Is it really possible to build muscle and get stronger without doing any physical exercise, but instead just by thinking about doing the exercise?
The science says yes. Perhaps it’s easier to understand when we consider how the brain must be involved in developing a muscle once it has been worked and that it is also quite easy to fool the brain into experiencing physical events. What tells a muscle to get bigger, stronger? What activates the muscle cells to grow, if not the brain? And what controls the hormones that drive the mechanisms for muscle development?
We’ve long been supporters of the use of hypnosis in running training. But, it’s usually been used more obviously for psychological gains: developing mental strength for example to use towards the end of a marathon. Or, maybe, to increase motivation to actually get out and train when we really don’t feel like it.
Most runners know how important having a strong body is to run well and injury-free, but many still shirk the body conditioning and strength exercises that are recognised and proven now to be so important for runners; they’d rather be out there running.
How to get the greatest benefit from brain training
If you are like the many who probably would admit to neglecting the non-running training, then maybe some mental training will help you. The study that’s linked above (Mind over Matter), saw a staggering 24% increase in muscle strength just by visualising an exercise. How much faster could you run with just half of those gains? How much more injury resistant would you be?
The mental exercises that were performed by the participants in the Mind over Matter study were quite simple, and as follows:
The training was completed over a period of just 2-weeks, comprising 5 x 15-minute sessions each week. The training focused on the hip flexor muscles and for each session the participants were instructed to visualise using a hip-flexor machine for 4 sets of 8 reps. A weight of 5 pounds was added to the exercise each subsequent day. Participants were required to imagine performing the exercise with this additional weight.
There were 3 groups in the study, one used physical training, who actually performed the same exercise that the 2nd group visualised only. The 3rd group was a control group that did no training. The before and after measurements showed that the physical training group improved strength by 28% and the mental training group by 24%; there was no significant improvement in the control group.
Of course, the stronger this visualisation, then the greater the effect. As we all know, hypnosis is a great way to produce maximum gain from your mental training; that’s why we think it’s a great tool to use for many aspects of running.
It is somewhat easier to understand the effect of hypnosis and brain training on the development of what we understand as mental strength in endurance exercise. But, this illustration of how mental training can actually affect our physical strength should be of great interest to anyone who trains for sport. As has been mentioned elsewhere on this site, we value highly the work of Uncommon Knowledge who provide very high quality, professionally produced hypnosis downloads. These downloads can be listened to again and again, check out their muscle strength production and start literally thinking your body stronger.