Although brain power isn’t usually the first thing considered when you talk about training, it is as vital to your success as nutrition, sparring or the way you approach your total boxing routine.

At first, as a beginning boxer, your focus is on the fundamentals and just getting in good enough shape to compete.  However, as you rise in level of competition and gain more advanced skills, the greater role mental performance will play in your ability to compete at that more advanced, elite level.  How you mentally prepare and approach the game will make the difference between you and the other top two or three guys at a similar skill level.

Like physical preparation, your mental practice has to become a daily part of your training in order for you to be able to draw on it when you need it most.  Building your mental physique along with your physical one has to be done so often that it becomes second nature.  Sugar Ray Robinson said, “You don’t think. It’s all instinct. If you stop to think, you’re gone.”  Your subconscious mind has to be able to kick into gear and make the right choices in the ring spontaneously and this only happens naturally when it becomes a part of you.

Mental strength-building is an area that isn’t always explored or discussed about in great lengths in the gym, so most fighters don’t even know how important it is or how to go about developing brain power.  It is a fairly broad subject, but a few tips are:

Use Visualization:  Take time out of your daily routine to imagine where you want to go with your boxing career. If it’s just to get in better shape, then picture yourself there already. If it’s winning a world title, then capture that moment and relive it over and over in your mind. See yourself working towards it. Go through your preparations in the dressing room, all of the way to holding that belt up after your name has been announced as the winner.  The more vividly you can use your imagination, the more likely tangible results will come of it.  Going through these mental pictures help develop positive imagery and is, figuratively, flexing your brain muscle.

Instill Self-Confidence:  Expect to win, always. Put yourself in a frame of mind where there are no alternatives other than achieving the results you want and desire.  Too many people focus on the negative and burden themselves with the what-ifs and the worse-case scenarios.  Instead of mulling over all of the potential negative outcomes, overload your brain with thoughts of what you want to happen.  You might be surprised how your mind kicks into gear to produce the results you expect.  Your brain is working 24/7, even when your body is taking a break, so fill it with all of the positive possibilities and let it clock in the overtime.

Set Goals:  Whether you write them down, commit them to memory, share them with others, it doesn’t matter, but do have them clearly defined.  You don’t have to have all of the answers and a specific roadmap to get there, just know what you want.  The mind can work miracles and it will find a way to get you what you want, but it has to know clearly and colorfully what that is.  If it knows what that goal looks like, how achieving that goal will make you feel and why you want it so bad, your brain’s built in emotional drivers will make it happen.  Human beings are motivated by emotions, so use that natural instinct to get what you want.

Take Action:   All of this has to be followed by tangible action.  Put the necessary work in the gym.  If you want to be a world champion you can’t just talk about it or act like, but you also have to train like it.  Be the first one there and the last one to leave. Take care of business.  How many of you have seen that guy in the gym that walks around for hours talking to everyone in the gym, telling them how great a boxer he is, giving anyone who will listen (even the ones who don’t) his expert advice. He’s also the guy who stops to watch every sparring session, instead of getting his own workout in.  First of all, don’t be that guy and secondly, don’t let that guy distract you.  Work harder than anyone else and you’ll have an advantage over everyone else.

If you want to reach extraordinary levels, you have to do extra-ordinary things. You can still do what everyone else does, just be willing to do more. Building your metal muscle is a key part of your development as a fighter.  It may not be as easy to measure progress as a bulging bicep is, but this inner strength is every bit as important.  Make the difference between you and the other guy across the ring from you an advantage in belief. It’s made champions out of challengers and determined the outcome of countless fights.  Now, let it make the difference for you.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.