Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Mindfulness and performance lifting
How can mindfulness be used to enhance performance lifting?
Sporting performance is improved via a variety of ways, with a strong focus on physical means. However the power of the mind within the sporting world can help give athletes an advantage over their competitors with an infinite, free, self-sustainable tool being mindfulness. As defined by Creswell (2017) mindfulness is being present within the current moment, being aware of yourself and of thoughts/feelings that come into your mind, this can be influenced via focusing on the self to help increase performance. Whether it be meditating or using breathing exercises to clear and calm your mind before your next lift, or imagining yourself gripping the bar and then succeeding the exercise with perfect form, this technique is a valuable and useful resource. Mindfulness until recently has been a throw away tool for athletes as other methods of improving performance had more tactile results, however as seen in this chapter the mind can help prepare, enhance, organize and improve the physical elements of the lift or performance by preparing the muscles for activity, motivating the performer, enhancing well-being and assisting in recovery.
Emotion and performance
Emotion has a large part to play when it comes to performance whether it be in a physical setting or a cognitive setting. Emotion dictates our quality of performance and how far our body can be pushed to achieve goals, as seen in Robazza's (2007) study on anger and anxiety in sporting performance. Robazza and colleagues describe increasing anger and anxiety in players and assessing their sporting performance, as a result increased anger improved physical performance however reduced cognitive control of anger. Although this was negated by greater self-confidence which helped control anger in players. Relating to the anxiety part of this study it was shown the cognitive anxiety was a significant predictor of anger allowing testers to easily dictate how angry (aroused) the players were to help increase their performance. This display of physical improvement via anger and anxiety shows how increasing that arousal in players will help improve their physical performance however it does have it down sides. Increasing this performance will subsequently decrease cognitive clarity which may be an issue when coming to the technical side of Olympic and power lifting performance as form is considered a determining factor when it comes to competitive scoring. Woodman (2009) helped display this with their study on happiness, hope and anger on sporting performance. As shown in Robazza's (2007) study and Woodman's study; anger increased gross muscular peak force performance, however unlike Robazza's study the inclusion of hope displayed interesting results. Hope was a clear indicator of increased reaction times which was examined in soccer players. Whilst reaction times aren't an essential part of performance lifting it does give indication to enhanced neurological stimulation which may assist in lifting sports.
Control of emotion is what allows athletes to get that upper hand in the competition, relaxing nerves, increasing motivation, getting the sense of 'pumping up' prior to a game or performance. This is done via visualization, meditation, mental practice, mental imagery, breathe control and anxiety regulation which are all ruling aspects of a steady mind, assisting in improving performance to get first place in any sporting arena (Deatherage 1975, Slagter, 2011).
Visualization and Meditation
Meditation as a valuable resource
Everyone within the sporting world is trying to get an edge on their competition, using the best supplements, learning the newest theories and even turning their attention inward to their own mental space as a tool for performance enhancement. Mental practice, mental imagery, visualization, all words which are encompassed in the idea of using the mind to improve performance via focusing on and imagining the exercise/activity about to be performed. Various studies have been conducted in recent years to try and prove or disprove this idea with the ultimate intention of improving performance in the athletic field. Lebon (2010) displayed this fact with a group of athletes, showing the differences between groups which used mental imagery and a group which did not. The outcome resulted in the group using mental imagery enhancing the technical side of the lifts, improving concentric power and form maintenance, overall increasing the quality of performance via internal imagery means. The improvement of form is a large part of visualization when it comes to performance lifting, however many other aspects of performance are improved subsequently from visualization. Displaying this is,Jeannerod (1995) raises the point of essentially having a mental pattern in which is created when using visualization prior to performance. A participant visualizes the movement and then performs it, however in the process of doing so this mental pattern is used like a resource. It is consumed during the performance though if the participant visualizes and doesn't perform the action then the mental pattern remains ready for when it is needed.
Outside of the gym Mental practice and improved performance:
Visualization is intended to be used as an arousal focusing tool to help improve performance, however this technique can also be transferred to off the field enhancement. As shown in Lebon's (2012) study on ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) recovery and the use of mental imagery, shows that the use of mentally imagining the movement of the lower limb and manipulation of such improved neurological motor activation within patients, enhancing their ability to recover motor functions after reconstructive surgery. Following along the lines of out of direct-performance mental imagery surgeons have begun to take a lessen from sports psychologists. Sanders (2004) displayed that practicing medical students using visualization in conjunction with physical practice improved performance, with mental practice equating to the same amount of additional physical practice, both achieving the same end result. This study was tested with the use of 3 different groups, group 1 consisting of 3 physical practices, no imagery. Group 2 had 2 physical practices and 1 mental practice prior to end exam, and group 3 which included 2 mental visualization practices and 1 physical practice prior. After the 3 groups had practiced their delegated study routines they all then performed surgery on live rabbits displaying the end result of mental practice equating to the same amount of physical practice.
Arousal control in Strength/Olympic lifts
Implementation of arousal control in performance
Arousal control may come in a variety of training forms, from physically getting the participant to elevate their heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature or to get them to mentally focus on the movement, using verbal cues to motivate and focus the participant prior to performance. Typically arousal control, visualization and mental practice is seen within the power lifting and Olympic lifting worlds where calm under pressure is key to executing a lift effectively with large amounts of weight. Though the lift itself isn't always what is focused on during arousal control, the lead up to the event, waiting for your turn to compete, not fatiguing yourself prior to maximum lifts and keeping your head during the entire event is what arousal control is all about. The lift is important however the time spent prior to it is what influences the end result, this stress or arousal which the athletes are exposed to is both a hindering and facilitating force. Too much arousal causes a poor performance however too little has a similar result, which is why grand-theories such as The inverted 'U' hypothesis was created.
Popular theories of arousal control
- Inverted U hypothesis
- Catastrophe model
- Zone of Optimal Functioning
Inverted U hypothesis
This theory, as said in it's name, revolves around an inverted 'U', where at one end of the spectrum is 'low arousal' and at the other is 'high arousal'. Peak performance is said to be obtained at the 'mid-point' between these two extremes, allowing the athlete to be aroused enough to perform well without having too much or too little arousal which would then make performance harder to focus on (Fazey 1988). The aim for this theory is to increase or decrease arousal prior to activity in order to achieve peak performance. This theory has been a popular basis for basic understanding of mindfulness in performance lifting and athleticism, showing the relationship between mental and physical on a easily drawn graph.
Criticisms of Inverted U hypothesis
Criticisms of this theory are of those which many old foundation theories have, which is being over simplified and vague (Jones 1989). Whilst it is a good model to show peoples who are new to the sport/psychology world it does not adequately describe the varying factors within arousal. Though every theory is spawned from inspiration and refined throughout the ages, such is why catastrophe model has surfaced.
This model was spawned in extension of the inverted U hypothesis. Catastrophe model is viewed as a more dramatic model in comparison; as it displays that once passing the optimal arousal peak, any further arousal causes a rapid decline in performance (the catastrophe) thus making recovery back to the optimal point very difficult as described by Jones (1989, Hardy 1990, 1991, 1996). Jones also commented satingit was created to better explain the complexities of arousal in sporting performance and how the interaction between the nature of the stressor, cognitive demands of the task and psychological characteristics of the individual influenced the relationship between stress and performance. From this sports psychologists and coaches started to look into how they applied stressors, the kinds of stressors and measuring levels of arousal within their participants to ensure that they weren't over arousing or under arousing them, due to the conditions of applying cognitive anxiety increasing maximum performance and lowering their minimum performance. However applying this anxiety is a balancing act, having low physical arousal and high cognitive anxiety has a positive effect, whereas increased physical arousal and increased cognitive anxiety causes a negative result; resulting in the 'catastrophe' which then requires a large reduction in physiological arousal to bring performance back to high levels again (Hardy 1990, 1991, 1996).
Zone of Optimal Functioning
The zone of optimal functioning helps display the peak point in which performance is at its best when it comes to anxiety. Hanin (1997) developed this idea displaying that anxiety influences individuals differently, with some performing at their best when it comes to high anxiety arousal, whereas others perform poorly and are more subjective to low anxiety arousal for their peak performance. This is a refining aspect when it comes to sporting performance, allowing a more personalized aspect to the sporting game and was designed to better predict an athletes performance prior to it commencing via evaluating their emotional state (Kamata, 2022, Hanin 1997).
Downsides and criticisms
Mindfulness like any other form of training is needed to be done with full confidence and integrity otherwise the effects of said training will be negligible. Just like if an athlete doesn't perform strength training to the designated intensities (such as 80% 1RM or 8/10 RPE) the athlete will not receive the associated strength and muscular size gains, if an athlete doesn't commit to mental practice they will not receive the improvements associated with it. Various reasons exist as to why people don't use mental practice, some are personal, others are more focus driven, with a barbell being a more attractive alternative to sitting still and imagining the movement. Ability to effectively use mindfulness, visualization and meditation in a performance setting is not something everyone can achieve this to an effective level however, Lebon (2010) displayed that through their athletes. Technique was improved during their lifts, maintaining proper form throughout the movement was better than those who did not us mental imagery, their muscular strength did not increase though which is what they sought after. In all mental practice may not be suitable for everyone, especially if they are foreign to the idea of the mind in relation to sport.
Choose one of the following:
Mental practice has not been utilized to it's full potential within athletic fields, this is due to various reasons, some being personal bias towards the idea of mental vs physical, other is due to the lack of awareness in the cognitive setting, with mental health only being normalized within the 2000's. Whatever the reason mental practice is a useful skill which is being utilized within both the everyday life of people suffering from anxiety disorders, with the use of mindfulness helping regulate arousal, and in elite performance with athletes only lifting 0.5 kilograms heavier than their personal best, but that 0.5 kilograms may just win them the gold. Grand theories such as the inverted U hypothesis, zone of optimal functioning and the catastrophe model have given coaches, athletes and sports scientists/psychologists a ground base-line to work off of whilst developing their own ways of influencing performance and creating new mini-theories to individualize each setting within the sporting world. Even now these theories are being created and adjusted by peoples within various sporting fields to tailor the idea of the grand theories ideals into a easily applied, easily understood model in which is personalized to a specific sport, position and individual. Many different studies exist to help display this, showing reaction time enhancement (Woodman, 2009), strength improvement (Robazza, 2007) and recovery time progression (Lebon, 2012). In all mindfulness is being popularized and implemented more and more as years go by, allowing new and exciting areas of research for sports scientists/psychologists and providing a new, safe, resourceful and practical skill for athletes to implement into their training regimes.
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