Behavorial and Psychological Aspects of Weight Lifting - Part 1

Strength Tech

Below are several references and short summaries of scientific studies on the behavioral and psychological aspects of weight lifting. These references can be used to draw inferences about the potential effects of weight lifting in prison upon the behavior of inmates. Most of the articles result from testing college men. Some articles regarding women are also listed. The reference articles are divided into 3 groups by author or source. Within each group the articles are listed chronologically.

There are also several additional articles in the Prison Weight Lifting Media Section that make reference, typically less technically, to the effects of weight training on inmates.

We recognize there is an additional study area concerning the behavioral and psychological aspects of weight lifters using strength enhancing drugs. We realize that such drugs do get smuggled into prisons but use should be minimal. Inmates and civilians utilizing strength enhancement drugs may not have as positive a psychological response to weight training as those lifting "naturally".

By far the most prolific writer on this topic of behavioral and psychological aspects of weight training is a Dr. Larry A. Tucker. His references begin with an unpublished manuscript "Physical Fitness and Somatotype" written at New Mexico State University in 1981, then move on to a large number of articles published in 1982 -1987. He appears to have moved to Auburn University about 1983. About 1989 he moved on to Brigham Young University where he published a number of articles on television viewing and obesity (which may also have application to the correctional environment). He is still at BYU. The most relevant of his many works are grouped below.


Tucker, Larry A. "Physical Fitness and Somatotype". Unpublished manuscript New Mexico State University. 1981


Tucker, Larry A. "Internal structure, factor satisfaction, and reliability of the Body Cathexis Scale". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1981. Vol.53 Pgs. 891-896.


Tucker, Larry A. "Relationship between perceived somatotype and body cathexis of college males." Psychological Reports. 1982. Vol.50 Pgs. 983-989.

Earlier studies that actually measured subjects to determine their somatotype had little correlation with psychological attributes. This study determined the self-perceived somatotype of 86 undergraduate college males and then determined body cathexis scores.

"Apparently, the males who perceived their body builds to be mesomorphic, tended to have body-cathexis scores significantly higher than did those of any other somatotype group."

"In conclusion, the magnitude of the covariation between self-perceived somatotype and body cathexis suggests that body build is a major factor accounting for body attitudes of males. As self-perception of physique deviates from mesomorphic and moves toward the ectomorphic and endomorphic poles, especially the latter, self concept relative to he body tends to decline rapidly."


Tucker, Larry A. "Weight Training Experience and Psychological Well-Being". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1982. Vol.55 Pgs. 553-554.

113 University males were administered a test to assess self-concept, body satisfaction , extraversion, and neuroticism. They also reported the number of months they had trained with weights.

"Apparently, the more weight training reported by the subjects , the more self confident and satisfies they tended to be. Similarly, the males who indicated that they had trained relatively often with weights in the past showed the most positive attitudes toward their body parts and processes. They also tended to be significantly more sociable, impulsive, and outgoing that were the males who reported relatively few months of experience training with weights. Although the more experienced weight trainers displayed the more favorable psychological profiles, they "lied" or reported in a socially desirable fashion significantly less than the less experienced subjects."

"From the results, increased credence must be afforded the assertion that weight training can play a significant part in the mental health and well-being of males. This study suggests that as weight-training experience increases, global self concept , body cathexis, and extraversion tend to increase commensurately and lie-scale scores tend to decrease proportionately in males."


Tucker, Larry A. "Effect of a Weight -Training Program on the Self-Concepts of College Males". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1982. Vol.54 Pgs. 1055-1061.

Subjects were 60 college males enrolled in a weight training class and also enrolled in an Ancient American History Class. 45 other males that were only enrolled in the Ancient America History Class and not lifting weights formed the control group. The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale was used as the measuring instrument.

"From the results of the study, considerable credence must be afforded the idea that regular weight -training tends positively and significantly to affect the self-concepts of college males who select weight-training. The results confirmed the hypothesis that males who participate in a weight-training program tend to develop significantly better self-concepts than those who do not participate in such an activity."

"Apparently, regular training with weights tends to bolster significantly feelings of personal pride, confidence, and self-worth, but it does not tend to place the self at an elevated status in relation to kin and friends. Similarly, Moral-Ethical Self, which denotes feelings of being a "good" or "bad" person and relationship to God , and Self-satisfaction, do not seem to be significantly influenced by weight-training when compared to non-weight trainers."

"....few modes of exercise elicit overt effects comparable to this form of exercise."


Tucker, Larry A. " The Structure and dimensional satisfaction of the body cathexis construct of males: a factor analytic investigation". Journal of Human Movement Studies. 1983. Vol.9 Pgs. 189-194.


Tucker, Larry A. "Weight training: a tool for the improvement of the self and body concepts of males". Journal of Human Movement Studies. 1983. Vol.9. Pgs. 31-37.


Tucker, Larry A. "Self Concept: A Function of Self Perceived Somatotype". The Journal of Psychology. 1983. Vol. 113 Pgs 123-133.

A study of 284 college undergraduate males resulted in this statement, " Relative to the internal self-concept dimensions; it appears that the self-perceived mesomorphs reported feelings about Personal Identity, Self-Satisfaction, and Behavior that were significantly more favorable than those of the ectomorphic and endomorphic males. The same trend occurred across the external dimensions of Family Self and Social Self, which reflect attitudes.

Some short definitions are given below:

Somatotype- General body type. It refers to the size of the bones and the
                       relative percentages of muscularity and fat. 
                       The three somatotypes are described below.
                       Individuals are typically a blend of the types.


Ectomorph - Tiny small boned individuals with very little fat.
                      Cross country runners are examples.

Mesomorph - Large boned individuals with square, highly muscular bodies with  little fat
                       Football linemen are examples.

Endomorph - Round, soft, with a high percentage of fat.
                      The circus fat lady would be an extreme example.


Cathexis- The investment of emotional significance in an object, activity , or idea.
"Without exception, the present findings denote that self-perceived mesomorphs reported feelings of confidence, acceptance, satisfaction, and self-worth that tended to be significantly more positive than did more ectomorphic or endomorphic males."

Comment by Gary Polson, Strength Tech: Certainly not proven by this study, but one could suspicion that those individuals who change their body type toward the Mesomorph type through weight lifting might experience a positive movement in their self-concept feelings to align with this group.


Tucker, Larry A. "Effect of weight training on self concept: A profile of those influenced the most". Research Quarterly Exercise Sport. 1983. Vol.54. Pgs. 389-397.

113 college males training twice a week with weights for 16 weeks were compared with 127 college males in a health class, but not lifting weights.

"In conclusion, the favorable relationship between weight training and improvement of self-concept appears significant and consistent. To date, no investigations have failed to support this positive interaction. However, not all males benefit equally as a result of regular participation in a weight training program. From the results of this study, it appears that males who display relatively low body cathexis or self-concept scores or relatively high neuroticism characteristics at the outset of training tend to experience significantly more improvement in global self-concept than do lifters who deviate from such a psychological profile."

Comment from Gary Polson, Strength Tech Inc.- The above statement might be used to indicate that those in prison might actually be among those who would gain the greatest psychological benefits from a weight training program.


Tucker, Larry A. "Muscular Strength: A predictor of personalities in males". Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 1983. Vol.23. Pgs. 213-220.


Tucker, Larry A. "Muscular strength: A predictor of personality in males". Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 1983. Vol.23 Pgs.213-220.


Tucker, Larry A. "Physical attractiveness, somatotype, and the male personality: a dynamic interactional perspective". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1984. Vol.40 pgs. 1226-1234.

285 college student subjects were assessed for the global self-concept, extraversion and neuroticism, body satisfaction and perceived somatotype.

"Without exception, self-perceived mesomorphs manifested psychological qualities that were significantly more favorable than those of their counterparts, The profile of the mesomorph reflected high self-confidence and satisfaction, low anxiety and emotional liability, and a sociable, easygoing nature, while the personality structures of the self-perceived ectomorph and endomorph showed relatively low self-esteem and dissatisfaction, high anxiety and instability, and a withdrawn, asocial temperament."


Tucker, Larry A. "Dimensionality and Factor Satisfaction of the Body Image Construct: A Gender Comparison". Sex Roles. 1985. Vol.12 No.9/10. Pgs. 931-937.

160 college females formed the basis of this study. They were given a similar test to the males in the 1983 study to allow direct comparisons. "The findings also suggest females perceive their body parts and processes from four independent reference points:(1) physical skills and fitness, (2) face and overall appearance, (3) miscellaneous items, (4) weight and lower body. In addition, two major gender differences exist in regard to the structure of the body image construct: First, females view their specific facial features, such as eyes, ears, and nose, as items reflecting physical appearance and as significant parts of their facial and overall beauty; males see these specific features as components of their body senses. Second, females perceive their body build as a function of their hips, legs, waist, weight, and appetite - the lower half of their bodies; males view their body builds as a function of their chest, shoulders, arms, muscle tone and strength - an upper body phenomenon."


Tucker, Larry A. "Effect of weight training on body attitudes: who benefits most?" The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Vol. 27 No. 1. March 1987. Pgs 70-78.

"In recent years, a few studies have been conducted to determine the effect of weight training on psychological well being. Without fail, these investigations have shown weight training to influence significantly and positively the mental health of males."

The article goes on to describe a study conducted on college males (114 in a college weight training class and 127 enrolled in a college health course but not actively involved in weight lifting) to determine the effect of weight lifting on their body attitudes. The results reveal that regular weight training positively effects body attitudes.

"The positive, therapeutic effect regular participation in a weight training program has on the body attitudes of males may evolve from the findings of other studies which indicate that the muscular male physique is the most preferred and socially desirable in our culture. Perhaps as the male body becomes stronger and more muscular as a result of weight training, the subject perceives this physique as reflecting the more ideal mesomorphic image, which increases body satisfaction and bolsters feeling of personal pride."

"Males who are relatively weak muscurlarly tend to improve significantly more in body cathexis as a result of training with weights than do males who commence in comparitively strong muscular states. Moreover, males with poor body concepts tend to gain significantly more in body satisfaction than do those who begin training with relatively high body cathexis scores. Furthermore, males who perceive themselves to have ectomorphic or endomorphic somatotypes at the outset of a weight training program tend to improve significantly more in body cathexis than do self perceived mesomorphs. Lastly, males who perceive their own body builds to differ from their perceived ideal tend to gain significantly more in body satisfaction than do males who commence with no discrepancy between their perceived self and ideal somatotypes."

On to Part 2


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