Optimal arousal for training

A key aspect that often gets overlooked in programing for individuals is to understand the client’s personality type and understand how to keep them fully engaged.

An individual who is engaged and has bought into their training will have better compliance, attendance, results and overall enjoyment of the process.

Getting to know your clients on a personal level isn’t just for the small talk regarding the weather. Talking and developing rapport creates understanding of what motivates, dis-empowers, excites, scares, relaxes etc.

Knowing someone’s personality traits can give a coach the ability to push the client or athlete’s buttons at will. What works for one won’t always work for another. It’s imperative to look, listen and take notes to see what works for the individual.

Arousal – The Inverted U Theory


Yerkes and Dodson (1908)

The two graphs above demonstrate the inverted U theory. Having optimal levels of arousal can have a positive effect on sports performance and has been reported in many other studies.

If arousal levels are low then performances will be less than optimal, e.g. the athlete may be too relaxed before an event. When the arousal level increases so does performance, up to an ideal point then if the athlete or client continues to be over-aroused performance will drop.

It MUST be noted that each client and athlete has their optimal arousal level for peak performance and what experience level they are with the task. The top graph shows the more complex/fine movements requires a lower arousal level for optimal performance compared with a basic task or skill.

For example, playing darts, (fine movement) while receiving a slap to the face and smelling salts as you listen to the Eye Of The Tiger prior to hitting the bull’s eye, might not be the best approach. This is in contrast to performing a 1RM (rep max) bench press that is more appropriate. A side note for beginners learning bench press, this is a complex task until they have the attained the right skill level.

The moral of the story: know what gets you into an optimal mentally aroused training state can pay dividends on results.

For some people, listening to gangster rap, watching your favourite movie scene, reading a motivational quote or even thinking of the ex that dumped you, could be the motivation that gets you hot, heavy and ready to go!

Remember attack the mind and the body will follow!



Let me know what get’s you aroused for training/exercise in the comments section below

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