Thursday, October 4, 2012

Imagery, Exercise Imagery and its positive effect on Exercise performance

'Conceive, believe and achieve’.
Quasi- sensory or Quasi-perceptual experiences that we are self-consciously aware of, and which exist in our minds even under the absence of those stimuli that could lead to the production of these sensory or perceptual counterparts can be termed as imagery (Richardson, 1969). Simply stated, Imagery is the mental representation of certain action that happens in a perceptual mechanism without the execution of a response or a movement. It is considered to be one of the most frequently used performance enhancement technique. Imagery normally involves all the senses (i.e. “seeing, feeling, touching, hearing and tasting). Paivio (1985) posited that imagery mediates behaviour through either cognitive or motivational mechanisms, which affect the specific skill set of the general response systems. Imagery was segregated to understand the underlying affects of its practise. Cognitive Specific imagery (CS) was suggested to be primarily of images of skills or techniques. Cognitive general (CG) was suggested to be imagery that worked on the cognitive plans (strategies) of athletes. Technique that works specifically on goals and goal oriented behaviours are termed as Motivation Specific (MS) and Motivational General includes images associated with affect and arousal (Short et al., 2006).

An athlete goes through different types of training to improve his/her performance i.e. technical training, conditioning training and mental training. Sport has a long history of athlete’s that have been successful in their endeavours. An athlete goes through tremendous amount of pressure when entering a sporting arena. They have to strike a balance between anxiety and confidence. A performance based athlete would definitely include training stimulus that can improve his/her training abilities. Studied have posited that a mature athlete would use imagery naturally to improve their efficacy beliefs in a competitive environment.

Athletes or individuals tend to have preferences over the type of imagery experienced. Imagery can be practised with an internal view, external view or with kinaesthetic imagery. Internal imagery can be termed as an imagery where you see the world through your own eyes, External imagery can be termed as an imagery where you can see yourself as a third person and Kinaesthetic imagery is a type of imagery practise that makes you aware of your body or body segments.

Exercise and Imagery
Imagery besides sports is used in developing language, enhancing motivation and learning motor skills. Moreover, research has suggested that imagery has a significant effect on exercise behaviour. It can be used for three primary reasons in exercise, one is to improve exercise energy, appearance and exercise technique. Mentally practising the aspect of having a leaner body through visualization can improve efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancy of the exerciser Giacobbi et al. (2003). If outcome expectancy is positive it would have an overall positive experience has a gym user. Furthermore, an experienced exerciser automatically uses appearance, energy and technique than less experienced, frequent users (Gammage et al. 2000; Hausenblass et al. 1999). Adherence to exercise improves if an individual practises exercise imagery (Rodgers et al. 2001).

A research conducted by Giacobbi et al. (2003); hinted that imagery that focused on exercise techniques was a powerful tool. One of the athlete mentioned that they broke down the form to imagine and visualize the perfect technique. The sensation that the person would experience while performing that perfect technique and every movement was broken down into segments to understand the proper form. Appearance imagery used by exercisers improved the positive experience of an exerciser. Having a healthy body image which is more toned would result in increased motivational functions. Associating emotions/feelings had a beneficial affect on the individuals. Feelings those are associated with reduction of stress due to exercise, excitement of finishing a workout or run would improve exercise participation. Moreover, the ability to complete a challenging task i.e. exercise with the use of imagery improved confidence.

As a regular gym user, how would I use it to my benefit?

If I need to improve the form of a certain exercise, I would imagine the movement the effort involved in that particular movement. This could be done before the start of a set. I would break down the segments in an exercise to improve my exercise form. Additionally, if I am trying to break my PR. I would see to that I would imagine the effort involved in that particular movement. Imagine for a positive outcome, imagine the strength involved, and imagine I am getting stronger for that lift. A positive outcome would have a positive effect on performance.

Faith in your CNS and in yourself – is called CNS training.

[1] Gammage, K. L., Hall, C. R., & Rodgers, W. M. (2000). More about exercise imagery. The Sport Psychologist,
14, 348.359.
[2] Giacobbi Jr., P.R; Hausenblas, H.A., Fallon, E.A. & Hall, C.A. (2003). Even more about Exercise Imagery: A Grounded Theory of Exercise Imagery. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 160-175
[3] Hausenblas, H. A., Hall, C. R., Rodgers, W. M., & Munroe, K. J. (1999). Exercise imagery: Its nature and measurement. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 11, 171.180.

[4] Paivio, A. (1985). Cognitive and motivational functions of imagery in human performance.Canadian Journal of applied Sport Sciences, 10, 22s-28s.

[5] Richardson, A. (1969). Mental Imagery. New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc.

[6] Rodgers, W. M., Hall, C. R., Blanchard, C. M., & Munroe, K. J. (2001). Prediction of obligatory exercise by exercise-related imagery. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 152.154.

[7] Short, S., E., Ross- Stewart, L., & Monsma, E.V. (2006). Onwards with the Evolution of Imagery Research in Sport Psychology. Athletic Insight, 8, 47-63.

Frank Mapranny,
Fitness Head,


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