Visualization. It Works!!!

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By John Hansen, Natural Bodybuilding Editor

Schwarzenegger already knew “The Secret”.  In that best selling self-help book (published in 2006) it was revealed that the key to happiness and success is telling The Universe what YOU WANT….and it will manifest itself in to reality. Before anyone heard of “The Secret”, bodybuilders like Arnold were touting the benefits of Visualization in their quest to develop their perfect body.

Visualization is seeing “in your mind’s eye” what you want your physique to look like before it actually happens. Arnold has used this technique all his life, not only in bodybuilding but also in his acting and his political life. He has often told the story of how, as a young boy, he used to visualize himself standing on the winner’s podium at a bodybuilding contest with all the other competitors standing below him. Arnold saw himself as a success in bodybuilding long before he ever won his first contest.

Frank Zane was another successful champion bodybuilder who used the power of his mind to develop a truly iconic physique, one that allowed him to win the coveted Mr. Olympia title three times!  And he did it against much bigger and more muscular competitors. After losing the 1976 Mr. Olympia contest to Franco Columbu by one thin point, Zane reevaluated his loss to figure out what he needed to do to come back as a winner.

Zane dedicated a whole year of training to winning the title in ’77.  He quietly went to work on developing his physique, adding a few more quality pounds of muscle while staying true to his ideals of symmetry, shape and proportion. As the bodybuilding magazines focused their attention on a couple rising stars named Robby Robinson and the massive Lou Ferrigno, Zane stayed consistent and dedicated to perfecting his physique to achieve peak condition on the day of the contest.

He also announced to the world that this was “The Year of Zane” when advertising his mail order courses in the pages of Muscle Builder Magazine. He believed in his mind that he was going to win the Mr. Olympia contest and he saw it happening a year in advance of the actual event. A proponent of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, Zane would record his nightly dreams in a journal in an effort to decipher their meaning and how they correlated to his life. After months of positive thinking and visualization, he had a prophetic dream weeks before the Mr. Olympia contest that predicted his victory.

In his dream, Frank was standing on a street with Robby Robinson throwing footballs. Robby went first, throwing a long pass. Zane then took his turn, launching the football in a high arc that exceeded Robby’s pass. The football landed on a car in the street, causing a huge explosion to the vehicle. The meaning was clear to Frank, he was going to explode Robby’s dream of winning the Mr. Olympia that year!

When Frank Zane stepped onstage at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio on October 1st, 1977, he looked like a man who was going to win. He knew that he had prepared himself perfectly for the contest and his belief and positivity radiated out to the judges and audience. As the judging progressed, Zane’s winning aura had made an impact on his surroundings and his fan base steadily grew. At the evening finals later that night, most of the audience was in his corner, loudly chanting “Zane, Zane, Zane” . Robby Robinson, who had looked like the dominant, inevitable winner all year long in the magazines, didn’t project the same winning attitude onstage. Lou Ferrigno, as it turned out, never even entered the show, choosing instead to star in a little know made for TV movie called “The Incredible Hulk”.  In the end, Frank Zane was crowned Mr. Olympia, just as he had visualized a year earlier.

If you want to be a winner, either on a bodybuilding stage, in your personal life, or in your career, condition your mind to “see” yourself as a success. Project those positive thoughts out in to The Universe and visualize your dreams coming true. As the saying goes, “If you can conceive it and believe it, you WILL achieve it”.

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A three-time Natural Mr. Universe and the first Natural Mr. Olympia champion, John is the author of the book Natural Bodybuilding (2005, Human Kinetics). A 14 year columnist for Ironman Magazine, John is the founder of where he covers the NPC Florida Bodybuilding scene and interviews legendary bodybuilders. John is also the promoter of the NPC Natural Suncoast Classic and offers consultations on training, nutrition and posing – in person and online.