From the Sept. 1965 issue of Strength and Health
Concentration, Part Three
by John McCallum (1965)
I remember the first time I squatted with 500 pounds. It was kind of a goal with me but I'd been stuck at three reps with 430 for months.
I'd just learned fractional relaxation and auto-suggestion. It was the first time I put them to work.
I went to the gym that night and squatted with my usual 430 x 3. Then I walked over and sat on a bench and did the concentration thing I'm going to show you. Then I went back to the rack and did singles with 450, 470, 490, and then three full consecutive reps with 500.
Everybody thought it was good except me. I thought it was terrific. I never even stopped for a shower. I boiled home, bounded through the door, threw both arms overhead, and flexed dramatically in front of the wife.
"I did it!" I shouted. "I did it!" I was a little out of breath.
She was reading. She didn't look up but she smiled politely. "Did you, dear?" she said. "That's nice."
"Yes, indeedy," I lowered one arm and shifted gracefully into a three-quarter back pose. "Fabulous," I admitted to myself.
She stifled a yawn.
I turned around again. I never liked back poses too much on account of I can't see myself in the mirror.
"Well," I said. "There I was. I'd just done the 430, see? Everybody thought I had it. But not me." I dropped my voice to a tense whisper. "I went over to the . . ."
"Bring me a tiny glass of water on your way back, will you dear?" she said.
"Back? I ain't goin' nowhere. Listen, I don't think you . . ."
My daughter came into the room and said goodnight. I picked her up and put her knee. She had her pajamas on. She was a real cute little girl even then, with big dark eyes and thick hair and already starting to act like her mother.
"Honey," I said. "Take your hand out of Daddy's pocket and pay attention. I want to tell you what I did tonight."
She reached up and pinched my nose.
"Now," I said. "Get the picture." I was getting kind of choked up with emotion. "There's this gym, see? An' it's of weights. Tons of weights layin' around all over the place. And . . ."
"And you lifted them all. How nice." She slid off my knee. "Goodnight, Mummy."
You'd probably like to impress your family, too. I'll tell you how to do it.
Last month we discussed fractional relaxation. If you've been practicing faithfully, you should be getting good at it. If you're not, keep practicing.
You'll remember that you're most receptive to suggestion while you're in the completely relaxed state. Now let's talk about auto-suggestion.
Basically, auto-suggestion is instructional data we give ourselves. We all do it. Usually we aren't aware of it. But if the suggestions are repetitious or pack enough emotional stimulus, then they penetrate to the sub-conscious level and govern our way of life.
There are two basic types of auto-suggestion -- positive and negative. Broadly speaking, positive suggestion is good for you and negative suggestion is bad.
You're probably already skilled at negative suggestion. Most of us are. It seems to be a byproduct of the stress of modern-day living. We load negative suggestions into our subconscious minds 24 hours a day and don't even know we're doing it. We gather up all our fears and our doubts and our worries and we drill them into our subconscious minds until failure becomes a conditioned reflex with us. That's why we approach our goals timidly with our subconscious pouring out a restricting stream of "I can't,' or "I'm afraid."
We fail because deep down in our subconscious minds we want to fail. We've talked ourselves into it.
We're fear conditioned. We're afraid. We're afraid of failing. And strange as it seems we're even afraid of succeeding. We're afraid of success because we fear the attention and the responsibilities that go with success.
Fear oriented negative suggestion produces another solid reason for our failures. That's our mass juvenile acceptance of the hero figure. We idolize images. We do it because it gives us a crutch. A leader. Someone to follow. And despite all our yakking about forging to the front we'd rather follow because most of us are just too chicken-hearted to be in front.
The unsuccessful bodybuilder is a good example. Suppose he's trying to work up to 500 pounds as an exercise weight in the squat (and if you want anything really spectacular, this kind of poundage is a must). He claims he wants to squat with 500, but does he really?
He probably has an ideal. Let's say it's Reg Park. And just for the sake of argument let's say that Park uses 500 in the squat. If our bodybuilder belongs to the restricting image cult he's beat before he starts. His subconscious mind will see to it.
Reg Park gives him something to idolize. Someone to follow. It's an image for him. But if he equals the accomplishments of Reg Park, then he loses his image. And his fear conditioned subconscious would rather fail than lose the image.
So he approaches the squat rack. He knows the weight is heavy. He knows he might hurt himself. He knows if he lifts it he loses his leader image. He knows these things because he's drilled them into his subconscious most of his life.
Friends, he may as well go back home and dry dishes for his old lady.He ain't never gonna squat with 500 pounds.
The hero approach is restrictive. You can be sure that trailblazers like Grimek, Anderson and so on weren't burdened by any heroes or any fear of leading.
We restrict and defeat ourselves with negative suggestion. If we're going to succeed we've got to change our thought processes. Negative suggestion must be changed to planed and positive auto-suggestion. "He can but I can't" must become "I CAN and to heck with anybody else."
Let's go back to the completely relaxed state we talked about last month. Don't forget that in the relaxed state you're most receptive to auto-suggestion. The first thing you've got to do is learn to activate the relaxed state at will.
You can do this by making a conditioned reflex out of it. As soon as you reach the completely relaxed state, start instructing your subconscious mind to associate relaxation with the number TEN. Instruct yourself that in the future the relaxed state will be activated by simple counting to ten. Repeat to yourself over and over something like the following: "In the future when I wish to achieve the relaxed state, I will merely lay still and count to ten. On the count of ten I will drop immediately into the completely relaxed state." Drill this into yourself over and over again.
This may seem a little far out if you've never had any experience with it. I'll explain it further in another article. For now just take my word for it.
Every time you practice fractional relaxation start by counting to ten. If you don't drop into the completely relaxed state on the count of ten, then deepen the relaxation the usual way. When you get complete relaxation, instruct yourself to drop into this state next time on the count of ten.
You can start practicing auto-suggestion now while you're in the relaxed state. Pick one goal for the time being. I'd suggest you start by maximizing your squat poundage.
We'll dabble more with auto-suggestion in later articles. For now do this:
Let's say you're doing 10 reps with 250 in the squat. Pick a goal. Determine that you're going to add 5 pounds per workout for the next two months. At three workouts a week that comes to 120 pounds. Your 250 will be 370.
Drill this goal into your subconscious!
Now take it one workout at a time. When you go to bed and achieve the relaxed state, tell yourself that you're going to do 10 reps with 255 in your next workout. There can't be any doubt about it. This 5 pound increase isn't what you hope to do, it's what you're going to do.
You've got to eliminate any mental blocks. Forget about who can lift such and such a weight and who can't. You're the only one that matters. Know that you can lift it. It isn't enough to hope you can lift it, or think you might lift it. You've got to know you can lift it. You've got to know it positively.
Form vivid mental images of yourself doing the last rep. Picture it as clearly and sharply as you can. Work up to a tremendous, driving optimism.
Tell yourself (and it's true) that 5 pounds on top of 250 isn't even noticeable. You can always do 5 pounds more if you have to. You could do 105 pounds more if your life depended on it.
Saturate your subconscious with this type of suggestion. Crowd out the possibility of any negative counter-suggestion. Keep it up until you have a burning confidence about your next workout, then forget it and go to sleep.
During your workout, when you come to the squats, sit down for a minute and take it easy. Lean back and get comfortable. Close your eyes, count to ten and activate the relaxed state.
Now repeat the instructions to yourself. Demand that you do the full number of reps with the increased weight. Know you can do it. Know you're going to do it. Form a clear mental picture and hold on to it. Visualize yourself completing the last rep in good style. Block off everything else from your mind. Demand a state of complete and utter desire. When you step up to the weight you should have one purpose and one purpose only, but that purpose should be screaming in your mind. You're going to do the full number of reps no matter what. No other thoughts should even enter your mind until you finish the last rep.
You'll gradually get better and better at functional relaxation and auto-suggestion. We'll be getting into more advanced programs pretty soon and we'll discuss how to use auto-suggestion as a concentration builder in more detail and for specific purposes.
Keep practicing in the meantime. You're going to work up into a herculean physique and great strength, but you'll need concentration.