It’s said often that the mind is more powerful than the body. If a person taps more deeply into his mind, his physical capacity can be greater than if he attempts physicality with his body alone. We’ve all heard the myth of the mother lifting the car off of her endangered child. That, and similar stories have been recounted through many years in varying regions of the world. Myth isn’t something that never happened. Myth is something that happens over and over again.
The phenomenon known as Hysterical Strength is involuntary. Hysterical strength seemingly can’t be summoned, only experienced. It is unique to an unexpected moment, such as seeing a loved one trapped under a heavy object. However, anyone who has been involved in strength training with more serious intentions, and who is familiar with this phenomenon, has surely attempted to experience that kind of superhuman strength on demand. I have.
In fact, I deliberately draw from my mind as much, if not more, than I do from my body when I attempt to lift successively heavier weights. Not just with heavier weights either. I also draw more from my mind when I seek to lift the same weights for more repetitions, or in more complete form. This mindset has been the primary tenet of my style of strength training for a majority of my life. Because I’m not genetically gifted in the areas of strength and power, I have learned to use my mind to take my body places that my genetic predisposition could not meet.
One of the least explored aspects of strength training, for far too many people, is that the body is used almost exclusively to carry the load in the weight room. The mind is too often left on the wrong side of the gym doors. For many, it seems, there is no supreme connection between mind and body. To me this is at the heart of progress. So much potential remains unfulfilled when the mind fails to enter the workout.
Foster The Progress…
Physiologically the human body does not change that much from week to week, and less from day to day. When we intelligently track what the body is capable of in the form of exercise journaling, we have information available to us that can be used to feed our minds, and help us increase the body’s capacity. I have written down nearly every workout I have taken since I was 15 years old. That’s a lot of information. It is the most recent workouts though, that offer the most useful information; what have I done for me lately…?
If I have recently used a given weight for a certain number of repetitions of a particular exercise, then I know I have it within me to do it again. True, some days are better than others. Some days, I’m just not feelin’ it. But that’s my point. On those not feelin’ it days, it is more likely that my mind is not feelin’ it, with my body acting as directed by my mind.
When I wrap my hands around a bar and begin to lift, I have one goal above all other goals; to complete my set with better form than the set prior, despite that fatigue from prior sets has minimized my capacity. As I do this battle with gravity, I understand that the outcome takes place in my mind first. Only after my mind accepts the impending task, is my body directed to execute that task. It’s all I think about in-between sets. I simply try to create myth, over and over again.
“Every battle ever fought is won or lost before it takes place.” Sun Tsu, from The Art Of War.
I live that ideal with every set of every workout. Whether I’m successful in achieving this is not as important as consistently attempting call my mind into the workout. I accept that my body is only going to get so strong. I simply seek to make a priority of going to a place in my mind where I think exclusively about increased capacity and perfection in form. I take what I know my body is capable of, based on history, and I then ask it for at least as much, and often end up with just a bit more.
From this management of my exercise, my capacity can be maximized to fulfill my potential. Capacity and aesthetics are my joint destinations. Though my body may be the vehicle, it is my mind that plans the route and steers the course. Be well. rc