Mind Games For Mass Gain

Bodybuilding is mental. To gain muscle, get stronger, and power thru plateaus requires mind games. Learn how to trick yourself into growth!

Let’s Make a Deal

bodybuilder mind games for mass gain

Making deals with yourself is one of the most important mental tools in the bodybuilder’s toolbox of motivational tricks. Bodybuilding is a lot more mental than most people realize, not just the reading, research, and study but in using the mind to help achieve your goals. Tools like visualization are really important too but today we are looking at my personal favorite that I use almost daily. Like the gameshow with my old time favorite host Monty Hall, “Lets Make a Deal” requires strategy and discipline.

Making deals with yourself is an awesome strategy to help keep you motivated and catapults your bodybuilding progress. To be successful though requires that you keep your word, when you make a promise to yourself you MUST keep it – end of discussion. Renege once and this technique becomes useless because you never trust someone again who has lied to you, especially when its yourself. So, KEEP YOUR WORD. Now lets look at how making deals with yourself can help your fitness motivation and progress.

We all have things we don’t like doing. We all have times that we don’t feel like working out. The deals are all of this form:

If you do (unpleasant task) then you can (reward).

The trick is to make it fair, achievable, and to never take the reward unless you accomplish the task precisely. Close is not good enough, you must meet or exceed. Lets look at a deal I made with myself just an hour ago. I hate doing core, its time consuming, painful, and not the most interesting.

I usually do two rotations of my rotisserie core workout. I REALLY didn’t want to do two rotations so I made myself a deal. I normally hold my planks for 30 seconds using a 25lb plate for additional resistance. Here was the deal, if (unpleasant task) I could hold all three planks for 45s instead of 30s then (reward) I could skip the second rotation! Its a deal! Motivation like this can catapult you to the next level!

Lets take another example coupling an exercise you hate with one you love.  Say you are strength training and absolutely HATE doing biceps but you are in danger of looking like T-Rex with spindly arms and huge legs.  Here is your deal, If you do three sets of 90lb barbell curls with at least 8 reps in each set then you get to do three sets of squats, otherwise you cant do ANY squats.

Lets take another example of deal-making that I use successfully all the time. I usually am really motivated to workout but now and then I don’t, winters are usually the worst time. On those days when I don’t feel like working out I make myself a deal: If you workout for just 10 minutes then you can quit but you have to be hardcore for that 10 minutes. 90% of the time what I find is that after my first set I feel AWESOME and I end up finishing my workout – it was just getting started that was tough. Another win for mind-games!

Most people are pretty motivated to lift weights but they have real trouble with cardio – they hate it! Incremental commitment is a trick that I use for the rare occasions when I don’t feel like cardio. Its like the above except its just a FIVE minute commitment, anybody can do cardio for 5 minutes – really. Once you start, you gotta do it for exactly 5 minutes. At the end of that 5 minutes, you can decide if you want to stop or commit for another 5 minutes. Remember, anyone can do five silly minutes of cardio. And so it goes, you never have to commit for more than 5 minutes but once you do, you MUST do that 5 minutes. You might be amazed how well this technique can work!

How about this deal, I use this all the time too.  We all know its important to constantly change your workout but its a time consuming pain in the butt to design another workout so many people don’t switch workouts as often as they should.   Sounds like a deal in the making to me, doesn’t it?  How about this deal, “If (difficult task) I can go up one rep on each exercise today while maintaining flawless form then I (reward) don’t have to design a new workout plan.  You will notice that this is subtly different, this is of the form

If you do (unpleasant task) then you can avoid (punishment).

Some people respond better to the stick than the carrot, you know yourself best and know which will be more effective for you personally.   You get the idea, what deals will help motivate YOU and vault you to the next level?

Bodybuilding Is Mental – Make Deals With Yourself!

Mind games for mass gain

43 thoughts on “Mind Games For Mass Gain”

  1. Aaron TruthSeeker Countee

    I almost feel like switching to losing fat only instead of lose fat/gain muscle because I want the fat gone so much. And feels like it isn’t happening fast enough.

  2. Aaron TruthSeeker Countee

    I was using that trick and didn’t even know anybody else was doing the same thing. I would tell myself (whenever there is something i don’t feel like doing, which is 80% of the time..lol) I would say to myself, “Look just do a little bit and call it quits.” I would think okay fine and when I start I won’t stop. Because i know that once I start something it’s hard for me to let go and stop. But I have a weight loss question. Even though I need to lose fat and gain muscle, I am hitting a plateau at 221lbs and bouncing back up. Is this bad? I have difficulty hitting the exact calorie intake and I also sleep late and get up late..so my carbs are 1st meal 2nd meal but it’s already 3pm by the tie I am at my 2nd meal (because of job) I really need to completely get rid of my gut and getting frustrated with it. I have been doing this for 4 weeks now. I do Cycling (indoors), jump roping, and a little jogging( It’s freezing outside) I have only lost about 8lbs, am I on the right track?

  3. I decided to switch to your new intermediate workout since i’ve been using your old one for a long time. It was time for a change and i’m happy you updated yours so i could try it out and it’s more intensive with twice muscles worked out each week and i’m loving it :)

  4. Hey scoob, I was doing amazing – cardio 7 days a week, clean diet, 8 hours sleep, solid weigh lifting and then – bam – had one of the worst months of my entire life and had some serious stress —- long story short – completely went off the rail road tracks! Just couldn’t get motivated, would start to go for a run and it’s like I lost all motivation. The good news! The other night I did a few sets of those windshield wipers you introduced me to and the most wonderful thing happened; my abs were burning the next day! I am back on, the stressful situation I have had is still going on but I have decided to go to the gym because I think I need the environment to motivate me for the next couple of months (At least until I get back into the summer). Just wanted to say thanks for all the videos, and especially the chats (Although I don’t have skype :( ). Thanks for all you do! Now back to working out, got to get this months worth of crap food burnt! –

  5. You have a good point in this article. As I live in Finland we have sometimes quite nasty weather conditions during winter. And I have to say that I do this kind of mid gaming sometimes when I really don’t feel like doing a workout, especially cardio. Then I just think about do I really want to achieve my goals. For example, this kind of thinking helped me to do my usual running cardio and gym workout just last wednesday. Despite the fact that it was evening and there was snowing heavily, and snow was wetting everything it landed on. And thanks to the strong wind the snow was hitting my face like small needles. – Maybe a little added drama, but what I want to say is that you’re right. It is more rewarding to actually do the workout than do nothing.

  6. Scooby, love this post and especially the 5 min cardio tip!! I do something similar when I do my longer runs. That is, when I find myself getting ready to throw in the towel on a run I pick out a parked car or tree or some other landmark that is just a little more further down the road or trail and commit to myself that I need to make it at least that far and can stop once I do. Then when I get to the car or tree I do it over again. Pick another mini-goal a little ways ahead and strive for that. With this approach I almost always end up running the distance I set out to do originally and often can go even further.

  7. Sorry for making this workout specific, but the other reason I resist the first portion of my workout is that I fear injury from pushing too hard, and less intensity from holding back from fear of hurting myself, If I can warm-up and do a light prep. set pain-free, than I am very happy. Also GREAT motivation to be able to lift heavier or do more reps and not feel significant strain! After a pain-free, successful workout, I usually feel so good I want to train longer.
    The other thing (in the gym) that is really vital for mass gain is the mind-muscle connection – really feeling the muscle, and pushing mentally through the pain barrier. Also varying your sessions (weight, number of reps and sets, time under tension, lifts, lift order, speed). Also getting regular protein and sleep.

  8. As a very competitive person, I find that the best “mind game” technique is always trying to beat my last record. I absolutely hate losing, and especially to myself!

    What I do is keeping track of everything from cardio to strictly mass gain exercises, and never allow myself to give up before I at least meet my previous performance – and then PUSH for that extra rep or extra 100m on the treadmill!!

    If I succeed, there’s a reward. The night off on the couch with a good movie, an unhealthy but delicious snack or something similar. If not… Well, tough luck! Do better next time!

  9. Scooby, that rotisserie workout is brutal. It is definitely the hardest part of my workout routine mentally, which of course, means it’s the hardest part of my routine ;)

    1. Its funny how many other exercises are much tougher physically but the rotisserie is the hardest mentally – really you are not *doing* anything, how hard can it be??? :)

      1. I changed it up a little bit and made it a marathon of sorts. I do 45 seconds per position, with 15 seconds rest between positions. After doing all the positions I jump rope for one minute and repeat. Six minutes per rotation x 6-7 repeats = SPENT. Thanks so much for posting the original rotisserie, I feel so much more stable for doing them.

  10. Thanks for your article. I agree that making deals with myself gets things done, (do it all the time in the morning to get to my crappy job). But with heavy, intense lifting I find it is during the warm-up and preparation sets that it is hardest to push myself. Near the end of the training I can barely get out of the gym because I want to do more sets – even fantasize about my next workout.
    Anyone else feel the same on intense lift days? Hard to start, hard to finish?

    1. I’m exactly the same way which is why the “lets make a deal” is so effective for me. I just promise myself I will workout for 10 minutes, anyone can do that! After 10 min Im sucked in and psyched.

    2. Absolutely! I find the first set (talking warm up sets here) kind of hurts, in the sense that the joints are hesitant, body is unwilling to sacrifice energy, etc. The second set even more so. Then the third set, the first heavy one. It is GLORIOUS. I feel like my strength increases 100% between the second and third. After that, I am so excited I usually incorporate a superset.

      Question for everyone – at the end of workouts do you ever just throw something randomly in just to keep going? Like as many pull-ups, dips, or bodyweight bench presses as you can muster?

  11. “If you do (unpleasant task) then you can (reward).” I like this. Circumstances can defeat your determination to carry out your intentions, but you can always be in control of the reward/punishment phase. This way you don’t have to just give in to fate and let things slide.

  12. I read my post and it kinda sounded like I was busting on you Scoob….Not how I wanted that to come across. I really appreciate all the tips and advice. Shoulders night tonight….yay!

  13. I started doing exactly this a little while ago out of desperation. I’ve always approached dieting as an “all or nothing” task. If I fell short, and didn’t eat EXACTLY what I was suppose to, I’d likely binge out of guilt or similar. After a while I realized I’d have to find some quick incentive to stay on track, and I started making deals in almost the exact same way as you. Its really helped me in losing weight, and I’m making great strides thanks to it. Great post, Scooby!

  14. Whats your opinion with these ideas and nutrition? ie. Cheat days/meals. I wont lie… i enjoy a good aero bar now and then. I know your pretty hard core about nutrition and your physique shows it.. I just cant seem to kick my sweet tooth.

    Regardless, your vids are awesome. many blessings.

    1. Guess that shows how much I really watched TV, not so much. My parents limited me to 1hr a day and Brady Bunch and Gilligans Island won out. I rarely edit posts but this time I thought it important. Thanks!

Leave a Reply