See Your Potential: Making Negative Thoughts Positive

anthonydematteo_usawnuc2015“…See what you want to accomplish, believe it and you will do it. Things don’t happen randomly or by accident, especially not in this realm, not in the fitness realm. Going into University Championships I would visualize for two straight weeks hitting the three snatches that I wanted to go with. Visually I could conceptualize myself hitting a 130 kilo no problem, just smash it. Then I visualize 135 on that bar, walk up to it and I would snatch it but it didn’t look pretty, it looked difficult. And then I would go to visualize 140 kilos and I would miss it in the front, I would miss it behind. This is what I am actively trying to visualize doing it right and for some reason your mind, my mind wouldn’t let me get that weight. Then I go back and replay over and over again and adjust each and every part of the visualization until the mind became confident and hitting those numbers and it was two days out from competition, finally I was hitting 140 kilos perfectly and then I go on the stage and went 3/3 in the snatch. Hit 130, hit 135, hit 145 flawless, no problem with that. It just all happened because it was how I visualized it. So if you can’t see what you want to do, you will never believe it, or never will achieve it.” -Anthony DeMatteo, USAW NUC Snatch Gold Medalist

When I watched this training video of Anthony from The Barbell Spin I was so impressed by this young man’s ability to mentally train and visualize his lifts for competition. The quote above gives a rich description of how Anthony mentally prepared two weeks out from competition of the lifts he wanted to hit. He goes into detail of hitting the lifts and how they felt. First lift being easy, second a little rocky and missing the third lift over and over again. Then he did something special, he kept visualizing the lift until he hit it consistently. I knew then this would be the next topic I shared with all of you.

Visualization is the ability to see yourself performing a task before it happens or is some cases a tool to help fix performance errors. Simple right? Unfortunately it is not because our mind can tend to wander or think of negative  thoughts if we are new to visualizing. There are two types of visualization: internal and external visualization.

Internal visualization is where you see yourself (point-of-view) or watching yourself (i.e., from the crowd) performing your task or in this case your lifts. This type of visualization takes place in the mind. When you visualize yourself lifting it is extremely important that you are as detailed as possible. Use all 5 senses:

  1. Visual (sight)
  2. Auditory (hear)
  3. Kinesthetic (touch)
  4. Olfactory (scent)
  5. Gustatory (taste)

Sports Psychology Seminar 600 x 375 v2You want to be able to visually see the scuff mark on the toe of your weightlifting shoe; hear the crowd or the cues your coaching is yelling; the temperature of the barbell; the smell of the icy hot on your lower back from a sore back; and the taste of the sweat dripping from your head. I am hoping your senses are starting firing up and you are beginning to see yourself. The more detailed you get the better. A way you are able to get detailed with your internal visualization is creating a script, writing down everything. I will go over writing a imagery (I will toss the word visualization and imagery around; they mean the same thing) script in a later post.

External visualization is a great way for instant feedback. In today’s virtual society we tend to use this style of imagery often without even knowing it. We like to film ourselves to post on social media or even because we are coaching our self. When we are watching the video we are analyzing movement errors to help correct our movement pattern. When you are watching the video answer these few questions to help organize your thoughts:

  1. What lift are you performing?
  2. What were positive things about your lift?
  3. What would you want to fix about your lift (one thing at a time)?
  4. How will you fix it?

After you have answered these four simple questions you have a better plan of action for what you want to do to correct your lift. This also gives you the tools to internally visualize you performing that movement with positive thoughts. Just like Anthony talked about, he visualized himself missing 140 kilos over and over again. What he did though was replayed it back in his head making corrections to his lift until he successfully completed the lift. After he made the corrections he contentiously imagined himself performing the lift with 140 kilos on the bar with the correct movement and feel of the lift. He did not visualize the same movement when he missed. He was able to visualize and feel his mistakes and adjust.

Taking a while guess but I am sure when he was visualizing the successful lift in his head his muscles started to activate and twitch has he lifted the bar off the ground, pulling to his knees, up the thighs into the hip or his power position, aggressively pulling under the bar and catching the lift. Again, I bet you are imagining yourself and the barbell. Good, this is a great start to improving your performance with your mind.

I will post later about specific ways to write a script or visualization tools for different situations. From this post I want you to take a few things from it:

  1. Visualize positive thoughts
  2. Analyze and correct any performance issues
  3. If you keep thinking negative thoughts, STOP, and start over until positive
  4. Write it down (start with practice, sit there and write down what you see, smell, etc.)

visualization-brainstormingBe a confident lifter because you have the ability to do anything you set your mind too. If you don’t think so it is because you don’t believe in yourself and your mind will react with what you think and how you feel.

Check out the sheets below that will help strengthening your ability to visualize. It is important to practice mental skills training and taking it as serious as you doing any of your other training that you do. Perfect practice makes perfect performance.

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Contact me at if you have any questions about visualization or need some help.


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