Written by Blake “The Silverback Viking” Gauthier (@thesilverbackviking & thesilverbackviking.com)
There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of articles written in Fitness magazines about the proper form, the proper technique. What exercises you should do to get that perfect body.
“Do these exercises to get Arm’s like Arnold!” - “Follow this routine to gets Quads like CBum’s.” And don’t forget the always popular “Abs in just 7 minutes!!!”
Those of us who live a fit lifestyle are constantly bombarded with information about the physical but there is so much more to the fit lifestyle than just that.
There are very few articles published that talk about the most important muscle that is used to live a fit life. Especially for those of us who take the fit lifestyle to the extreme and step onto a stage. Of course, that muscle is the… mind. Your mind is just like any other muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. You must exercise your mind like you
would any other muscle group. No, I’m not talking 5 sets of 5 or 4 sets of 12-15. I’m talking about developing your mind, your willpower because with out having the necessary will power to control what goes on your plate and into your body throughout the day you will NEVER develop to your true potential.
Your mind will tell you that either you can or can’t accomplish something and either way your mind will be right. For the sake of this article we’ll use the traditional deadlift as an example. Prior to any set I do I prepare my mind for what I am about to do. Your mind will tell you to quit, it will tell you that you can’t do something 1000 times before your body can’t do it. By strengthening your mind, you strengthen your body. If you convince yourself that you can only get 6 reps with a certain weight you will get those 6 reps but once, you hit those 6 your mind tells you that you have accomplished what you have set out to do and your body will tell you to set the weights down and take a quick rest before doing your next set. When I go to do the set, I will tell myself I want to get 12 reps with a particular weight (even if I really only want to hit 6). By doing this my mind tells my body that my body must get those 12 reps and when I hit the actual goal of 6 I am more likely to be able to push out those couple of extra reps. It is those extra reps that differentiate the run of the mill gym rat from a champion.
Arnold talks in his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding how he uses visualization while training. He talks about how when training biceps he would picture his biceps as being mountains.
“Throughout my bodybuilding career,” Schwarzenegger reflects, “I was constantly playing tricks on my mind. This is why I began to think of my biceps as mountains, instead of flesh and blood. Thinking of my biceps as mountains made my arms grow faster and bigger than if I'd seen them only as muscles.”
Arnold is a childhood hero/idol of mine so if it worked for him then dang nab it, I'm going to give it a try! Continuing with our deadlift analogy I picture myself in my mind’s eye completing every rep. In my mind I go through the process of properly setting myself up at the bar. Properly spacing my feet apart. Matching the knurl on the bar with the index finger on both hands and ensuring my grip is set. In my mind I can see how each rep will play out and how each rep brings me that one step closer to achieving my dream physique. I then take three quick big breaths and exhale as I tell my body it is time for it to now do the work and my mind tells my body that YES it can do it!!!
The imagery that works for me for deadlifts is I picture myself as a terminator. I am no longer flesh and blood. I am now metal and hydraulic fluid and I am stronger than ANY OTHER PERSON ALIVE!!!! This weight on the ground in front of me is nothing for a machine like me!
Find the imagery that works for you, whether it’s being a terminator or your favourite athlete mentally put yourself into that place where you are capable of accomplishing the task in front of you.
I have four tools/steps that I use to strengthen my willpower.
- Meditation – I’m not talking sitting in the lotus position while listening to either the sounds of mother nature or Zamfir playing the flute while hoping for enlightenment and for my chakras to align. When I talk meditation, I’m speaking about the mind muscle connection which is the most basic concept of mediation because meditation is the practice of connecting the mind and the body. This ties in very closely with the mindset that I touched on earlier in this article. The body mind and emotions are all intertwined, and you can’t strengthen one without the other two also becoming stronger.
- Correct your self-talk – how do you talk to yourself? For years and years my self-talk was extremely negative. In my mind I was never good enough, never smart enough. I was just never enough. Once my mind started down that path it wouldn’t stop. My mind would free fall down that rabbit hole of negativity and for years I did nothing to stop it from doing that. My self-esteem has been horrible throughout most of my life, it’s only been the past couple of years that it has started to make some very significant improvements. A big catalyst for this improvement has been simply that I am now taking care of myself. I don’t allow my mind to go too far down that rabbit hole. Now when I hear that negative self-talk starting, I change my mindset, I change what I was thinking about from the negative into something positive. Instead of letting my mind relive the horrible choices and decisions that I have made throughout my life, and believe me there has been a lot of them, I make myself focus on a good memory, spending a day at the beach with my daughter or I focus on an accomplishment that means a lot to me personally. By doing that, I end that cycle of self-destruction and change my self-talk from negative to positive.
- Smaller goals – You have a goal of losing let’s say 50 pounds. You sure? That’s a LOT of weight. Positive you can do that? 50 pounds is a very big number and can feel quite daunting especially when first starting out but 5 pounds… yes 5 pounds is definitely achievable. So instead of setting your goal to lose 50 pounds in a year’s time set your goal to lose 5 pounds in the next two weeks. Once you hit that goal set your next goal to lose another five pounds. When we are accomplishing our goals, our brains reward us with the wonderful gift of dopamine. By setting smaller goals that we can accomplish quicker and by getting that good, good dopamine feeling we are more prone to keep working towards that next goal.
- Learn to tolerate discomfort – Years ago a reporter asked Muhammad Ali how many sit-ups he did to get in shape. Ali replied, “I don’t count my sit ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count!” I couldn’t tell you the last time I woke up without soreness in some part of my body; I have learned to embrace this pain, this discomfort. The discomfort tells me that my body is changing. Adapting to become bigger and stronger because the stimulus I am giving my body in the form of my training sessions is pushing myself to the point where, my body is adapting to handle the stresses I’m putting it though. To get yourself to that next level you must be willing to keep pushing when others, including your old self, would have given up and packed it in!
Like any muscle it takes time to strengthen and develop your mind but each day be sure to do something that brings you one more step closer to being the best you. If you want something work for it!
About the author: In January 2018, weighing over 530 pounds, Blake dropped dead from a heart attack while walking down the street. When he fell from the heart attack, he also tore his ACL in his left knee and damaged the MCL and LCL. Surgery was required to rebuild his knee and he also had angioplasty. 13 months later Blake suffered a second, much milder heart attack. Since then, Blake has lost over 300 pounds, has competed in bodybuilding shows, and has had articles published in several magazines. Blake enjoys living in the country with his bulldog Bear and sharing his love for fitness by coaching others and helping them reach their goals as well.
Thank you very much Al.
Such a good read. Especially took note of the willpower component.