Impact and mechanism of mental practice effects on strength

Smith, D., Collins, D., orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7601-0454 and Holmes, P. (2003) Impact and mechanism of mental practice effects on strength. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1 (3). pp. 293-306. ISSN 1612-197X

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This investigation examined the predictions of psychoneuromuscular theory (Richardson, 1967) and the effectiveness of mental practice (MP) in enhancing strength performance, using a finger strength task. Eighteen males were randomly assigned to a physical practice (PP) group, a mental practice (MP) group or a control group. PP and MP participants performed two PP or MP sessions per week for four weeks, each session comprising twenty real or imagined maximal contractions of the abductor digiti minimi. There were no significant differences in pre‐test abduction force, but post‐test scores of the PP and MP groups were significantly greater than those of control participants. Electromyographic (EMG) recordings revealed significant muscle activity during MP, but its magnitude was not significantly correlated with the degree of performance enhancement. Findings therefore supported the effectiveness of MP in enhancing strength performance, but were not supportive of psychoneuromuscular theory.

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