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Imagery

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By Jocelyn

“I’m not sure yet if it was a nightmare or if it’s a good thing, but I had my first CrossFit dream last night.”

Wiser confessed to me in class this morning.

“Oh Wiser, this is just the beginning,” I joked back.

The thing is, Wiser has been getting better and better lately. Rather than letting his ego get the best of him and piling on loads of heavy weight, he’s been diligent in refining his technique on all movements. This will prove to be huge in his fitness gains in the long run. For example, he’s gone from Front Squating with a tight grip on the bar while it rests on his chest, elbows and chest dropping as he descends, weight shifting onto his toes, to paying attention to details like finding the groove created by shifting the shoulders forward and pushing his face back while nestling the bar into his throat, finger tips on the bar while forcing the elbows up, pressurizing with big breaths, keeping vertical shins and externally rotated femurs that allow him to sink vertically into “the hole.” How’s that for detail? He’s been paying close attention, and now he’s having dreams.

The thing he might not have realized is that this Imagery, an important technique used by elite athletes and taught by sports psychologists, will be an remarkable tool in reaching his CrossFit goals, particularly when he learns how to cognitively control it.

Imagery. It is the process in which we use information stored in our memory to create or recreate experiences. And although it is unstructured, we engage in imagery every time we have a dream. Structured imagery, on the other hand, is fostered by a vivid imagination and the more control you have over your imagination, the more you will be able to control your performance.

There are a few different ways to approach imagery. One is called kinaesthesis, or “feeling the movement internally.” Another approach is called visual-internal imagery where the athlete sees his performance unfold as if watching it in playback mode on an internal head camera. And of course there is visual-external imagery in which the athlete visualizes himself performing from a distance as if he were a spectator. It is actually possible to, with practice, get better at these imagery techniques and eventually engage them all at once to create extremely vivid experiences. According to Advances in Sports Psychology research shows that the more clearly you are able to experience mental images and the more accurately you can control your imagined movements the more likely you are to translate the images into superior performance.

What is even more interesting is that if you imagine yourself performing any sports skill, it causes electromyographical (EMG) activity in the musculature resembling that which would occur during the physical execution of the skill (Motor Control and Learning, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999). For example, if you were to imagine yourself doing a pull up, it would be possible to monitor activity in the same muscles used even though there was no actual physical movement.

This stuff takes practice just like everything else we do in here. So the next time you find yourself hitting your sticking point on receiving a clean, for instance, try it. Step back for a moment and imagine pulling yourself under the bar, arms loosely rotating, bar staying close to your body as you meet it at your shoulders and rotate your elbows up as your release the hook grip and open your hands. Imagine the way the weight feels as you ride it into the hole of the squat, keeping your core engaged and then driving through your heels out of that squat. Practice it. Master it. It will undoubtedly improve your performance.

Workout:

Clean

Work your way to heavy singles (80%) x 5 once you get there

AMRAP 15 min

3 Push Press (135/95)

6 C2B Pull Ups

9 Box Jumps (20″)

4 Comments

  1. Does this mean that if I visualize myself kicking Golden’s ass, he will feel the pain even though he is miles away?

    …in all honesty though, great post Joc.

  2. What an incredible post Joc! You continually amaze me with your depth of knowledge. Watching you Sunday was proof that you’ve mastered all three!

  3. bizzlefit

    no cliff, it doesn’t mean that at all. cool post j-fo, i like to visualize conversations before i have them with people. is that the same thing?

  4. This is a very cool topic. Visualizing certain movements is how I had some of my “Ah-Ha” moments (especially with overhead squat and jerk) and it definitely made me more proficient in the movements.

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