Visualization is a very important aspect in regards to altering your performance in powerlifting.  Although it has been talked about before, I’d like to go over it againbut place a slightly different spin on it.

What is Visualization?

Visualization is putting yourself into game situations while in a relaxed statelike on your bed or relaxing in a chair. When visualizing, while your body is not actually there, you are completely experiencing everything. You feel the air on your skin, and you can smell, feel, see, and taste the game.  The greater the extent you experience it, the greater the results.

I, myself, am a big fan of going through a scenario multiple times. When you go through a scenario the first time, you see it just as if you were in the theater watching a movie. It is almost like an out of body experiencewatching yourself do the activity on a screen. The second time you go through a scenario, however, you are now in the movie. You see everything that happens through your own eyes.  Finally, the third time you go through a scenario, you make it like real life. You can feel the bar on your back, the weight in your hands, the strain in every joint, the sweat on your brow, and the belt locking you into place. You feel your feet on the ground with the extra resistance on top. You feel everything.

Now, realize that what you are visualizing is what you want to happen–your success on the platform. An interesting thing occurred during a study about visualization many years ago.  The study had an entire basketball team participate in an exercise where they visualized ten free throws being shot. When the exercise was over, the researcher asked each person how many shots he made. Interestingly enough, it fell right in line with that person's own actual free throw percentage.  Here is the deal though: You control what happens during your own visualization. You can visualize yourself making every shot!

You use visualization to see and feel what you want to becomenot what and who you are at this moment. Everyone wants to make 100 percent of their free throws. So what needs to be done? You need to visualize making 100 percent of your free throws. You control your thoughts, so you control your visualization.

How does Visualization help?

Visualization helps because after you visualize something, you have been there before. You can put yourself into any situation and make it come out positively. Visualization can help any sort of issue out there. Do you have issues pulling off a play or move correctly? Do you have issues defending any moves? Visualize everything and find the way to pull it off correctly.

Visualization also helps, in regards to powerlifting and sports, with perfecting one's form. One can only do so many physical repetitions a day before fatigue sets in. However, you can take your body through as many repetitions as you desire through visualization.  Brian Olfield, a great shot putter, once said, “I do 10,000 repetitions a day. But only 100 are in the ring.” He spent great amounts of time visualizing.

Are you someone who lets his knees cave in during squats?  Try visualizing them staying in the right spot. Are you someone who has her elbows flaring too soon, only to shoot the bar back over your face during the bench press? Visualize your elbows staying where they are supposed to be.  Are you someone who shoots his butt up and does an RDL on the deadlift? Visualize your shoulders and hips raising at the same rate.

Training puts a great amount of physical strain on the body, and there are only so many attempts you can execute at 90 percent before you get hurt.  However, like Brian Olfield, you have an unlimited amount of attempts in your mind. He perfected his technique by doing only one percent of his reps physically. The other 99 percentwere done through visualization.

How to use Visualization

To visualize, you must first allow yourself to be in a calm, relaxed state. Then, simply close your eyes and think about your desired situation. Be completely engaged in that situationthe more cues that you can incorporate into your visualization, the more effective it will be. The more intense you make the visualization and the more senses you incorporate (remember the five senses), the greater the carryover into your athletic performance.

I’ll leave you with these three stories about visualization. There was a Vietnam POW, major James Nesmith, who was a golfer. To keep himself sane, he would visualize himself playing every single hole of every single golf course that he ever played. He felt the club in his hands, the air on his face, the stretch in his torso on the back swing, the reverberation of the metal when his club made contact with the ball, and the grass under his feet as he walked from hole to hole. He did this for the whole ten years that he was a POW.  And what was the first thing he did when he got back to the states? He went and played golf at one of the courses he would visualize every day. And do you know what he did the first time he played? Hit a ten-stroke PR.

Remember the movie Cinderella Man? James J. Braddock knew and was warned about the power of Max Baer’s kill punch. In order to talk/scare him out of fighting Baer, he was shown film of Baer fighting and killing his opponents. Well, Braddock watched the film and dissected it, and as he memorized the  film, he began visualizing himself in the ring going against Max Baer. He saw every punch flying toward him, felt every punch against his flesh, and visualized the counter to each one. Then, when the actual match finally occurred, Braddock had the advantage. Every move that Baer did, Braddock had the counter. He knew every idiosyncrasy of Baer’s fighting style because he’d been there before. He’d fought Baer hundreds of times and won each and every one of them.

The first Muscle & Fitness Magazine I ever purchased even had an article about Ed Coan breaking the world  record total at 220 pounds. While Mr Coan’s training was greatly discussed in the article, it also featured an interesting side bar that grabbed my attention. Even today, I feel that it was more important than the training article itself. The side bar talked about the mental routine Coan would go through on every repetition.

Before he even wrapped his knees, he saw and felt himself go through the entire scenariofrom the point where he was sitting with the knee wraps in his hands to the moment he completed the lift. He saw himself wrapping his knees with the perfect tension. He saw himself getting up and having his shoulder straps put on perfectly. His felt his belt slide into position and placed at the proper tension. He felt and saw his approach to the bar, sliding under it and finding the spot where he wanted the bar to rest. He went through the unracking, the set-up, the squat command, and the deep breath before the decent. He felt himself hit depth and drive the weight upvictorious over that round with the weight. He then heard a voice give him the rack command and felt himself take take one step forward immediately following, with the spotters hands by his sides helping to guide him into the rack.  He did all of this before wrapping his knees on every attempt. Coan emphasized visualizing the technique, not the weight. The weight was irrelevantthe technique is what must be refined. Great advice from one of the greatest lifters to have walked the earth.

Visualization may sound goofy, but it allows you the extra practice and training you need to become a champion. It’s human nature to take some time to relax and watch TV at home, but it takes a champion to put time into visualization instead.