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Sports Med. 2015 Nov;45(11):1589-602. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0356-1.

A Systematic Review of the Effect of Cognitive Strategies on Strength Performance.

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School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Tom Reilly Building, Byrom Street Campus, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK.
Institute of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK.
Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia.



Researchers have tested the beliefs of sportspeople and sports medicine specialists that cognitive strategies influence strength performance. Few investigators have synthesised the literature.


The specific objectives were to review evidence regarding (a) the cognitive strategy-strength performance relationship; (b) participant skill level as a moderator; and (c) cognitive, motivational, biomechanical/physiological, and emotional mediators.


Studies were sourced via electronic databases, reference lists of retrieved articles, and manual searches of relevant journals. Studies had to be randomised or counterbalanced experiments with a control group or condition, repeated measures, and a quality control score above 0.5 (out of 1). Cognitive strategies included goal setting, imagery, self-talk, preparatory arousal, and free choice. Dependent variables included maximal strength, local muscular endurance, or muscular power.


Globally, cognitive strategies were reliability associated with increased strength performance (results ranged from 61 to 65 %). Results were mixed when examining the effects of specific strategies on particular dependent variables, although no intervention had an overall negative influence. Indeterminate relationships emerged regarding hypothesised mediators (except cognitive variables) and participant skill level as a moderator.


Although cognitive strategies influence strength performance, there are knowledge gaps regarding specific types of strength, especially muscular power. Cognitive variables, such as concentration, show promise as possible mediators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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