Does using profanity benefit your workouts?

Posted at 4:47 AM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 04:48:02-04

You're in the gym and you're program asks you to push the limits. You're at the brink of what your body can withstand and need to get in your zone.

How do you get psyched up? Or do you even need to?

A new study from the University of Keele shows swearing can boost muscular strength and endurance. The psychologists took the participants through tests where they were asked to swear before an intense training session on an exercise bike or squeezing something that measures grip strength.

The results showed significant improvements over when the participants used language that was clean.

A possible reason they concluded was profanity stimulated the body’s sympathetic nervous system. If you ever feel your heart beating when your body senses danger, this is what's working.

But this exercise situations aren't the most dangerous. Sure, any form of physical activity is risky and we all need to find our “zone”. However, the best athletes do not always need the foul language in order to boost their performance. They simply perform.

I've been fortunate enough to come across many great strength athletes in my short times as an amateur strongman competitor. Three people come to mind when this topic comes up.

Andy Deck is a lightweight pro strongman sponsored by Elite FTS. He was one of my strength and conditioning coaches when I played football (sat the bench) at Salisbury University.

Andy’s a truly great athlete who focuses so much on technique that he's able to maximize his body’s potential with extremely heavy loads. This isn't to say Andy doesn't swear.

I've been fortunate to watch Andy train and see some of his training log videos and notice a few things. He will critique himself midway through and sometimes there is profanity… or a Viking laugh and grunt. He always gets the job done and there's a reason he's highly successful.


Then, there's my mentor Gregg Inocencio, one of Andy’s training partners. Gregg and I are quite similar in that we tend to have a little bit of both in this argument. If there is a cheesy movie quote that involves a little profanity (insert the quote from Samuel L. Jackson in “Snakes on a Plane), it may be said before a heavy deadlift. 

But there's also the contrast to which Gregg and I both engage in.

Imagine lifting something with all your might with TLC’s “Waterfalls” playing in the background. Can you do it without breaking concentration?

 In strongman, there are a lot of variations of events and odd objects that need to be hoisted. It requires more technique than brute strength in some events. If you're of the mindset you need to curse and throw a rampage in order to perform such feats, your mind may start racing and you'll forget part of the task at hand.

Almost every time I start to hop around, try to listen to worry about the "hype music" playing in the background and hear someone shout profanities at me or others lifting, I shut down. 

Which brings me to Brian Alsruhe. One of the most all-around athletes and strongman competitors I've come into contact with.

 He posted a video on his YouTube channel about why you may miss personal records. This study counteracts what his experiences have shown… and what most higher performers would agree is the case.

If you start thinking about a million different cues and need to boil emotions in your mind in order to get ready for a big lift, your body may feel danger. But in the case of lifting heavy objects, your body usually tells you, “Not today. Calm down.”

I was asked by a few of my coworkers if I listen to music with profanity in order to get me ready for big lifts. I do, but not for that reason.

At Brian’s gym NEVERsate Athletics in Carroll County, he lets the others lifting during open gym control the tunes because the type of music doesn't impact his performance.

Cursing might help someone release a little tension they have inside of them during a workout. But in the case of high intensity workouts, my experiences have shown that built up tension is best channeled into honing in proper technique during the movement.