What would you say if I told you that you could set new personal records in strength, power and speed TODAY, without any extra training or exercise? Well with these three unique strength hacks you can do exactly that.
Number One: Motivational Self-Talk
That’s right, talking to yourself in a positive way can actually improve your performance! Don’t believe me? Then you may be interested to know that the field of psychology has used these techniques for years. The Psychobiological model for sports performance specifically suggests that motivation and mental state play a huge role in physical performance. A study by Hardy in 2001 actually showed that individuals using motivational self-talk increased their time to exhaustion by 18% during high intensity exercise. These same people also had significantly lower RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) meaning that they felt less tired than their competitors even though their bodies were under identical stress.
What this means for you: Use positive and motivational phrases both before and during training to increase your performance by up to 18%.
Number Two: Visualisation of Success
Similar to motivational self-talk, visualisation of success makes use of your mind’s ability to vividly picture certain events and outcomes. This technique began as a method of overcoming anxiety disorders and phobias before being discovered by sports coaches as a way of improving high level athletic performance. World championship winning golfer Jack Nicklaus notably said that “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”
What you’re aiming to do is create a video that you ‘step into’, vividly imagining the senses that will accompany that moment. From here you should imagine exactly what your success looks like and how you’re going to achieve it. Imagine this as many times as needed. Not only will this help lower anxiety and thus regulate disruptive hormones, it may also serve to prepare the relevant neural pathways that you will use to perform the task. (Porter and Foster, 1990)
One amazing study of finger abductions (as in sideways movements rather than kidnappings!) actually found that mentally imagining the movement without any physical training still resulted in improvements of 35% strength gain! The implications of this are huge, potentially meaning that vividly imagining heavy strength movements such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses could actually give a noticeable increase in physical strength capability. For more information check out:
From mental power to muscle power—gaining strength by using the mind
Vinoth K. Ranganathana, Vlodek Siemionowa, b, Jing Z. Liua, Vinod Sahgalb, Guang H. Yuea, b, c,
Published in Neuropsychologia, Volume 42, Issue 7, 2004, Pages 944–956
What this means for you: Use visualisation either before or during competition to lower stress and increase likelihood of success. Plus, use visualisation on lighter or recovery days to potentially induce a training effect without physical exertion.
And Don't forget, training visualisations are always easier when you have clear, well thought out and deeply rooted goals. (Click here for my article on Goal Setting for the Soul)
Number Three: Functional Schizophrenia (Competitive alter ego creation)
This last technique may shock a few of you, but I’ve personally found it to be a useful skill. Credit where credit is due, I came across the concept through Richard Grannon, owner of Spartan Life Coach, NLP master practitioner and self-protection advocate. He called the concept ‘supra states,’ and it basically means creating an alter-ego that can perform in ways different to your normal behaviour. From a self-protection standpoint this meant creating an alter-ego that could handle aggression, but the idea can easily be extrapolated for various forms of sports performance. Many boxers and mixed martial artists, for example, are actually very mild mannered outside of the ring. Inside the ring, however, they are dominant and aggressive. Similarly many competitive weightlifters, strongmen and powerlifters are quiet, humble, guys, but when they step up to the bar they turn on a very distinct concentrated aggression. What they have done is carefully craft a separate competitive persona that represents a different set of values.
This is best done by actively creating your persona. Decide on a name for your alter-ego, decide on what that alter-ego’s goals are, what motivates them and what their personality is like. Each time you practice you can repeat these fundamental elements of your new persona.
What this means for you: You may benefit from taking some time to create a separate competitive persona that you can draw upon in sports or activities that require performance different to how you usually act. This will allow you to break free of any limiting social conditioning and be able to fully commit to your performance goals!
There you go then folks, three scientifically valid mental hacks that you can use to improve your physical performance without even having to lift a finger!
Try them out and let me know how you get on. You can let me know on http://www.facebook.com/characterstrength, or shoot an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org
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