A very interesting study done in 2004 from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation wanted to see if thinking about exercise could get you stronger. Granted, many people don't even like to exercise let alone dream about it. However, the researchers reported that just thinking about an exercise can improve your strength! This study is an affirmation of a similar project published in 1992.
Thirty "young, healthy volunteers" participated in the 12 week study. They were broken up into 4 groups
Eight participants thought about exercising their little finger muscle for 15 min. 5 days/wk.
Eight participants imagined exercising their biceps for 15 min. 5 days/wk.
Eight subjects were in the control group...they did nothing special
Six subjects actually did maximal little finger exercises for 15 minutes 5 days per week
At the end of the study the imaginary exercising groups improved in strength almost as much as the real exercise group did. The 1st finger group (which did not move their finger muscle at all) improved their strength by 35%. The biceps visualization group jumped 13.5% in strength (all without any actual muscle contractions!). While the hardworking exercise group improved their strength by 53%. The control group showed no significant change.
Sounds crazy. So why don't we all just stay home from the gym and just imagine working out instead? Actual resistance training exercises are still the best way to improve muscle tone and strength. It's not a bad idea to add some metal imagery to your training session. Perhaps the next time you go to do a workout, spend 5 minutes visualizing the exercises, I bet it helps!
Sources 1. From mental power to muscle power; gaining strength by using the mind , Vinoth K. Ranganathan, Vlodek Siemionowa, Jing Z. Liu, Vinod Sahgal, Guang H. Yue, Neuropsychologia 42 (2004) 944-150;956. 2. Yue GH, Cole KJ: Strength increases from the motor program: Comparison of training with maximal voluntary and imagined muscle contractions. Journal of Neurophysiology, 67: 1114-1123, 1992.