The better way to visualize

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Visualization can improve your performance by familiarizing your brain and motor neurons with certain movements, even though you're not executing them. You can mentally rehearse for an upcoming competition or workout using one of two techniques, says Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. Using the internal perspective, you envision completing the task yourself—you see your hands load the plates, grab the bar, and lift. With the external perspective, you watch yourself complete the action as an outsider.


The internal perspective is harder to master, but it’s also more effective. “When you’re in your own shoes, the visualization is as close to the actual act as you can get,” Berenc explains. You’re essentially tricking your brain into thinking you’re executing the movement.

That causes your body to respond very similarly in terms of heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle activation as it would if you were physically completing the exercise. The result: When it’s time for the real thing, you’ll step up to the barbell or starting line as if you’ve already succeeded at it many times.


Visualizing your success not only deepens your muscle memory but also puts your mind and nerves at ease. “This is a tool you can use a minute or two before a big lift or start of a race, or something you can practice during downtime throughout the day,” Berenc adds.

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