Would you be surprised if I told you that you could produce excellent results by mentally practicing the physical activities you
participate in? In fact mental practice may be just what you need to take your training to the next level. In 1992 a study was conducted to compare the effect of physical training vs. mental practice. The study was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology and titled “Strength Increases from the Motor Program: Comparison of Training with Maximal Voluntary and Imagined Muscle Contractions.” The study found that after a month’s time of attempting to strengthen the ADM muscle of the pinky the physical training group experienced an increase in strength by about 30% whereas the mental training group improved by an astounding 22%. So now you know that mental practice can get you results, but how should you go about implementing it so that you get the best results possible? The effective implementation of mental practice can be broken into two easy to follow steps. Effectively implementing these steps will take some practice.
- Step 1- Create a clear image in your mind
- Step 2- Make that image seem as real as possible
To begin your mental practice you must first create as clear of a mental image as possible. The image you create should be like a movie running in your mind. The clearer that you are able to make the picture of the movement, the more accurately you will be able to physically replicate or reproduce that image. One method that may help in achieving clarity is to picture someone who is highly skilled at performing the movement or exercise you wish to improve upon and then essentially “photo shop” yourself into that image. In this manner you’re now able to see yourself performing the movement with the same level of skill.
If you invest enough time into cultivating as clear of a mental image as possible, that image should already be starting to feel real. That’s where step 2 comes in, which is to make it feel as real as possible. Don’t skimp on this step because this is the step where the magic happens. You’ve taken the time to create the image, now you must take it to the next level and feel yourself performing the action almost as if you were dreaming. The more effort you put into this step, the greater the results you’ll be able to achieve.
As with anything this will take patience and persistence before you see any measurable results. I have used this method of training with my students for awhile now, and seen many of them transform their ability through it’s proper application. Keep in mind however, that physical practice is better than mental practice. Mental practice is better than nothing at all, but if you implement a combination of both physical and mental practice, you may just produce results that would stagger the mind!
I’ll be coming back to some of the topics discussed here in future articles, but for now I wish you the best of luck in your training! If you’d like to see this principle in action as applied to a punch, I recently filmed a demonstration with my leadership team that you can view below.