The Psychology of Training

Short Topic


I remember when I first got the notion of how powerful the psychology behind training can be. I went into the gym on a Saturday to make up for a missed workout earlier in the week. I went to the rack to grab the rocks I would need to do dumbbell bench presses. So I grabbed the 80's and walked over to the bench and ripped out 12 reps, two more than last week, which was my exact plan.

Sure, my exact plan, but after closer examination of the rocks, I noticed some mathematically challenged guy had put the 90's where the 80's were supposed to go. Not realizing this, I pushed and pushed to make sure I made 2 reps progress from last week, without knowing that I had actually made 20 lbs. and 2 reps progress. I wouldn't ever have made this much progress had it not been for my psychological "edge".

When you enter a hardcore gym, you usually see a lot of people psyching themselves up. Like the commercial says, "Whatever you have to do, do it." I've been a big proponent of getting my head into lifting for a long time and tell everyone that this is the "magic pill" they're looking for.

Of course, it doesn't only apply to the act of lifting weights. I've even made special shake "formulas" for friends who want to gain weight. These super formulas are no more than a jug of whey protein with the label ripped off. Do these people make more progress with this shake than they do without it? Yes. Is it because of the extra protein? Nope. Then how, you may ask.

What it comes down to is that if I tell them they'll gain ten pounds in a month using this stuff, they believe it, and that, my friends, encapsulates the key to progress – the mindset.

I've been on bodybuilding boards all over the Internet and it amuses me when I see people dismiss another person's progress because it was due to the placebo effect. This stance is total crap in 2 ways. First, the naysayer has absolutely no idea what the user experienced and two, playing down the placebo effect is just plain bad thinking.

For those of you who don't know exactly what it means, the placebo effect is a research term used to describe when a person gets results from receiving a sugar pill or other treatment that has no effect on the user physiologically. However, since they believe it works, it does.

As a person with a BA in Applied Experimental Psychology, working on a Masters, I know that one of the first things that psychologists are told is to never, ever underestimate the placebo effect. Why do you think scientists use double-blind studies? It's because they know that the placebo effect can invalidate any results they hope to achieve. As a matter of fact, many experimental participants are deceived to prevent the placebo effect from happening.

Aside from creatine and protein, every supplement I've ever used has been helped out by the psychology of me thinking it will work. How many times have you spent $300 on supplements, or gear, and tightened up your diet and training to make sure the money didn't go to waste? I'll tell you what, I recently spent $250 on Nandrosol, MD6, Methoxy 7, and Muscle Meals and I'll be damned, all of a sudden, I did my cardio every morning. And the alcohol went bye-bye.

When I hit the gym, I was focused and intense the whole time – I had tunnel vision. I saw nothing but me, the weight, and every individual muscle fiber as I performed each rep. And I never took any supplement that purportedly increased mental acuity and I took MD 6 after the gym so that didn't play a part in it. I believe that the focus was all self-induced, I think therefore I am. This stuff will make me big. I know it.

Well, it's been 4 weeks and I weigh 200 lbs at 9% bodyfat. When I started my little regimen of supplements and focused training, I was 206 at 14% bodyfat. Now, do I believe that the supplements contributed strongly to my results? You're damn right I do. Was it psychological or physiological? I really couldn't care less.

It might have been 90% because of the supplements and 10% because of my heightened focus. Or, it could have been the other way around. Regardless of what was responsible, the muscle I put on and the fat I lost is the same.

How many of you guys have ever had a girl come up to you and say that your muscles look like they're the results of a placebo effect? That's what I thought. It doesn't matter, does it?

Think about that when you slam a supplement by saying it's all due to placebo effect.