Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for his mind techniques which he used to help him become Mr Universe and the most well known bodybuilder ever. Pretty impressive in it’s self, however he then became a very successful actor followed by a career as a politician. Arnold achieved everything he set his mind to, and this quote from his body buildings days helps us see why:
I never set limits or created mental barriers. You may have read that I imagined my biceps as big as mountain peaks when I did my curling exercises. This visualization process was essential if I was to gain the kind of mass and size I needed.
Having no limits or barriers is something all high achievers do according to Matthew Syed the author of Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice. Syed describes that wherever you are in your development you can practice just above your current skill level and you will never plateau or have boundaries.
I began thinking about Arnold today, after reading an interesting article titled “Muscle Strength Is in the Mind“, because it discusses the scientific evidence behind the minds ability to help grow muscle. The study had 29 volunteers wear an elbow to finger plaster cast on their non dominant arm for four weeks. The results between the control group who only wore the cast and the group who visualized exercising their wrist were stark.
Before we look at the results perhaps we should have a look at some other less scientific studies, just out of interest and to set a context that this idea is adaptable in many ways and has been around for a while:
The first video is very much of it’s time (1958) but still demonstrates the power of the mind to overcome strength and mental boundaries.
This next video shows the concept in reverse and how the mind can reduce or remove our strength too. Which to me seems to make sense. If you can increase a skill you can decrease it too. I think the main point to bare in mind here is that the subject in this experiment was said to be very suggestible to hypnosis, which is very rare.
So back to results of the plaster cast study, which was carried out by researchers at Ohio University’s Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute. These clever people discovered that both groups had lost strength over the four week period. The difference in how much strength the two groups had lost was quite amazing. The control group had lost on average 45% of their forearms strength in comparison to only 25% of the group who used mental imagery exercises. Brian Clark, the study’s lead author states:
There’s a fair amount of evidence that you’ll activate the same parts of the brain doing imagery as you do if you’re actually doing the task itself, The basic thought is that the imagery is allowing the brain to maintain those connections.
With the mind helping us increase muscle it does make me wonder, what else can we do for the body? Can we shrink unwanted tumors and where does this stop? I guess it comes back to Arnold’s quote of never setting limits or creating mental barriers.
The fact that time and time again the mind is proving that we, as humans, have control over our body. To view interesting examples of mind over body, some of which you can try for yourself, please checkout this sites Experiments section.