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‘Psyching-Up’ and Muscular Force Production

Abstract

Psyching-up refers to self-directed cognitive strategies used immediately prior to or during skill execution that are designed to enhance performance. This review focuses on research that has investigated the effect of psyching-up on force production; specifically, strength, muscular endurance and power. Although firm conclusions are not possible, the research tentatively suggests that psyching-up may enhance performance during dynamic tasks requiring strength and/or muscular endurance. However, more research is required. Power has received scant empirical attention and there are not enough data to support any conclusions. Preparatory arousal appears to be the most effective strategy although other strategies like imagery, self-talk and attentional focus also have empirical support. The range of tasks that have been used to measure force production have been limited tomovements such as handgrip, leg extension, bench press, sit-ups, pressups, pull-ups, and the standing broad jump. Additionally, most studies have used undergraduate and/or untrained samples. Only a very small number of studies have examined well-trained individuals. Currently, no explanation for why psyching-up may influence force production has any substantive support. Although a small number of studies have examined moderating and mediating variables, few consistent patterns have emerged and knowledge in this area is somewhat restricted. Given the importance that many athletes place on their mental preparation just prior to performance this is an area that warrants further examination. Research needs to examine a range of complex sport-specific tasks and use well-trained samples. Additionally, research needs to further examine why psyching-up may enhance force production.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The study by Pierce et al.[17] does not strictly count as an examination of psyching-up because the interventions were not self-directed. The arousal intervention consisted of exposure to a video containing aggressive football footage while the relaxation intervention consisted of instructor-led progressive muscular relaxation. However, the study does provide evidence that undertaking relaxation prior to skill execution leads to reduced performance.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dr Michael McGuigan from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Mr Graeme Thomas from the Waikato Institute of Technology and the two independent reviewers for their helpful comments. The authors received funding from the Waikato Institute of Technology to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. The authors have no conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Correspondence to David Tod.

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Tod, D., Iredale, F. & Gill, N. ‘Psyching-Up’ and Muscular Force Production. Sports Med 33, 47–58 (2003). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333010-00004

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Keywords

  • Force Production
  • Handgrip Strength
  • Bench Press
  • Rugby Union
  • Training History