Simple Fitness, Food and Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. Each week I share a newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable16k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

Science Says: Do These Simple Mental Tricks Before Your Next Lift And Unlock New PRs

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

We may receive a commission from our affiliate links at no additional cost to you. See disclosures page.

Want to lift heavier weights and see faster results? Science has the answer, and it’s all in your head. 

A groundbreaking study reveals that simple mental techniques can help you smash through plateaus and achieve the strength you’ve always wanted. 

  • Save

Discover the different ways you can “psych-up” for gains, how they work, and why the type of exercise matters. 

What the Study Found

Published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal, the review titled “The Effects of Psyching-Up on Maximal Force Production,” encapsulated findings from 27 distinct studies. 

These studies specifically examined how different “arousal techniques” could affect one’s ability to produce maximal force during exercise. The overwhelming consensus? Psyching up usually leads to better performance than not doing so.

Types of Psych-Up Strategies Analyzed

The review categorized psych-up strategies into several types, each with unique characteristics:

  • Motivational Self-Talk: Encouraging oneself verbally proved to boost confidence and focus.
  • Prescribed Preparatory Arousal: Watching motivational video montages before sessions helped in mental preparation.
  • External Attentional Focus: Concentrating on the weight to be lifted rather than on one’s own body encouraged better performance.
  • PETTLEP Imagery: This involves a detailed mental visualization technique aiming to enhance physical and mental readiness.

Interestingly, the study found no significant differences in the effectiveness of these varied strategies, suggesting that the best approach is the one that feels right for the individual.

Effects of Psych-Up Strategies by Exercise Type

Different exercises responded differently to psych-up methods. 

Techniques like motivational self-talk and external focus were particularly effective in improving strength for one-rep max tests in bench presses, squats, deadlifts, and leg extensions.

Practical Application: Integrating Psych-Up Routines

Here’s how you can integrate psych-up routines into your workout regimen:

  1. Choose a psych-up technique that resonates with you—whether it’s self-talk, imagery, or something else.
  2. Apply this method consistently, especially before heavy lifts or challenging exercises.
  3. Remember to maintain gym etiquette; keep your psych-up routine respectful and mindful of others.

Study Limitations and Other Considerations

While the findings are encouraging, they are not without limitations. 

The review did not explore other popular methods like listening to music or using smelling salts, which have also been shown to improve performance. 

Additionally, too much psych-up could potentially impair performance in technically complex lifts due to mental fatigue.


Adopting a mental psych-up routine could be a game-changer in your fitness regimen. However, it’s important to use these strategies wisely and in moderation to avoid burnout. As always, balance is key—both in mental preparation and physical execution.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

Share via
Copy link