Can I Build Muscle Mass Using Mental Imagery?


Can You Use Visualisation To Build A Better Body?

Can we use mental imagery to help build muscle mass instead of having to slog it out in the gym constantly?

What is mental imagery?

Mental imagery uses visual guided suggestion that incorporates the uses of our senses, e.g., smells, touch, sound. This allows individuals to immerse themselves in a situation as it happened or would happen. When we do this, we tap into the positive brain response to images, which helps that person to manage emotions and life challenges more effectively in the future.


Hypnotherapy consists of guided suggestion that is either direct (you are relaxed) or indirect (when you are ready, you feel your body relax), which helps calm the mind, induce relaxation, focus attention and heighten concentration. This allows the client to be in the "zone" and have their attention focused so that anything going on in their life or around them is temporarily blocked out. 

The mind influences the body.

The term psychosomatics is used when talking about how experiences, beliefs, and emotions affect our body—for example, the placebo effect in drug trials. Our mind influences the body on a cellular level and creates memory within the body internally.

Mental imagery can help with psychosomatics by creating an environment of calm in our mind, bringing motivation and focus to an individual's behavior and thinking.

This results in improved performance, self-confidence, and stability, which in turn optimises their ability to reach their own goals – physical and non-physical – and to overcome obstacles.  

 So what's Neuron Mirroring?

It's the way that our brain mirrors behaviors, attitudes, and emotions of the people that we are exposed to.


Neutron mirroring

Like contagious yawning, the reason yawning is so infectious is that when we see someone yawn, the same part of our brain gets activated as is in theirs, due to neuron mirroring, and the message is sent to our own body to yawn. 

So can mental imagery affect our body composition?

Here are a couple of studies on this topic:

In a 2004 study, Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared "people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workshops in their heads" – i.e., used mental imagery. As you might expect, he found that an increase in muscle mass in the group who went to the gym, by about 30%.

However, the group of participants who only conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by an average of 13.5%, so almost half as much.

Similarly, in a 2018 study, the University of Plymouth and Queensland University did research and found that overweight people lost an average of five times more weight using Functional Imagery Training (FIT). This brief individual motivational intervention teaches self-motivating skills using mental imagery, compared with talking therapy alone.

So can we get healthier without exercising at all?

No. Using mental imagery alone while eating an unhealthy diet and not exercising won't do you any good in the long run. It can, however, help increase drive and motivation towards achieving our goal.

A physical goal workshop is designed to drive natural motivation that helps each individual reach their motivation/drive through their positive triggers.

Why is the emotional aspect important?

If you can trigger positive emotions, it can increase motivation and drive towards achieving your goals; however, imagining a goal that is going to be very challenging can increase anxiety.

When we feel anxious about working towards our goal, our mind will seek ways of avoiding the task, so sometimes the image may need to be adjusted to one that does not make us anxious. Using techniques like meditation in conjunction or prior to visualisation may prove useful in some cases, as meditation can improve mental wellbeing by lowering anxiety which may help induce a more productive visualisation session.