Close your eyes for a second. Imagine the body of your dreams. Now open your eyes and go after it. Aidan Bricker tells us why our imagination is our secret weapon and how the best of the best use it in their training.

If you are struggling to stay motivated in the gym, try using mental imagery to boost your performance. A 2012 study in the Strength and Conditioning Journal showed that college athletes, who used visualisation techniques before strength training, were more confident and lifted more weight on moves like the leg press than those who did not.

Visualise the gym in which you train, the equipment that you will be using and how your body will feel when you start training. Most importantly, imagine getting the results you want and how it would feel to reach your goals. This will help you to focus on the physical challenge presented by your workout.

Top tip: For the best results, visualise your session before you begin. Picture the exact moves that you plan to perform and how it will feel to perform those moves. Try to recreate as vivid a picture of your surroundings as possible.

Famous visualisers

Many accomplished athletes understand how much power the mind has over the body. They respect the mind-muscle connection and recognise that visualisation is the first step to actualisation.

Frank Zane

Mr. Olympia Frank Zane was a big advocate of mental visualisation and meditation. Explaining his approach, he once stated:

“The technique I use is to sit in a quiet place, preferably a darkened room, close my eyes and focus my attention on my forehead. I’d imagine a large movie or TV screen there, and then I’d see an image of what I looked like gradually transforming it into what I wanted to look like.”

Zane used these visualisation techniques all through his very successful bodybuilding career, and attributed much of his success to them, describing them as the “blueprint for moving into new body space”.

Muhammad Ali

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was a huge believer in visualisation techniques, once saying: “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it”.

The former heavyweight champion used different mental practices to enhance his performance in the ring, such as visualisations, mental rehearsals, and perhaps the most powerful epigram of personal worth ever uttered: “I am the greatest”.

He always rehearsed the fight in his head before he stepped into the ring. Of the 19 fights in which he predicted the outcome – saying things like “Archie Moore, you’re going in round four” – 17 happened exactly the way that he had planned.

Leon Taylor

Leon Taylor, retired British 10m platform diver and mentor to young diver, Tom Daley, kept coming fourth in major events – the worst place of all to finish. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens he decided to change his preparation for the event. Instead of just visualising the dive, he also visualised the seven days leading up to the final. He ‘saw’ what he would be doing and how he would be feeling in vivid detail every day.

Before previous competitions he had struggled with nerves and was always unable to sleep. In Athens it was different. His sleep was undisturbed and when he woke up on the day of the final, he felt that competing was “like putting in a DVD and pressing play”. Later that day he won a silver medal and became the first British diver to win an Olympic medal for 47 Years.

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