Adding Basic Movements To A Mental Imagery Routine Enhances Sporting Performance

Many athletes, both professionals and amateurs, attribute their success to mental rehearsal prior to physical performance, particularly in a competitive setting.  Tom Daley can be seen mentally rehearsing his dives on the way up to the board, adding basic movements as he gets closer to performing the real dive.

This method of rehearsal has proven to be particularly effective in sports which require a great deal of precision and athleticism spanning a mere few seconds, where the slightest error is the difference between 1st and last place.

Motor imagery and physical practice use overlapping neural networks in the brain which is why a combination of the two can improve performance and even aid recovery from injury. Adding simple and basic movements to mental rehearsal improves the following performance by up to 45% more than mental rehearsal alone. This statistic is from a study which studied the performance of high jumpers following either mental rehearsal or a combination of movement and mental rehearsal. The athletes’ approach, impulsion, bar clearance and attempts to clear a height were all taken into consideration.


Guillot A, Moschberger K, Collet C, Moving While Imagining as a New Perspective for Motor Imagery Practice: A Within-Subjects Design, Behavioural and Brain Functions, 2013.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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