The surprising power of visualization

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If you watch any great sport you will often see a competitor pause before a pivotal moment, close their eyes, visualize the movement and then execute in reality. The practice has grown in popularity in recent years and scientists say that it does work. So much so that scientists are now wondering if visualizing an exercise can actually build strength in a muscle?

If you watch a golfer take a shot or a gymnast conduct a routine they always seem to visualize first. The hypothesis is that by visualizing they are going through every required action that their body and mind need to make. It is like completing a rehearsal but of the mind. In addition, many say it builds confidence as not only do you picture the movement going well but the applause after. You revel in that moment and then you create it. This helps to reduce any stress in the activity as it builds your belief that you can succeed. 

New research now suggests that these visualization techniques are more powerful than we ever thought. One study has tested the benefits to a person’s strength due to visualization. While you would assume that as the body is making no movement there is no increase in strength, the results are suggesting otherwise. 

It now appears that thinking about an exercise makes you stronger. The study conducted three discipline tests. Strength of the finger, the strength of the bicep and the third group imagined nothing. People in groups one and two were asked to imagine moving that muscle in question. When researches measured the strength difference in each group, those who had focused on their finger were now 53% stronger in finger strength, group 2 were 13% stronger in bicep exercises and there was little to no change in group 3.

While it sounds absolutely ridiculous it appears to be real. Further studies showed that the differences taking place were in brain activity sending stimulus to the required areas. This then makes it easier to understand why visualization is so important. The exercise is not only teaching people how to do movements better but is making the brain more efficient at doing them. This means that visualization has considerable benefits across all disciplines. Not only this but the research shows that visualization could be hugely important for patients in rehab and stroke victims. Visualization could be a huge advantage in the early stages of recovery.