Multiple Studies: You Can Lift More Weight Using This Mental Technique 

Fortune favors the hyped. If lift weights to increase strength, a systematic review by Cusimano et al. has some science-based advice to help you lift more: Stop scrolling on your phone between sets and start psyching yourself up. 

The 2022 study, entitled “The Effects of Psyching-Up on Maximal Force Production: A Systematic Review,” looked at several studies on how certain mental techniques can influence performance in the gym. Here’s what they found and how it can help you reach your goals. 

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What the Study Says

Cusimano & colleagues published their systematic review in the Strength & Conditioning Journal, a scientific volume sponsored by the National Strength & Conditioning Association. In their review, the authors bottled their findings into one specific argument: “The findings suggest that [psyching up] may enhance maximal force production.” (1)

You might think that you know what psyching yourself up means, but the techniques outlined in the review may surprise you. Here’s what Cusimano et al. did: 

The authors collected 27 studies examining the effects of different arousal techniques on exercise performance.

Studies were included if they measured maximal force production after implementing a variable psyching-up strategy. 

Cusimano et al. then compared the results to determine what sort of hype-up strategy produced significant changes in force output. 


Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that hyping yourself up before performing resistance training movements generally works better than not. But there’s a bit more going on under the hood than just that — here are the details: 

Subjects in “hype” groups were compared against control groups who did nothing before or between sets and “active rest” groups who were assigned unrelated mental tasks during downtime (such as counting). 

Subjects who hyped themselves up in some way outperformed both groups a majority (65 percent) of the time. 

Cusimano et al. also defined multiple types of hype-up strategies that were utilized in the various papers they investigated. Some of the strategies you can use to increase your force production are: 

Motivational self-talk

Prescribed preparatory arousal (for example, watching video montages before a workout)

External attentional focus (fixating on the weight you need to lift rather than your muscles)

PETTLEP imagery (a multi-step mental visualization and awareness exercise)


Here’s the most noteworthy finding: The review did not observe significant differences in outcome between types of mental activation used. In plain English, you can hype yourself up before a set however you prefer.

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The authors also recorded differences in efficacy based on what type of training the subjects performed. Hype-up strategies were particularly effective at improving one-rep-max strength in the bench press, squat, deadlift, and maximal force output during the leg extension


No study is without limitation, and the work by Cusimano et al. is hardly a cheat code for increasing your strength in the weight room. 

The various studies examined by Cusimano & colleagues focused on mental hype strategies but didn’t examine other methods of increasing excitability during athletic performance.

Other data show that common lifting rituals like listening to music or inhaling ammonia smelling salts may also improve performance. (2)(3)

The authors did record some conflicting data; such a thing as “too much hype” can impair performance, particularly if the task is technically complex.

What You Should Do

Based on this study, you should incorporate some form of mental psych-up routine into your pre-gym routine if possible, and the same goes for the moments before you begin a heavy compound exercise.

However, how you choose to hype yourself up doesn’t seem to matter all that much. Keep up your manners if you train in a public gym; otherwise, do what works for you and do it consistently. 

One caveat — mental excitement or energy is a finite resource, just like your muscular strength or endurance. If you red-line yourself for every exercise you perform in the gym, you might experience diminishing returns. Be selective about when and how you channel your hype. 

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Cusimano, Kurtis BSc1; Freeman, Paul PhD1; Pawaar, Josh BSc2; Moran, Jason PhD1. The Effects of Psyching-Up on Maximal Force Production: A Systematic Review. Strength and Conditioning Journal ():10.1519/SSC.0000000000000830, January 1, 2024. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000830 

Cutrufello PT, Benson BA, Landram MJ. The effect of music on anaerobic exercise performance and muscular endurance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020 Mar;60(3):486-492. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.10228-9. Epub 2019 Dec 5. PMID: 31818058.

Bender JM, Popkin CA. Ammonia Inhalants: Use, Misuse, and Role in Sports Performance. Sports Health. 2023 Dec 26:19417381231217341. doi: 10.1177/19417381231217341. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38148665.

Featured Image: Zamrznuti tonovi / Shutterstock

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