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



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.

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* Indicates relevant studies

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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.

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Correspondence to David Tod.

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Tod, D., Edwards, C., McGuigan, M. et al. A Systematic Review of the Effect of Cognitive Strategies on Strength Performance. Sports Med 45, 1589–1602 (2015).

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  • Goal Setting
  • Current Review
  • Maximal Strength
  • Cognitive Strategy
  • Muscular Strength