What you think about is important, not only in life, but training as well. Our thoughts literally have the power to manifest physical change. For instance, take Bodybuilders, who can be considered the original biohackers as they have always been looking for ways to push the boundaries of what is considered possible to consistently improve their performance. It is with their tireless efforts that the mind-muscle-connection mantra entered our lexicon, providing trainees with the idea that thinking about a muscle whilst training it, helps it grow exponentially more than just placing it under tension alone.
Why is that?
It comes down to the fact that the mind is the sum total of the central nervous system’s functioning, ending in the endocrine secretion that we recognize as a thought. That secretion can directly affect cellular activity and protein formation, which, very simply, means that a thought has a tangible action. This may sound woo-woo, but there is research to back it up.
A study reported in the New Scientist entitled “Mental Gymnastics Increases Bicep Strength” took ten volunteers and asked them to imagine flexing one of their biceps as hard as they could for five times a week. The researchers recorded electrical brain activity during the participant’s sessions and assessed their muscular strength every two weeks. Those who only imagined flexing, increased their biceps strength by 13.5% in just a few weeks, compared to the control group.1
The power of thought can go a long way.
Take a look at another study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology that had subjects divided into three groups. The first was asked to exercise by contracting and relaxing one finger on their hand for five sixty-minute training sessions a week for four weeks. A second group, following the same training schedule was instructed to only mentally rehearse the same exercises, without physically activating any muscle in their fingers. The control group neither thought about, nor exercised their finger outside of their daily routines. At the end of the study, researchers found that the group who actually did the physical exercises exhibited a 30% gain in strength over the control group. No shit, right!? Well, the crazy part is that the second group, who only mentally rehearsed the exercises, demonstrated a surprising 22% increase in muscle strength over the control group!2 This goes to show that the mind has the ability to produce a quantifiable effect on the body.
None of this is meant to say that simply thinking about an outcome is going to be a substitute for doing the necessary work, but that if you combine both intent and physical effort you can create an optimal outcome.