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Performance Grade Body Language

Ok, stay with me…

A hormone is a signalling molecule produced in the body to help regulate changes in an individual’s physiology and behaviour.

A person’s hormonal cascade is largely dependant on social, physical and environmental cues. 

For example, a stressful situation signals increasing levels of cortisol to help deal with a threat, while being in a position of authority (alpha) can indicate increasing levels of testosterone. 

Studies have shown an interesting feedback loop exists, and the signalling can go in the reverse direction.  

In one experiment, volunteers provided Saliva samples.

Their testosterone and cortisone levels were measured and recorded.

The volunteers then split into two groups; 

Group A spent 2 minutes posing in a “high-power pose.” 

Group B spent 2 minutes in a “low power pose.”

Another Saliva sample was taken and compared to the pre-pose samples.

Here's what they found: 

  • The High Power Poser’s Testosterone levels went up by 20% and their Cortisol when down 25%. 
  • The Low Power Poser’s levels moved in the opposite direction. Testosterone dropped, and Cortisol rose.

Another experiment showed that manipulating experimentee’s facial expression into a smile (with the help of a pencil clenched between their teeth) increased their pain tolerance, while a furrowed brow, wrinkled nose and pursed lips decreased pain their threshold.

--For more info, check out Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk: 

   Your body language shapes who you are.


So, to make the most out of your training sessions; doesn't it makes sense to pay attention to what your body language and facial expressions are telling your internal chemical factory?

Weightlifters often champion this line of thinking.  

Check out Hossein Rezazadeh hit a PR lift.

If you watch his face, it looks like he’s just buttering his morning toast, not making the biggest lift of his career.

Facial tension doesn't always equal effort. 

Especially when it comes to tasks that require speed and coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.

When you lift with a face that says “I’m currently wrestling with a stubborn poop” you’re telling your brain “holy smokes, I may not get out of this without a blown O-ring” -- stress levels and your Rate of Perceived Effort goes way up.

When you lift with a face that says “I’m just buttering toast” you're telling your brain “I’ve been here before, there is no danger, I know what I’m doing.” -- And your Rate of Perceived Effort stays at an appropriate level.

Food for thought.