Applying Auto-Suggestion in Training

Tell yourself a lie over and over again, and you may come to believe it. Fortunately, we can tell ourselves the right lies to change ourselves for the better.

Napoleon Hill Portrait

Auto-suggestion is a powerful tool that can influence your outlook and training. This became popular in the classic personal development book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It can help you manifest your desires through the right mindset.

Try this when you feel sad. Tell yourself, over and over again, that you feel happy. Smile as you say it. Fake the emotion further in any way possible, but try to act genuine. Do a stupid dance. Give a thumbs up. Consider any other cheese you would do when feeling your best. Do this enough, and miraculous changes can happen.

You become happier.

Cause and Effect

We always assume that A leads to B. We may fail to consider that B can lead to A. Happiness does not just lead to positive feelings and actions. The feelings and actions associated with happiness can come first.

Doubt this effect? Our minds seem more potent than we imagine. The placebo effect shows that the mere belief in an idea can change you in a real way. You see it in many studies for health and medicine. A pill without a drug can still affect you, should you believe otherwise. This applies not just to your perception, but also for actual physical changes. This has profound consequences. It can affect pain and depression.

It proves the brain can have some control over your physical health and state.

Introduction to Auto-Suggestion in Training

Auto-suggestion can give a mental boost to your training. This involves repeating patterns over and over again. You can achieve this in one way by repeating specific numbers in training. This allows you to imagine success more clearly than possible with arbitrary numbers. This occurs since using the same numbers establishes expectations.

This concept best applies to a general and specific warm-up. First, you can perform every warm-up rep similar in form and imagined effort as your harder sets. Second, you can perform the same number of reps for warm-up sets as working sets. In addition to giving the physical benefits that comes with a warm-up, these sets allow you to rehearse more exactly.

This will make more sense with an example.


You plan to use 200 pounds for 5 reps in the bench press. First, you would begin with a set of 5 with about a third of the weight, or 65. You would complete this set, imagining success for the heaviest set on each and every repetition. After this first warm-up set, you would do a heavier set of about two-thirds, or 135. You would do a set of 5, once again imagining victory. Finally, you finish with 5 reps for 200 pounds.

You achieve this goal while working hard but feeling confident. You feel encouraged by the previous sets of 5. You use this system to add weight over time to the hardest set. This establishes a habit of specific reps. This gives one reason that the popular 5 X 5 system, or 5 sets of 5 reps with some basic exercises, can work so productively. On those earlier sets, you establish a pattern of accomplishment.

You can also apply this to intervals. If you plan to do Tabata intervals for 3 minutes, then plan a warm-up for the same time. During this warm-up, you can imagine the feelings experienced during the interval, since you used the same 3 minutes.

Multiple sets of 3 serve as a good way to warm-up as well. This involves progressively heavier sets of 3 reps. You perform these to prepare for a heavy set of any number of reps. Some trainees like this system as it rarely wears you out, yet prepares you. Although this works well physically, some trainees find if they use this system for a heavy set of 8, it feels as if they have to go beyond their expectations. They fail to establish a habit due to different reps for the sets. A solution may come with just a single warm-up set of 8. This would balance both physical and mental demands.

Sets of 20 reps would not require an equivalent warm-up set. This may exhaust you too much. It would make more sense to do a briefer warm-up or none at all. The initial reps for the high rep set serve as a warm-up itself. Remember, warm-up sets should never feel exhausting, only stimulating.

The same reps on every set work best with low to moderate reps. Some trainees find even moderate rep sets feel exhausting for a warm-up, so would not use this system despite any possible psychological advantages. You can still mentally rehearse for the hardest set during these sets of fewer reps, it just feels less exact.

Only you can determine if this mental edge makes the system worth it.

Boost Your Training with Auto-Suggestion

I am the greatest! I’m the greatest thing that ever lived. I don’t have a mark on my face, and I upset Sonny Liston, and I just turned twenty-two years old. I must be the greatest.

– Muhammad Ali

Consider auto-suggestion to improve your performance. Pick the same number of reps or time for your warm-ups. Only do this though if it makes sense within the context of your training. Regardless of either system, imagine success during your warm-up sets. In return, you will do much better.

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