop myself from throwing my computer across the room.
If you write a script for something like that then I will personally send little Chucky to your house! 😉 Imagery is a powerful thing my friend.
The bottom line is that you should get your head in the game before hitting on a strength training lift or exercise by utilizing some visual imagery. The more you are in tune with what you need to do before you actually do it then your success will grow and grow. It’s about mastering your mind, body, and spirit. If you need some additional help with your strength training program then I want to strongly encourage you to get a copy of the brand new version of my Better Than Steroids ebook right here! It’s packed full of information and strategies like I mentioned here only with a lot more.
Always remember the bottom line is that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart my friend. Also please take a second to come and LIKE us on Facebook right here so that you can tell all your friends about how awesome this reading experience was for you! 😉 Keep training smart.