Can you build muscle without touching a weight?
Imagine the possibility of using your mind to reshape your body size and strength!
I recently remembered reading about a study a few years ago in Men’s Health in which the subjects increased the size and strength of selected muscle groups by simply ‘thinking‘ about working them out.
They simply visualized the process and their bodies responded in the same manner as if they’d actually hit the iron!
It’s well known by a lot of people in psychology and exercise physiology that the brain cannot distinguish the difference between a ‘real’ event i.e. one that is observed objectively, and a vividly imagined one i.e. one that is created subjectively. The implications of this could be quite exciting for bodybuilders.
Although I am unable to track down the original study that I spoke of earlier, I have found another one that is very similar in its findings.
A recent study by Erin M. Shackell and Lionel G. Standing at Bishop’s University has found that subjects who simply imagined working out made almost exactly the same strength gains as volunteers who actually worked up a sweat!
The study split people into 3 groups
- A control group (no exercise whether real or imagined)
- A work-out group focusing on one muscle for 2 weeks training 3 times a week
- A group that simply visualized the same workout routine as the above group. They were given audio tracks to walk them through the visualization process
The Startling Results!
- As expected group one made no increases in muscle strength.
- Also as expected the group working out made strength increases of 28.3%
- Amazingly, though, the visualization group made comparable strength increases of 23.7%
What does this mean? Well, assuming that the results of the study are indeed accurate and that no cheating could have taken place, building muscle might not simply be the mechanical process that we once thought it was. We don’t know the extent to which the mind can influence strength gains but since there is a very good possibility that it even works at all, I suggest you use it to your advantage.
The study didn’t mention a change in muscle ‘size’, just strength. However, it’s not too much of a leap to believe that growth can occur if increased strength can.
I definitely do not suggest that anyone set aside their weights and take up visualization as their only means of exercise but you could use it alongside your current routine. One method might be to spend a little time every day seeing your body exactly as you’d like it to be. For example, if you’ve just finished a shoulder workout, imagine your shoulders growing into the shape and size you’d like them to. Isn’t it worth the 5 or 10 minutes to try?
Another method, and an enjoyable one, might be to simply watch videos on youtube of your favorite bodybuilder working out. Instead of having to visualize yourself, you can probably reap the same benefits by watching others pound away in the gym.
For further reading on the subject I found the following 2 blogs:
- Can your brain make you buff? Imaginary workouts can build strength and fuel weight loss
- Increase Your Physical Strength Just by Using Your Mind
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I totally believe this. How many struggling dieters complain (and whine) about how they can’t lose weight without realizing they’re telling their subconscious not to lose weight!
And many people successful at getting fit talk about visualization and the power of the mind.
What’s cool for me is I dream I’m working out a lot. That’s probably a workout junkie thing. Two of my favorite books are Mind & Muscle and Iron Mind and they stress the importance of our mental state in bodybuilding success.
Love the article!
Carol, we’re on the same wavelength completely. I often wonder just how much our own self-suggestion controls the level of success we achieve for our body goals.
Your right, even Arnold Schwarzenegger said he used to visualize each muscle as he worked it out.
I’ve read other things where a hypnotist can suggest to a subject that a coin he placed on his hand is red hot and is burning him. In
reality the coin is cold but nevertheless the subject’s skin will burn and leave a mark on his hand.
There is certainly something to the power of our thoughts for shaping our bodies!
Glad there’s someone else out there as open to this stuff as I am.
We know that hormones and blood and nutrient supply drastically effect muscle growth. Free divers are able to control circulation and we know that some circumstances increase hormone output, and effect digestion and circulation. As you rightly point out, if the mind believes something, the body reacts accordingly. For instance, if you are in the water and think you see a shark, the full physical flight or fight response kicks in, even if it is just a dolphin. In the gym it can be demonstrated regularly that if someone is used to being stuck getting x number of reps with X amount of weight, and you are able to add say 5kg of weight without them knowing, bingo, they will still fail at x reps, unknowingly lifting more weight.
Professor Bruce Lipton has done some belief destroying research with DNA, which throws our understanding of it out the window. He asserts that signals from the mind and environment control DNA, not the other way around. We know beyond doubt, that muscles grow in the womb with no exercise`whatsoever.
So to me it is obvious that through thought alone, muscle growth is totally achievable… with the right mindset. However we are deeply conditioned to believe otherwise. Doesn’t stop those foetuses though. One day someone will create and develop that mindset, I’m sure of it. Until then mindset dramatically effects muscle growth, as plenty of people who have had actual experience and success growing muscle know beyond doubt.
Uplift, I’d love to try out that gym experiment. Even better, I wish someone would do it on me without me knowing, very interesting.
I have read Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ and watched a couple of his lectures. I believe strongly that we are immensely more powerful than we currently know. Mindset and beliefs are key.
Some of you might be interested in this.
Its along similiar lines to the ideas discussed here. The exercise he is doing is a genuinely tough one. There are some other interesting videos around of Robert McKee, strong guy.
Holy batshit. Where was I when you posted this Mark?
Another example is that migratory birds pectoral muscles increase in size before they make they make their migration. You know they aren’t bench pressing. This isn’t conscious, but it is proof that there is something at work behind muscle growth than just pumping iron.
Cool, isn’t it?
I like that example, never heard of that.
It would be great to learn more about this, but not many studies are conducted along these lines.
I have no doubt that visualisation will help to grow more muscle but only if that visualisation is of the individual himself doing the workout. Watching a video of someone else doing it isn’t going to have the same psychological effect. However the key might be even more simple. Not the visualisation of the workout but the visualisation of the goal might be the clincher.
Yes it is possible. When you imagine something vividly enough, the brain doesn’t distinguish it from reality. There you can imagine working out, and your brain will think that you have done.
All visualization of the results helps. Arnie used to imagine himself with muscles so big, that they ‘filled the room’. If it worked for 6 times Olympian Arnie, then it can’t be a bad thing!
These are all a form of self hypnosis, and are some of the techniques used in this muscle hypnosis audio session – https://www.hypnobusters.com/hypnosisdownloads/muscleenhancementhypnosis.html
I have this question:
– Is your program THT allowed to be tried by beginners or do you need to have a base of exercise before you train with high intensity?
Because, i have seen by many websites that high intensity training is not meant to be for beginners but for more advanced people.
Also, I want to know if you THT program can be used by underage people just like me. I´m 14 years old and I wantto do things right.
jus wanted 2 know what is the best way 2 build my chest up in a very short time its standerd at the moment i jus want it bigger alot bigger tbh and i jus wanted 2 know a faster way.