THE BODY WILL never fully respond to your workouts until you understand how to train the mind as well. The mind is a dynamo, a source of vital energy. That energy can be negative and work against you, or you can harness it to give yourself unbelievable workouts and build a physique that lives up to your wildest expectations. Whenever you hear about anyone performing unbelievable physical feats—Tiger Woods in golf, Michael Jordan in basketball, Michael Johnson in track, Hermann Maier in skiing, and so many more athletes—it is because of the power of their minds, not just technical, mechanical skill. And you can be sure you will never perform at that level unless you can match their inner drive as well as their physical abilities.
People can walk on coals when they are sufficiently motivated. They can endure the rigors of Navy Seal training. They can cross vast deserts, dogsled across arctic wastes, climb Mount Everest, swim the English Channel, bicycle around the world, lift incredible amounts of weight. They perform in spite of terrible pain, despite being ill, no matter the odds or the obstacles.
There are a number of specific ways in which the power of the mind can be harnessed to help you achieve your goals:
As I alluded to in The basic Training Program, the first step is to have a clear vision of where you want to go, what you want to achieve. “Where the mind goes, the body will follow” is a saying I have always believed in. If you want to be Mr. America or Mr. Universe, you have to have a clear vision of yourself achieving these goals. When your vision is powerful enough, everything else falls into place: how you live your life, your workouts, what friends you choose to hang out with, how you eat, what you do for fun. Vision is purpose, and when your purpose is clear so are your life choices. Vision creates faith and faith creates willpower. With faith there is no anxiety, no doubt—just absolute confidence.
It is not enough to just want to “get big.” Bodybuilding is more than that. It is about mass and shape and symmetry and definition. It is a kind of sculpture. It is almost like an art form. You have to have a picture in your mind of the kind of physique you need to build in order to achieve your goals. When you look in the mirror, you have to see yourself as you are—and as you want to be as well. You have to see in your mind’s eye the masses of muscle you will be creating, the powerful physique that is in your future. Focusing on such images gives your mind and body a clear-cut task, a well-defined goal to strive for.
I talked in The basic training program about how I used to study photos of Reg Park because he had the kind of Herculean physique that I wanted someday to emulate. I remember as I traveled in the 1970s with Franco Columbu how many shorter bodybuilders used to come up to and thank him for inspiring them to train for competition. A medium-size, aesthetic type could choose Frank Zane or Shawn Ray.
Really thick, slab-muscled competitors can turn to Dorian Yates or Nasser El Sonbaty for inspiration. When you find somebody who represents your ideal physique, study as many photos of him as you can, tear them out of magazines and put them up on the wall, tape them to the refrigerator—whatever it takes to help keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
Motivation is the driving force that allows you to develop a single-mindedness of purpose that ultimately gives you the will to go into the gym for two to four hours a day and put yourself through the most punishing workouts possible. It makes the difference between just going through five sets of this and four sets of that and really pushing your body to the limit. Motivation creates discipline. Discipline comes from the joy of looking forward to achieving the goal you have learned to picture so clearly in your mind and consistently hammering away, rep by rep, set by set, workout by workout.
Beyond the act of visualizing the end product of your training, you should decide exactly what kind of development you need in each of the major muscle groups and what specific exercises and exercise techniques will achieve this. You’ve decided where you’re going, now you need to map out how to get there. This is the point where you learn to truly individualize your workouts, find out how your body responds to specific movements and Intensity Techniques, and decide exactly what strategy you are going to employ to create the kind of body you are striving for. In addition to this, you have to consider factors we have discussed, such as what gym to train in and what kind of workout partner will help you to succeed, as well as any other factors that can help you to have great workouts or can get in the way.
6.Mind in the muscle.
The key to success in your workouts is to get the mind into the muscle, rather than thinking about the weight itself. When you think about the weight instead of the muscle, you can’t really feel what the muscle is doing. You lose control. Instead of stretching and contracting the muscle with deep concentration, you are simply exerting brute strength. So you end up not working to the limits of your range of motion, not contracting and extending the muscle in a smooth, intense, controlled manner. For example, when I am doing Barbell Curls, I am visualizing my biceps as mountains—not just big, but huge. And because I am thinking of the muscle, I can feel everything that is happening to it. I know whether or not I have fully stretched it at the bottom of the movement and whether I am getting a full, complete contraction on top.