Can Visualizations Really Help You PR?

May 31, 2017

Can Visualizations Really Help You PR?
Written by Jaimie Bougie

A new trend that’s popping up not only in the CrossFit world but also in professional sports is athletes discussing how “visualizations” were the key to their success in competition.

Visualizations have been popular since the Soviets started using it back in the 1970s to compete in sports, and some of the most recent popular names such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Muhammad Ali, have all stated they’ve used mental practices to enhance their performance during competition.

But can visualizing a lift really help you PR?

Well, science says so.

A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting [1]. Other studies have shown that doing both - the physical practice and the mental practice - is more effective than either alone [2].

So how does one go about mentally preparing before a competition or max out day?

In a blog post titled, Five Ways to Mentally Prepare Before Competition, Calvin Sun discusses a variety of ways you can prepare mentally before stepping onto the competition or hitting up a hard training session. If the thought of sitting still and silent for any length of time for visualizing isn’t in your wheelhouse, there are other ways you can mentally prepare.

  1. Remember your “Why” for what you are sacrificing all your time to perfect can help recharge your competitive drive; a strong sense of purpose tends to foster a high degree of motivation.
  1. Take a second to listen to the thoughts in your head and evaluate whether they are positive, helpful thoughts or if they negative, self-defeating comments that you are making to yourself. Make an effort to replace any negative thought with positive self-talk.
  1. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up on what we need to do to succeed in the future that we forget about our past successes and lessons learned. Don’t focus on what you did or are currently doing “wrong” and instead remind yourself of your past successes to help build confidence in your ability to perform well.
  1. Train yourself to be mindful and in the present. A weightlifting meet has six lift attempts; if you are on your first lift but worrying about the third lift or even the upcoming clean and jerks, you won’t be able to give your all on what you need to currently focus on, which is the barbell right in front of you. Too many thoughts in your mind can distract you as an athlete; learn how to “get in the zone” for peak performance.

Good luck and happy lifting!


[1] Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization

[2] From Mental Power to Muscle Power - Gaining Strength by Using the Mind

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