To get better results while lifting, first focus your mind.

Psyching up improves bench press performance among experienced weightlifters, according to recent research from New Zealand, Australia and Wales. “Psyching up” refers to using mental strategies such as imagery, attentional focus, positive self-talk or preparatory arousal before doing an exercise, in order to improve achievement. Evidence from other studies on the benefits of psyching up have been inconsistent and seem to vary depending on whether the individuals tested have exercise experience or not.

In this study, researchers examined the influence of individually directed psyching-up activities on bench press outcomes among subjects with at least 1 year’s lifting experience. These subjects were given 30 seconds to get psyched. Their accomplishments were compared with those of a second group of participants, who were not encouraged to “psych up” before bench pressing, and those of a third group, who were actively distracted by another task before executing the bench press.

Among the subjects who “psyched up” before bench pressing, the peak force achieved was 8.1% greater than the force achieved by those who did not “psyche up” and 11.8% greater than that attained by participants who were distracted. So next time you lift, spend a minute visualizing yourself executing the move perfectly and see if it makes a difference. Cue and encourage your clients to do the same.

The study was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2005; 19 [3], 599–603).