4 April 2006
MIND OVER MATTER- thinking about your muscles
can increase strength
A new study carried out by a research team at the University of
Hull, has been hailed as a breakthrough in sports research. The
findings have revealed that thinking about your muscles during
exercise can boost muscle activity, benefiting exercisers and
potentially aiding recovery after injury.
The research, led by Dr. David Marchant of the Department of
Psychology in collaboration with the Department of Sport, Health
and Exercise Science, consisted of a study which monitored 29
people performing bicep curls using a weights machine that measured
how much their biceps were working.
Participants had to produce as much force as possible under
three conditions - (1) thinking about their muscles and how they
were moving, (2) thinking about the dumbbell they were lifting and
(3) thinking about whatever they wanted.
The study showed that there was a significantly increased muscle
activity when people thought about their arm muscles and how they
moved compared to when they just though about the dumbbell they
Dr. David Marchant, Department of Psychology at the University
of Hull, commented: "Sports coaches and trainers would benefit from
tailoring their instructions depending on what they want performers
"When they want people to improve their performance, thinking
about outcomes such as targets or goals is best. However, when they
want athletes to exercise their muscles or recover from injury,
thinking about the movement of their muscles during weights
exercises is helpful."
Until now, there has been much confusion about what to think
about whilst exercising to ensure positive results. Studies have
shown that thinking about your movements and muscles can make
performing certain skills, such as throwing a ball, more difficult
and less successful.
This research shows that thinking about your muscles during
weights exercises helps to activate the muscles, which may help
develop strength over time.
Page last updated by Greg Tindall on