See it first.

Arnie watching Ken Waller
Arnie watching Ken Waller.
'Try out your ideas by visualizing them in action.' - David Seabury

Visualisation (or 'visualization' for our North American readers) is the act of forming a mental image of the outcome of an event, before the event has taken place. Although it's often dismissed as being 'new-age' (or something a little stronger, but you get the idea), it has a logical base that stands up to a little testing.

If you've never been exposed to visualisation before, here's a brief example to illustrate just what it is.

Imagine yourself at a powerlifting competition, standing on the platform with a bar loaded to 200kg on the floor in front of you. You've deadlifted 195kg in the gym, and you feel ready for the 200.

Just before you walk up to the bar you see a great image in your mind - it's you successfully completing the lift, and a subtle grin forms on your face as you stand there for a second with the bar in your hands. The training has paid off.

Back to reality - you walk up to the bar, set yourself up and get down to business. The bar moves fast, your head feels ready to explode and your eyes are about to burst. Seconds later, however, you find yourself standing there with the bar in hand, and a subtle grin on your face. You've done it.

This is the way visualisation can, and does, work. It's an extra bit of help; not a miracle. If you've worked up to 195kg in the gym, visualisation won't have you suddenly pulling 350 in a competition. It just takes you one step closer to a successful lift.

Now, the rational part. There are many reasons why visualisation (and positive thinking in general) helps, including :

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Further reading

There's a massive amount of reading material available on the topic of visualisation. Fortunately I'm somewhat skeptical in my thinking on most subjects, and have cut this back to a manageable few :


More than Mind Games
Sports Psychology and History

Sports Psychology for athletes, coaches and parents
Dr Patrick Cohn on sports psychology

A mental game
Sports psychology and golf

Cultivate Greatness
Personal development
Particularly the visualization category

The Genius in All of us
This is a superb look inside the minds of athletes, inventors and just about everyone else. David Shenk raises some fascinating questions.

Peak Performance Sports
Sports psychology and mental training

There's a lot of great information on this site; particularly the Get Psyched podcasts and newsletter.

Psychology of sports
Dr Richard Lustberg


Goal Free Living
Interview with Doug Gardner, Sports Psychology consultant

Weight Loss: Visualization and Positive Self-Talk


The Secret Weapon
Chris Shugart interviews Dr Jack Singer, Sports Psychologist

6 keys to killer workouts
Mike Robertson discusses the benefits of visualization, goal-setting and stimulants

Walter Gieseking
The man who rehearsed in his mind

Mind control over muscle power
Synopsis of a 2006 Cardiff study

The shocking nervous system
Chad Waterbury discusses neuroscience. Superb.

As I said, there's an immense amount of material on the topic of visualisation, and sports psychology in general. If you've come across a good resource - that's not already on the list - let me know.

Scott Andrew Bird

Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 38) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing Computer Guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.

Find out what he's up to via Twitter, Facebook, the Daily 'Paper'; and of course his online home. Enjoy.

Like this? Check out :

The Power of Hindsight.

A few things I've picked up over the years.

Why Conditioning is King.

What exactly is conditioning? Should you be doing some? Over to Dean.

Mixed Combat Conditioning Footage.

Time to add a few more cards to that muscled sleeve of yours?

The Bulgarianization Experiment.

Time for a little experimentation.

70 of the Best : 7 Years of Straight to the Bar.

This site - Straight to the Bar - has been around for an incredible 7 years (the first post was on Jan 17th, 2004), and to say I'm grateful is a gross understatement.

Thank you.

Of course, if you enjoyed these, I'd highly recommend grabbing the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Delivered weekly, and absolutely free.

(there's also a Daily Update, if you're looking for an even larger dose of training-related goodness.)

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Look forward to hearing from you.

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