Sports Medicine

, Volume 45, Issue 11, pp 1589–1602 | Cite as

A Systematic Review of the Effect of Cognitive Strategies on Strength Performance

  • David TodEmail author
  • Christian Edwards
  • Mike McGuigan
  • Geoff Lovell
Systematic Review



Researchers have tested the beliefs of sportspeople and sports medicine specialists that cognitive strategies influence strength performance. Few investigators have synthesised the literature.


The specific objectives were to review evidence regarding (a) the cognitive strategy–strength performance relationship; (b) participant skill level as a moderator; and (c) cognitive, motivational, biomechanical/physiological, and emotional mediators.


Studies were sourced via electronic databases, reference lists of retrieved articles, and manual searches of relevant journals. Studies had to be randomised or counterbalanced experiments with a control group or condition, repeated measures, and a quality control score above 0.5 (out of 1). Cognitive strategies included goal setting, imagery, self-talk, preparatory arousal, and free choice. Dependent variables included maximal strength, local muscular endurance, or muscular power.


Globally, cognitive strategies were reliability associated with increased strength performance (results ranged from 61 to 65 %). Results were mixed when examining the effects of specific strategies on particular dependent variables, although no intervention had an overall negative influence. Indeterminate relationships emerged regarding hypothesised mediators (except cognitive variables) and participant skill level as a moderator.


Although cognitive strategies influence strength performance, there are knowledge gaps regarding specific types of strength, especially muscular power. Cognitive variables, such as concentration, show promise as possible mediators.


Goal Setting Current Review Maximal Strength Cognitive Strategy Muscular Strength 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



David Tod, Christian Edwards, Mike McGuigan and Geoff Lovell declare that they have no conflicts of interest. No financial support was received for the conduct of this study or preparation of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

40279_2015_356_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Tod
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian Edwards
    • 2
  • Mike McGuigan
    • 3
  • Geoff Lovell
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Tom Reilly Building, Byrom Street CampusLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Institute of Sport and Exercise ScienceUniversity of WorcesterWorcesterUK
  3. 3.Sports Performance Research Institute New ZealandAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.School of Social SciencesUniversity of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia

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