The Effects of Beliefs on Maximum Weight Lifting Performance

The main goal of this study was to evaluate weight lifting performance with varying perceptions of external cues in the environment. It took place to investigate prior studies that showed evidence that self-expectations influence muscle action potentials. It took a period of 6 weeks under the conditions of subjects thinking they were lifting more than they actually were, lifting less weight than they actually were, and how much they could lift without knowing how much resistance was being utilized until the completion of the test. The study included a control group that trained every week without any changes in knowledge of resistance (they knew how much they were lifting every time). The max lift of each subject’s incline bench press was recorded under each condition and data was collected and evaluated.

What is really interesting about the article is that in all cases and in all the 48 subjects tested, the condition under which each subject performed the best was when they thought they were lifting less than they actually were. The findings relate to the class because it involves testing the effects of exercise under different mental conditions and more importantly, incorporates the effects of how psychology can play a role in both exercise and sports. Although no physiology or biology is really investigated in the study it can absolutely be related to the real sports/exercise world. This shows evidence that not only does exercise and sports involve a great deal of physical ability but also a huge mental aspect as well.

This also means that the limit you set for yourself mentally has an effect on the actual limit that you might be able to perform. In another sense this could mean the reason why great lifters or athletes plateau at a certain point in their career might be because it’s all in their head. If they set their, “Mental limit,” higher or better yet refused to give themselves one then maybe their performance would also improve.

Have you ever been a part of or seen a sports team that everyone says has the potential to be great but for some reason they just don’t win games?

The NBA team the Minnesota Timberwolves over the past few years would be a great example of this. The young team boasted a roster with young stars in Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Tyus Jones, and other young prospects. For the past three years fans thought the upcoming season would be their time to shine and almost every year they disappointed. They could barely get over 30 wins in a long and grueling 82 game NBA season without even being close to a playoff berth. This year they traded a few younger guys to get All star Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls and only halfway through the season have already surpassed their highest win total in years. The addition of a big name to their roster resulted in them setting their bar higher and they will most likely reach the playoffs for the first time in about a decade.

I think the psychology behind athletic performance and success is just as important as the physical aspects. This article shows that just because someone believed they were lifting something lighter they were able to overcome their physical limitations and improve their performance. This leaves the potential for further studies in the future that may be beneficial to the improvement of performance in athletes by utilizing techniques and mental training exercises such as ones similar to this.

The link for the article is here


Ness, R., & Patton, R. (1979). The effects of beliefs on maximum weight lifting performance.3(2), 205.