Psyching is a psychological technique to increase focus and arousal during exercise or sports performance. For example, you may have seen weightlifters stomp back and forth across a lifting platform before attempting a heavy lift. Other manifestations include various movements and even vocal methods, such as yelling or screaming before a lift. I recall one guy at Gold’s Gym in Venice who often let out a piercing scream before each set. What made that unusual’beyond the distracting noise involved’was the fact that he lifted very light weights. (This led to his being branded a nut case.)
Still, the question remains: Does using a psyching technique before lifting lead to greater strength or power during the lift? Researchers investigated that question in a study of 15 strength-trained men.1 The men did curls coupled with 20 seconds of psyching, reading aloud or doing mental arithmetic. As expected, the psyching technique led to greater perceived arousal and focus ratings in the lifters than what they got with the two passive mental techniques; however, muscle activation, as measured by EMG electrodes placed on the men’s arms, showed no greater muscular activation after psyching techniques.
This study confirms the findings of other studies, which concluded that psyching techniques, while doubtless dramatic, occur mainly in the brain, not in the muscles. IM
1 Brody, E.B., et al. (2000). The effect of psyching strategy on neuromuscular activation and force production in strength-trained men. Research Quarterly in Exercise and Sport. 71:162-170.