Doing More Chin Ups While In Front of a Mirror?

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    Doing More Chin Ups While In Front of a Mirror?

    So, while I was exercising at the local Y.M.C.A yesterday, I was reminded of something a bit odd, though also somewhat understandable that I've been well aware of ever since I tried doing chin ups there. What I'm talking about is the fact that I can pretty much always do more chin ups while I'm hanging from a bar in front of a mirror there than I can when I'm at home doing them on my door mounted chin up bar without a reflection to look at. For instance, I was able to do about 6 of them yesterday in front of the mirror, all pulling myself up pretty high too, whereas when I'm at home I can usually only manage 2 or maybe 3 like that before I'm reduced to barely pulling my body up an inch. I think that this is psychological, and that the reason why I can do more in front of the mirror is because seeing myself doing it with the reflection makes it seem as though the distance I have to pull my weight is smaller, while on the other hand, not having it in front of me to get this mindset and just looking straight up at the bar is more intimidating since the distance seems greater. Does anyone have any ideas for how I can overcome this mental barrier so that I can always perform chin ups to the best of my ability, whether I can see my reflection or not?

    #2
    Ascribing exercise patterns to psychology can be a bit of slippery slope, in that it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Ask any basketball player who has hit more than three shots in a row, and they are said to have a hot hand, or a baseball player in a batting slump. In both cases it is more about what the players reinforce about themselves, versus any innate psychological problems.

    Before you get there though, are you sure that there are no physiological differences ... height of the bar, time of day, level of exhaustion, heart rate, grip on the bar?

    If not then you basically have to do what most people do for psychological problems in sports and exercise and that is to do visualization. Before doing the exercise think about what you have to do, and go through the steps in your head about what you need to do. While doing it, it can also help to "bubble up", meaning that you paying attention to that and only that (also known as being "in the zone").

    With anaerobic exercises I find it can help to get a little bit angry first as well, not to the point that you are hulking out and destroying things, but just to get the adrenaline flowing a bit first.

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      #3
      I am with CaptainCanuck on this one. The physical setup might be different, e.g. door mounted bars are limited to the width of the door while fitness clubs usually have wide bars which allow for a wider grip. Some are bent in the end to accomodate a better angel for your wrists...

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        #4
        CaptainCanuck and Andi64 while your suggestions on physiological differences in set up and even biochemical ones that depend on the time of day are correct so is Joseph MacDonald's suggestion of the effect of the mirror. Being able to see ourselves removes us from inside our body and, mentally, it creates an observer effect where we can see what we do from the outside in. In psychology this is called "self-distancing effect" and it acts like a piece of neurolinguistic code that reframes the perception of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It has a corresponding neurochemical and neurobiological effect which, inescapably, affects our physical capabilities. This is why players under stress, in big games, talk to themselves in the third person (think back in the first Matrix where Trinity urges herself to "get up") and why heavy-hitting business negotiators also do the same thing.

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          #5
          Ah that explains a few things about why I feel that extra 10% when I talk to myself when I'm tired during exercise. Thanks Damer.

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            #6
            I usually do my workouts in a small space besides my bed, but on the occasional times I need to use my son's room (I'm looking at you W extensions and reverse prone flyers) I work out in front of a mirror. I find I get less fatigued and my form is better, almost as if I'm watching someone else (or I'm being watched)

            Wish I could do it in there all the time, but that wouldn't be fair 😟

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              #7
              CaptainCanuck That makes a lot of sense, and I've definitely seen a similar sort of effect occur in other circumstances, so I'm not surprised at all to hear that it can apply here too.

              As for physiological differences, well the height of the bar is quite different (it's higher at the Y.M.C.A), the time of day I do them can vary for both locations, so I'm not sure how that would come into play, although the level of exhaustion and heart rate should usually be around the same because I tend to do chin ups at the same point during my routine whether I'm at home or at the gym. The grip on the bar is something I think might be important here. The bars they have at the Y.M.C.A are usually solid, bare iron, whereas the one door mounted one I have has these soft foam grips to make it more comfortable, although in my case I actually think that works against me and makes my hands more slippery, so I'm thinking of cutting them off of it.

              The mental technique you described sounds like a good idea. I think that I'll try that. I think that I'll pass on any part about getting angry first though hahaha, just because I find that my anger usually distracts me from the task at hand, and I tend to have issues regarding my gears starting to grind at random points if I happen to remember something that upset me, so I think that could possibly make it worse. I think that the same idea would probably work though, just as long as I were to try and stir up another, more positive emotion like determination or excitement.

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