Using Mental Imagery for Improved Performance

Imagery is a cognitive skill where you create an experience in your mind. For competitive lifters specifically, you can stimulate reality by mentally rehearsing a meet. Rehearsing successful execution of a meet, skill by skill, can increase an athlete’s confidence by providing the subconscious mind with powerful, positive memories. Here, athletes can experience meet preparedness and acquire a sense of familiarity. So the question is, are you missing out on this particular psychological technique for improved performance?


Imagery: An opportunity for athletes to experience challenges and success.


Here’s why I really like keeping mental imagery in my training tool box – we spend all year preparing for a few minutes on the platform. With imagery, we can get used to meet environments for a longer period of time, even though we aren’t really experiencing that much time in real-world competitions.


Also, even visualization of a muscle movement in the mind can create electrical activity in that muscle even though there’s no actual movement in the muscle itself. So even if you are simply learning a skill and maybe not preparing for an event, mental imagery could be an effective tool to use.


Now, you can go as far as writing an imagery script, recording and listening to it, or you can even spend a few minutes at night before bed and close your eyes while imagining things. What’s important is to set the intention to work on mental and technical performance. Eliminating anxiety and boosting confidence. Reducing chances of errors while remembering cues and improving form. That being said, here are tips I like to give athletes as they work on mental imagery.

 Tips for successful imagery
  1. Go through your set up VIVIDLY, step by step. Feel the knurling bar with your hands. Where are you placing your feet on the platform? What are you looking at when you walk out? What smells do you smell? What sounds might you hear? The more real and multi-sensory it is, the more effective your imagery will be and thus, a higher chance it will stay with you.IMG_4264


  1. Then, imagine each lift executed successfully, but be sure to include pushing through your sticking points. Maybe working through a grind or two. It’s important to keep it realistic. In short, keep each vision challenging and real, yet successful.


  1. As you walk through the entire meet, think about ALL the things that make you nervous, and work through them. Maybe write them down too.


  1. Be sure to include your cues for each lift. This is a perfect time to rehearse them so it’s second hand nature come meet day.


5. Include things you may forget, like commands (or taking off your elbow cuffs from warm ups before you go bench lol). Come meet day, these details will be ingrained in your mind, so you won’t have to stew over them.


6. Imagine real sensations. While you perform and move your body along with the imagery, what are you feeling? Be very aware.


  1. Slow it down. Watch it frame, by frame as you first start working on imagery. Like with anything, mental imagery takes practice. Once you get better at it, you can speed it up to real speed.


  1. See things from your point of view, not you watching yourself.



So there you have it. What about you? Do you use mental imagery in preparation for a meet or competition? Why or why not? Feel free to share some tips below.



Happy training friends!





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