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Looking at them, you'd have thought that Ralph and Ted were brothers-maybe even twins. It wasn't that they generally resembled each other; rather, they seemed cast from the same genetic mold.

Unfortunately, since both were passionate about bodybuilding, this mold had produced such maladies as seven-inch wrists, lousy muscle insertions and a general look that ranged from markedly underfed to merely stringy. These guys were not the stuff of Dorian Yates' nightmares.

For all their similarities in appearance, though, Ralph and Ted were strikingly different in how they approached their training. Ralph, for example, fervently hoped that he would one day have an honest 16 1/2 inch arm arid the ability to do a legitimate squat with 400 pounds. Although Ralph would have loved to gain more, when his arm hit that magic mark, he knew he hail come about as far as he could go. He was still striving for his target squat, and when he hit it, he would probably have the same sense of closure. Once again, he would have liked to do more, but he was resigned to his fate and knew when he was basically tapped out.

Ted was no dreamer, but he had a hungrier eye: When his arm hit 16 If 2 inches, he didn't run out and have "I succeeded" tattooed on his forehead, Instead, he said to himself, "I wonder if I could get this puppy up to 17?" When he achieved that goal, he asked himself, "What about 17 1/2?" The same thing happened on his squats. After he hit a clean single with 400, he went for a set of five, and then it was a set of 10. No matter what he did, Ted always seemed to have room between his ears for bigger dreams and the heart to go chase them down.

The world is filled with Ralphs and Teds, and if you're more like Ralph, you might wonder just what Ted's secret is. "I know you can't squeeze blood from a rock," you may say to yourself, "but this guy seems to know how to make the most of things. How does he do it?" About 20 years ago research psychologist Albert Bandura pioneered work that showed just how powerfully our expectations of success influence our actual success. He called the process "efficacy expectations,' and the term more or less refers to how well you think you will do on something.

Rather than being just another wishy-washy psychological concept, efficacy expectations turned out to be very important. This factor determines, for example, how hard people try and how long they will keep going when they run into obstacles. Since bodybuilding success requires all the hard work you can muster and because there will always be plenty of obstacles in your path, it's easy to see how high efficacy expectations could pave your way to bigger arms and all the rest.

Your goal is to boost your "self-efficacy," or your sense that you can succeed, and there are four basic sources of information that determine what you expect of yourself. Let's briefly review each of them and outline a program for beefing up what you expect from yourself. Follow this program correctly and you are assured of becoming bigger and stronger.

Performance accomplishments

What you actually do-tend to be the most powerful and dependable source of your efficacy expectations, so work hard to do things that leave you with a feeling of success. For example, lifters whose entire focus is on boosting their one-rep maximums will spend a lot of time training not on weights around the 100 percent mark, but down in the neighborhood of 80 percent.

Sure, part of the reason for this is purely physical limitations, but a major part is psychological: You attack 80 percent weights with the ferocity of 100 percent conviction that you can lilt them. As you build this confidence, it will spill over to heavier weights down the road. If your self-confidence is a little shaky load up on success experiences and avoid failures.

Vicarious experiences

What you see others do- have also proven to be extremely powerful influences on what you think and do. Try to surround yourself with models that live and breathe a can-do attitude. Based on research in other applications, it seems that the most powerful vicarious experiences come from seeing a range of people model the success-oriented behavior you want. They should also be people who resemble you or whom you admire, they' should really work hard for their success, and good things should follow from their efforts. The worst thing you can do is to surround yourself with naysayers who forever model expectations of limited success.

Verbal persuasion

People shouting "You can do it" - is a favorite technique for boosting performance, but research shows that it is a relatively weak influence on efficacy expectations. Furthermore, the results from verbal persuasion tend to be short-lived. Nonetheless, because verbal persuasion can have a positive influence and because it is so convenient, try to make the most of it by backing up the positive expectations with authentic experience. In other words, match the talking with a little walking: A wise coach or training partner will be a mighty cheerleader when he knows that success is actually within your grasp. Be aware of abusing pep talks. If you develop a history of pep talks that go nowhere, you'll expect failure when faced with more pep talks. Use them wisely.

Emotional arousal

How wired you are internally - influences how you approach a situation. For example, if seeing four plates on the bar makes your heart race, your palms sweat and your knees shake, do you really think you'll hit that squat with the expectation of success?

Hardly. You'll be wondering just how big a hole you're about to make in the floor and you'll be whipped before you even get under the bat. Emotional arousal is a tricky thing, though, because being too lackadaisical also works against you-you need to have a little fire to succeed on big efforts.

Ideally, you can learn to control your emotions by influencing your internal arousal levels, learning to jack yourself up or calm yourself down as the situation requires. For starters, try adrenalizing music and verbal persuasion to get cranked up and deep breathing coupled with relaxation suggestions to take the edge off.

Ralph heard about this business, and although he was a little skeptical at first, he decided to give it a try. After all, even though he knew he wasn't Mr. Olympia material, he wondered if he could become more than he was. Two weeks into the program, he noticed that he automatically caught himself saying, "Oh, you could never do that" and replaced it with "I wonder if I could do that?" Three weeks later he did.

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