Muscle Sport Magazine

The Mind-Muscle Link in Training

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Visualization is a technique that has been used in all sports for decades. Arnold talked about using the mind to improve the body, and I believe too that it is huge for bodybuilding.


My story: When I was younger, baseball was my sport. I was all about the star Yankee players throughout history like Mickey Mantle, the Babe and later on, Reggie Jackson.


When I was in high school I learned personally at even that young age how powerful visualization really was. When I would go to Yankee stadium I would go behind home plate and watch the pitcher deliver each pitch. And with every pitch I’d imagine myself being there, up at bat, and thinking about how I would take each ball. But in my mind, even though I was a right-handed hitter, I would see myself at the plate batting lefty.


Sometimes after games I would go home and pick the bat up left-handed and I’d throw a few lefty swings. For me it was a pretty natural swing even though, again, I was naturally right-handed.


One day I said to my high school coach, “I want to try batting left-handed.” He told me quit screwing around. I said please, let me try it. He relented in a practice and at my first at-bat ever as a left-handed batter, on the first pitch, I hit a home run. I was able to do that without any awkwardness because I had been visualizing myself batting left-handed for years.


The first guy I ever trained with when I was younger, Peter Neff, who got me ready for my first show, used to be the biggest proponent of visualization I had ever. He would lay on a bed, in a weight belt, close his eyes and go through an entire workout in his mind– set for set, rep for rep–and he swore he could get a pump that way. Peter won the Junior USA Championships as a Lightweight and, I swear, he hardly lifted weights. But he did a ton with visualization.


The mind is very, very strong. Arnold used to say he built the peaks on his biceps by visualizing them as mountain peaks and his mind was forcing his arm to emulate that.


Before you can achieve something, you have to see it happening in your brain. All great champions see themselves as the best before they become the best. The same goes for your body, you can’t have the physique that you want if you can’t see it in your mind. How else do you know what you’re training for? You need purpose. Your purpose, then, is your goal.


You’ll notice, if you give yourself an honest once-over, that your worst bodyparts–the parts that are lagging–are the parts that you have the weakest muscle-mind link between. If you aren’t able to concentrate on every contraction and feel the muscle squeeze, get a great pump, feel connectedto your working muscles, then you’re lacking there. And thoseparts are probably your weakest muscles aesthetically. Fortunately, this is something you can develop.


The first step is to focus on the feeling of the muscle. You have to be able to specifically pick out muscles that you are training and listen to the feedback that you’re getting. You are always getting feedback from your muscles when you’re training. The question is, are you listening? Are you able to isolate and really work the muscles your targeting? With chest exercises, for example, are you really just working the chest, or can you feel your deltoids or triceps taking over? Most people assume if the weight is moving, and the bench press is supposed to be a chest exercise, that the chest must be working. If that’s you, then I guarantee you’re not connected to your training and your chest is hardly working.


Here’s an easy example: Set your hand flat on a tabletop and spread your fingers a bit apart from each other. Then move them. Easy, right? But you weren’t thinking about a particular finger. Now try and move just the ring finger. Feel how different that is, how focused you are on one thing. That’s the focus you need to have when you are training your muscles. If you can’t feel the muscle working, you’re wasting your time.



Excerpt from “Essentials of Bodybuilding” by Gregg Valentino with Nathan Jendrick.

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