Behavorial and Psychological Aspects of Weight Lifting - Part 2

Strength Tech

Return to Part 1

The next largest collection of articles was published in the Journal of Applied Sports Science Research which later became the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This Journal is published by Human Kinetics Publishers for the National Strength and Conditioning Association.


Brazzel-Roberts, Jean V., and Thomas, Luke E. "Effects of Weight Training Frequency on the Self-concept of College Females". Journal of Applied Sports Science Research. 1989. Vol.3 No.2 Pgs. 40-43.

51 subjects weight trained 3 days per week for 12 weeks, 53 subjects weight trained 2 days per week for 12 weeks, and 52 subjects served as controls.

"Based upon the findings of this study, self-concept of college females seems to increase as a result of strength training two days per week or three days per week."


Tharion, William J., Harman, Everett A., Kraemer William J., and Rauch, Terry M. "Effects of Different Weight Training Routines on Mood States". Journal of Applied Sport Science Research. 1991. Vol.5 No.2 Pgs.60-65.

Mood states of nine males and nine females were examined before and after 6 different weight lifting workouts. "Stronger perception of negative moods including tension, depression and fatigue resulted from higher work, lower weight with higher repetitions per set and shorter inter-set rest periods."

"An individual engaged in a strength type workout is reinforced by seeing improvements in strength, feeling unpressured, having time to talk to friends in the weightroom, seeing a relatively high amount of weight moved and being under less cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and thermal stress. Individuals whose goals are bodybuilding, the training of local muscle endurance or completion of a full workout in a short amount of time are subject to the psychological and physiological stresses mentioned previously. In order to maintain a positive attitude under such conditions and adhere to a demanding routine, the trainee would have to be more goal-oriented or be provided with a creative workout design that incorporates a variety of effective reinforcements."


Stoessel, Lynne, Stone, Michael H., Keith, Robert, Marple, Dennis, and Johnson, Robert. "Selected Physiological, Psychological and Performance Characteristics of National-Caliber United States Women Weightlifters". Journal of Applied Sports Science Research. 1991. Vol.5 No.2 Pgs. 87-95.

Subjects were 14 national level lifters and untrained controls of similar age and weight..

"No differences were found between groups concerning body satisfaction. This is somewhat surprising considering the striking differences in the physical characteristics. performance and general appearance of the two groups. However, both groups and all individuals were within normal values for this test, suggesting normal adjustment. This may be of particular importance for women participating in weightlifting, which has been traditionally viewed as a male sport."

Comment by Gary Polson, Strength Tech, Inc.: This is the only study in this bibliography that did not show a positive result in psychological factors of weight trainers vrs. control group. It showed them to be the same. The study used elite female lifters vrs. similar age and weight women.


Ittenbach, Richard F. and Chissom, Brad S. "Social Involvement and the Sport of Weight Lifting: A Microethnography" Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1993. Vol.7 No.1 Pgs. 55-61.

A campus rec weight room was observed for 1 to 2 hours per day for 5 weeks. The culture was observed and recorded by two lifters.

They found the participants could be divided into several groups:

  • Managers. Overseeing the area and flow of people.

  • Professional Lifters. Lifted competitively or coached others. They spent as many as 4 to 6 hours a day exercising.

  • Amateur Lifters. They have chosen one form of weight lifting as an avocation. Some compete infrequently, others not at all.

  • Gym Rats. They emphasize consistency and moderation rather than progressively greater accomplishments.

  • Members at Large. Lots of new faces. Out for the first time or lift infrequently. Wear matching shirts and shorts, often with a city, rock group, or a product name printed on them. Most begin their workout in a corner of the room and surveyed the surroundings before beginning.

  • Pilgrims. They stumbled into the room by accident or just wanted to see what weight lifting looked like. They are dressed in street clothes and carrying books and soft drinks. They are careful to stay out of the way of others.

    "Professionals and Amateurs were easy to spot. They wore torn, wrinkled, and loose-fitting T-shirts or tank tops. Their pants were either cotton gym trunks or sweat pants, sometimes cut off, sometimes not, even in 90 degree plus heat. "

    "Chalk on ones hands, shirt, and thighs, as well as weight lifting gloves, a towel, and a 4- to 6-in. wide belt were all the markings of a dedicated lifter."


    Newton, Laura E., Hunter, Gary, Bammon, Mark, and Roney, Robin. "Changes in Psychological State and Self-Reported Diet During Various Phases of Training in Competitive Bodybuilders". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1993. Vol.7 No.3 Pgs. 153-158.

    Six men and two women underwent testing every 3rd week for the final 12 weeks prior to a state championship competition.

    "This study suggests that body builders psychological state is affected during the weeks prior to competition. A strict regime of diet and exercise as well as the pressure of the impending competition may all play a role. The body builder trainer, and family members should be aware that the body builder may feel more depressed, tense, and confused during this period."


    Danhoff, G.W., Hoyenga, K.T., and Danhoff, M.L. "Psychological and Physical Changes Resulting From a 14-Week, Off-Season Conditioning Program in Volleyball Players". Abstract from 1993 NSCA National Conference held in Las Vegas in June 1993.

    "The present study is unique as it demonstrates that as members of a team, supposedly in good shape having just finished the season, when put on a strength training regimen, showed dramatic improvements in strength, power, and psychological well-being. Furthermore, the data indicate that a reasonable goal of off season conditioning programs should be to enhance both psychological well-being and physical skills."


    Other Articles and Publications on the Subject:


    Thune, John B,, "Personality of Weightlifters". Research Quarterly. 1949. Vol.20 Pgs.296-306.

    This 1949 study includes results from a questionnaire sent to 33 physical educators who had knowledge of the weightlifting program at the Oakland YMCA. They were asked two questions. "What factors influence men to participate in a weightlifting program?" and "Do you think training with weights is a worthy and beneficial activity?".

    "Factors most predominantly mentioned in answer to the first question were: seek physical development, dislike traditional competitive sports, are concerned with health, lack self-confidence or aggressiveness, lack social confidence, desire strength."

    The second preliminary investigation took the form of a personal interview with 50 weightlifters selected at random from the Oakland YMCA. They were asked the same two questions. "Forty persons definitely stated that their primary interest was to "build up" their bodies."

    Then a personal inventory study was conducted on 100 YMCA male weightlifters and 100 other male YMCA athletes. "Statistically significant differences between weightlifters and controls were found in all categories: present health, self-confidence, manly-individualistic."

    "Training with weights probably appeals to a group that differs with respect to interest, attitudes, and personality from the rest of the active YMCA membership."

    A logical classification of the differentiating items indicates that the members of the weightlifting group feel more strongly than the controls that their health has improved, that basically they are shy, that they lack self-confidence, and that they do not obtain satisfaction, through participating at a loss, in the more traditional physical activities. They want to be strong and dominant, emulating other strong men."


    Leithwood, Kenneth A. "The personality characteristics of three groups of weight-trainers". Masters Thesis . University of British Columbia. 1967.


    Gasser, O.F. Weight Training and self-concept. Unpublished Master's Thesis. University of California, Los Angeles. 1965.


    Darden, E. "Sixteen personality profiles of competitive bodybuilders and weightlifters". Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. May 1972. Vol.43 No.2 Pgs.142-147.

    Subjects were 22 male body builders and 30 male weight lifters who competed in their state powerlifting and physique championship.

    "These data reveal possible trends in personality characteristics for bodybuilders and weightlifters as compared to the average population. The bodybuilders tended to be silent, introspective, and sober (Factor F). The weightlifters tended to be independent, aggressive, and stubborn (Factor E). Both sport groups were inclined toward being self-opinionated, unconcerned about other people, and poor team members (Factor L)."


    Sorrensen, W. The effects of a special strength training program on the self-concepts of seventh grade boys. Unpublished Master's Thesis. Brigham Young University. 1974.


    Thirer, J., Greer, D.L. "Personality characteristics associated with beginning, intermediate, and competitive bodybuilders". Journal of Sport Behavior. Feb 1981. Vol.4 No.1 Pgs.3-11.

    52 body builders were divided into beginning, intermediate, and competitive categories. They were administered the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule as was a 49 person non-athlete, non-bodybuilding control group.

    "...competitive and intermediate bodybuilders differed from beginners and non-athletes in achievement and change."


    Dishman, R.K. and Gettman, L.R. "Psychological vigor and self-perceptions of increased strength". Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1981. Vol.13 Pgs. 73-74 (Abstract).


    Freedson, Patty S., Mihevic, Patricia M., Loucks, Anne B., Girandola, Robert N. "Physique, Body Composition, and Psychological Characteristics of Competitive Female Body Builders". The Physician and Sportmedicine. 1983. Vol.11 Pgs. 85-93.

    Body composition and Psychological characteristics of ten competitive female body builders were examined. Psychological testing included a battery of 5 psychological inventories.

    "Psychologically, competitive female body builders were found to be somewhat less anxious, neurotic, depressed, angry, and confused and more extraverted, vigorous, and self-motivated than the general population. This psychological profile reflects positive mental health and is remarkably congruent with the psychological profile of elite male athletes. These data are consistent with the viewpoint that positive mental health is associated with competitive athletic success."


    Trujillo, C. "Effects of weight training and running exercise intervention programs on the self-esteem of college women". International Journal of Sports Psychology. 1983. Vol.14 Pgs. 162-173

    Subjects were undergraduate females. 13 weight training, 12 running, 10 control. "Change in self-esteem which was reported by any pre- to post-test differences for each individual participant was found to be significantly increased in both the weight training and running groups. The control group did not gain in self-esteem, but showed a slight decrease for this attribute."

    "It is clear that although both the weight training and running groups reported a significant change in the level of self-esteem, the amount of actual change when compared between groups was significantly higher for the weight training group only."

    "The point however, is that the group of women who exhibited the largest gain in self-esteem was the group which gained an average of 68% in body strength and expressed significant losses in certain bodily areas. Although 35% (4) of the running group felt both physically and psychologically better, 83% (11) of the weight training group felt the same way."


    Fuchs, C.Z. and Zaichkowsky, G.P. "Psychological characteristics of male and female body builders: The ice-berg profile". Journal of Sports Behavior. 1983. Vol.6 No.3 Pgs. 136-145.


    Brown, Rebecca D. and Harrison, Joyce M. "The Effects of a Strength Training Program on the Strength and Self-Concept of Two Female Age Groups". Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 1986. Vol.57 No.4 Pgs. 315-320.

    100 women ages 17 to 26 and 40-49 were assigned by random drawing to a weight lifting group or to the control group. After some fall out the remaining group sizes were 21, 21 23, 18. Average age of the young subjects was 21.5 years and the average age of the mature group was 44.4 years.

    "While the experimental and control groups had similar psychological profiles on the TSCS pretests, the profiles of the two groups were significantly different on the posttest on the three self-concept measures of the TSCS used in this study. Whereas the control group made slight improvements in their scores or even decreased somewhat , the two experimental groups improved significantly on each of these scores. These results indicate that both the young and mature experimental groups viewed their physical bodies more positively and that their perceptions about themselves were more positive."

    "Also of note is that the magnitude of the change is nearly identical for the two experimental groups. This seems to indicate that this strength training program had the same psychological effects on middle-age women as on college age women in the factors measured."


    Ossip-Klew, Deborah J., Doyne, Elizabeth J., Bowman, Eric D. "Effects of Running or Weightlifting on Self-Concept in Clinically Depressed Women". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1989. Vol.57 No.1 Pgs. 158. Feb. 1, 1989.


    Mahoney, Michael J. "Psychological Predictors of Elite and Non Elite Performance in Olympic Weightlifting". International Journal of Sport Psychology. Vol..20 No.1. Pg.1. 1989.


    "The Experimental Study of the Psychological prep and psychic state of a National Weightlifting Team". NIS Scientific Journal. Vol.13 No.1 Pg 16. Jan. 1 1990.


    A few articles have appeared in the National Strength & Conditioning Journal:

    Generalizing Self-Efficacy from the Weight Room to Other Aspects of Life. James B. Wise. Strength and Conditioning Journal: Vol.22. No.1. 2000. Pgs.18-21.

    Effects of Weight Training Frequency on the Self-concept of College Females. Jean V. Brazell-Roberts and Luke E. Thomas. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Vol.3. No.2. 1989. Pgs.40-43.

    Weight Room Psychology: Selected Psychological Aspects of Physical Strength and Conditioning. Jean Barrett Holloway. Strength & Conditioning. Vol.16 No.6. 1994. Pgs.56-61.
    Weight Room Psychology: Selected Psychological Aspects of Physical Strength and Conditioning Part 2. Jean Barrett Holloway. Strength & Conditioning. Vol.17 No.1. 1995. Pgs.52-60.

    Back to Part 1


    Return to Strength Tech Home Page