Unlock the Power of Your Mind for Greater Bodyweight Strength

by Logan Christopher on October 20, 2015

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Logan Christopher Demo Straddle Back Lever

When I was growing up I had a fantasy of being strong, quick and agile. Basically, I wanted to be a ninja. As a scrawny and weak kid I was anything but.

Years later as I entered into adulthood I realized that this was something I could actually go about changing, and thus, my long path into strength and exercise began.

Since I didn’t have the best start, I sought out other means to help me gain the super powers I dreamed of. Steroids were always out of the question for me, so what else was there?

It appeared to me that mental training was largely unexplored territory. There was a lot of lip service paid to the idea, but not a whole lot of concrete methods to this seemingly esoteric field.

I had a couple of early and impactful experiences, yet so much of it was fluffy. If someone said to you, “Just exercise,” you wouldn’t actually have any idea or insight into how to do it correctly. Yet in the mental game you’re often simply told to “believe in yourself” without so much as a process on how to do so.

This made me even more determined to get answers. Just like in my strength pursuits, I was dedicated. And after some time I was fortunate enough to stumble upon some great teachers.

In the end I decided it was up to me to write the book I wish I had when I was starting out. And I’m proud to see that John Du Cane saw the need for a book like this to complement all the great physical exercise and health training manuals that Dragon Door has made available.

So when I recently presented at Dragon Door’s inaugural Health and Strength Conference, I noticed a commonality about several examples I used in my presentation on how to become instantly stronger using the power of your mind. Most of them had to do with bodyweight exercises!

Logan Christopher Presenting at Dragon Door's Health and Strength Conference, 2015

I talked about myself being stuck at a single freestanding handstand pushup until I realized I had a mental block. When I removed that through a simple process, I immediately hit a double, followed by a triple, and within a month nailed six reps.

I showed how I improved a friend’s yoga posture…without even focusing on that move at all.

Then live on stage at that event, I took a woman from two one-arm pushups to busting out seven. This was done without a single tip on technique but by getting her nervous system activated in an optimal way through “visualization”. (I put that in quotes because what I do is not the typical visualization that most people are familiar with.)

It’s not that the performance boosting mental training skills only work with bodyweight. Far from it. But maybe there was something to this idea.

One of the reasons you and I love bodyweight exercise is because there seems to be a higher degree of self-awareness that comes into play.

This still occurs with weights, especially if you actually pay attention to it, but even more so in bodyweight, probably because you are both the resistance and the one resisting.

This kind of self-awareness is critical for stepping behind the curtain, so to speak, in your mind, to help you get even better results.

As such, this makes a case for more of the nervous system being at play, rather than just using muscle. And if the nervous system is being used, we can definitely work to optimize it through mental training.

Logan Christopher Coaching Flags
At the recent PCC in Mountain View, the Kavadlo brothers talked a lot about the nervous system activation required in all the moves we did from flags to levers to pushups.

What I’ve found in studying and experimenting with mental training is you can basically change how your nervous system works in regards to any exercise. And the higher the skill component of the move, oftentimes the more impactful the results become.

Muscle is good, but it is only one piece of the strength puzzle, of which there are many more. These include:

  • Technical ability
  • Nervous system
  • Beliefs
  • Internal dialog
  • Tendon and ligament strength
  • Bone strength

Yes, we can get the nervous system to work better through physical things like tensing other parts of the body to create more strength.

We can also approach it more from the mental side. What I like about this is you’ll often find you can do things easier and better, with less effort when you do it right.

After all, who is stronger, the person who can hold the human flag easily or the one that needs to work really hard to do so?

I’m not saying that you won’t ever need to work hard. But when you truly use your mind you may be surprised at just how much further you go.

Your mind governs everything you do, in your workouts and otherwise. So doesn’t it make sense to spend your time maximizing it?

More attention gets paid to learning a new exercise variation, the technical aspects of how to do it, and then programming for training.

Of course this is all important.

But HOW you think about all of the above can do even more to determine your results.

Mental Muscle by Logan ChristopherIn my new book, Mental Muscle, there are tons of step by step drills, not just theory. In doing some you’ll get to experience tangible results just like you would expect in doing exercises from an exercise book.

So let me take you “behind the curtain” to show you more how your conscious and subconscious mind works so you can put it to use in becoming stronger.

I had the great honor of having Paul “Coach” Wade write the foreword to Mental Muscle. In his books he’s talked about the mental side of training. In fact, most of the great strength training books over the decades have had at least a chapter devoted to the subject.

If you’re into bodyweight training I highly encourage you to check it out. If it adds just 10% to what you can do, wouldn’t that be worth it?


About Logan Christopher: Logan Christopher has been called a physical culture renaissance man as he is accomplished in a wide range of strength skills from kettlebell juggling, performing strongman stunts, and bodyweight exercises. He is the author of numerous books including Mental Muscle, Secrets of the Handstand and The Master Keys to Strength & Fitness. In addition, he’s spent the last several years going deep into mental training to find out what it takes to really excel and tactics that can help people instantly improve their exercises. You can find out more about all this at http://www.legendarystrength.com/.

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  • Great post and I enjoyed meeting you at the conference. I will be using your methods with a Kettlebell pressing program we are starting at my gym in Nov.

    • Logan Christopher

      Nice. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

  • Matt Schifferle

    Can’t wait to tear into the book Logan! Quick question, do you think improving mental training helps improve muscle building potential or would it slightly impede it since the move is slightly “easier?”

    • Logan Christopher

      Great question Matt. Actually there is a whole section in the book about using mental training to aid in muscle building. The ‘making things easier’ is just one piece of the puzzle. I actually used mental training, along with the physical, to put on over 20 lbs. in under a month, despite being a classic hard gainer.

      • Matt Schifferle

        Sweet! Thanks for the reply, I’ve been doing some of my own mental focus work, but I’m sure your book will bring it far beyond where I’m at now.

  • I like your book so much that I’ll be reading it AGAIN soon! 🙂 Your methods have improved my training and results since 2013!!!! 🙂

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks Adrienne. My aim was to make it a book that would be referred to again and again.

  • Ray Gamma & I used to train late at night under the stars talking between sets of carrying each other up & down a flight of 33 steps. The mental side of training didn’t escape our long conversations & we decided after a while that we’d approach all our training calmly, no psyching up or too much encouragement. Our thinking was that the nervous energy of the fight or flight response should be saved for the emergency situation or competition. That was fifteen years ago. Other people have different opinions & I didn’t win anything strength wise, so maybe I was missing a trick. Or maybe not?

    I’ve managed a few big efforts when it counted for real. I’ve come round to believing that a lot of things can be overcome by practice & conditioning – as a swimmer, resistance to the cold, seasickness on small boats & adapting to the taste of sea water are all things I’ve improved upon. I did some sets out under the stars on my own last night. Half the time I congratulated myself about doing it. For most of the rest of the time I had the voices of my judo coach Ted Spacey, the Iron Addict CT Fletcher & our own Coach Wade alternately yelling or urging me on to do more. And between all that I have a few thoughts of “stop congratulating yourself & conjuring up ghosts & focus upon what you are doing.

    I’ll buy your book Logan, maybe add you to the audience of yelling ghosts that line up when I’m on my own knocking out a hundred of something.

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks for sharing Dan. There is a time and a place for psyching up. And there is a time and a place to not psych up. It really does depend on what you’re trying to do. Either way though there are some good mental tactics to use.

      You must be more auditory than I am. The use of voices like you mentioned is great and can be combined with the other senses in many ways.

  • HardShellBen

    Having been at the Health and Strength Conference to see the presentation and meet you, as well as see the results from your moments of coaching, I have to say I am very excited about your book, and look forward to digging into it.


    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks Ben. What I covered at the conference only touches on what’s in the book.

  • Tom F. Hermansader

    This book should do well. I knew the Mighty Atom and many other very strong men and one common thread they all have is “believing in themselves” and seeing in their mind what they want to accomplish before they make the bend. Dennis Rogers helped me a lot in bending. I was getting close to bending a 60 penny nail many years ago and he said, Tom, get a pen and write down the date you want to bend it. I wrote the date down, mission accomplished. For those who do not know me, I am a professional artist and as an artist, they same
    applies which in essence means work, work, work and more work. Sacrifice more than other artists around you because they are your competition. To view my work and strongman friends of mine, go to http://www.hermansadersartgallery.com.

    • Logan Christopher

      Yep, the Mighty Atom was a big inspiration for me. Going through his biography recently was awesome to mine some of his mental training methods a bit more.

  • Tom F. Hermansader

    In the 1960’s at the Allentown Fair, I was standing in the audience and the Atom was speaking and demonstrating. He invited a few men to take the 60 penny nail rolled in a cloth and bend it. A few men, some very big, tried and failed. A heavy-set kid, maybe 17 or 18, was standing next to me. He asked the kid to try it. The kid said no. The Atom told the kid that he could do it. He asked the kid’s name, told him to close his eyes, then changed his name to a different name, told him that the two of them were walking down a path and found this thin piece of metal. He then went onto to say that he picked it up and kept repeating that it was a very thin piece of metal. He handed it to the kid and kept repeating that it was thin and that he could bend it. The kid’s eyes were closed all this time. The kid took the nail and started to apply pressure on it. Sweat came off his head and after about 30 seconds, it started to bend. When he put a good kink in it, the Atom told him to wake up and the kid didn’t. The Atom slapped him across his face, sweat went flying on me and others and he awoke. I thought the Atom hit him so hard that his head was going to fly off his body. I never saw anything like it.

  • IvanR

    Could this also be applied to preventing injuries in a workout? How do I approach it?

    • Logan Christopher

      My favorite thing to prevent injuries is to listen to my body. This should be built into pretty much everything you do. If mis-used, mental training can allow you to go beyond your physical limits so you must be careful about it.

      On the flip side, various mental drills are great for aiding in the healing of injuries, acute and chronic.

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