We already know that grunting can help you lift more, but what about letting out a few choice four-letter words every now and again?
If you often find yourself biting your tongue through your third set of squats, you might be doing yourself a disservice – swearing can actually heighten physical performance, strength and power during your workouts, a new study has revealed.
Sure, mum won't like it. But she’s not attempting to crush her previous 1RM, is she? The truth is, deploying your favourite curse word in this crucial moment could crank up your performance.
So far, science has already confirmed that swearing anaesthetises pain, increases emotional tolerance and activates parts of your brain that no other words engage. So it makes sense to supe-up your squats by turning the gym blue, right? Here's how it works.
The research, published in the Journal of Psychology of Sports and Exercise, challenged 81 athletes to complete either a 30-second high-resistance stationary bike test or a 20-second handgrip strength test.
Some were asked to vocalise a swear word of their choice (one they’d utter if they banged their head) every three seconds, while the remainder were instructed to keep their language family-friendly and repeat ‘neutral’ words.
The bad-mouthed cyclists saw a 4.6 per cent increase in power, equivalent to around 24 watts, compared to their PG-rated peers. Swearing also helped the athletes perform even better in the handgrip test, with an 8.2 percent increase in strength, equating to 2.1 kilograms.
So, what gives? Since there were no changes to the athletes heart rates, blood pressure and other automatic responses from their nervous system, the research rules out links to the ‘fight or flight’ effect. One theory is that swearing causes a distraction in the brain, transferring focus away from the difficulty of, say, that final power clean.
Be warned, previous studies say the emotional effect of swearing wears off through overuse, and we can’t see why that would be any different in the squat rack. But next time you’re pushing through the pain barrier, harness the power of the profanity and let results speak for themselves.