Markus visiting from Switzerland, smiling through his workout. A part of training that we do not talk a lot about is imagery or visualization. It is not something that is hugely important in everyday workouts. Your effective completion of Helen does not require you to visualize the workout before you do it. In many sports like Golf, Diving, Baseball, and Olympic lifting, all sports that are highly skillful and depend tremendously on the neurological side of movement, benefit greatly from imagery. Studies have shown that just imaging a movement activates the same neurons that innervate the very muscles used in that movement. Edmund Jacobson (1931) was the first to show that imagined movement of bending the arm created small muscular contractions in the flexor muscles of that arm. Not only is the neurological side stimulated in imagery, but there is also a very small muscular activation! So that's great and all but why would you want to do this? You are not actually performing the movement. You could argue that you are, as the neurological piece to any movement is essential. Regardless, research has demonstrated the effectiveness of mental imagery along with countless anecdotal reports. There are two important keys to effective imagery; control and vividness. Good imagers use all of their senses to make their images as detailed and vivid as possible. Kinesthetic awareness being the most important. This sense involves the feelings of the body as it moves through different positions. Also the visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory senses all play in to the vividness of the image. The visual sense can come from an internal perspective (from your own vantage point) or an external view (an outside observer). The visual perspective used depends on the athlete and the situation. Another important part of vividness is the emotions experienced during the movement. If you are about to attempt a Clean PR, you do not want to imagine doing it while feeling anxious and nervous. You'd much rather imagine the lift with great concentration and focused intensity. Controllability refers to manipulating the images so they do what you want them to. Take the clean for example, you do not want to imagine yourself failing the lift. This may seem silly but when you have failed countless attempts at something, that image will be in your head. So next time you line up for a PR attempt at something like the Clean (hint hint), take yourself through some imagery. Make it as vivid as possible, focus mainly on the kinesthetic piece, and make sure you control the image for a positive execution and outcome.
Clean and Jerk practice