Athletes' use of exercise imagery during weight training

J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Nov;21(4):1077-81. doi: 10.1519/R-20746.1.


Imagery is a cognitive process during which people use their minds to create (or recreate) experiences that are similar to real-life situations. This study examined how college athletes used imagery during weight training. Subjects were 295 Division I (n = 163) and Division II (n = 132) college student athletes (men: n = 138, women: n = 157) who participated in a weight training program as a requirement of their sport. They completed a slightly modified version of the "Weight Lifting Imagery Questionnaire." Results showed that appearance imagery (i.e., images related to the attainment of a fit-looking body) was used and considered the most effective followed by technique imagery (i.e., images related to performing the skill and techniques correctly with good form) and energy imagery (i.e., images related to getting "psyched up" or feeling energized). Other variables that effected imagery use were gender, age, time of season, and levels of motivation. In addition, gender, previous imagery training, and level of motivation had an effect on the perceptions of imagery effectiveness. Confidence in the ability to image was associated with both imagery use and effectiveness, and imagery use and effectiveness were associated with confidence in the weight room. The findings support previous research in exercise imagery that appearance imagery is most used followed by technique and energy imagery and extend them in such a way that strength coaches have practical advice on how to use imagery in a positive way with their athletes. Suggestions about how strength coaches can use imagery with their clients are provided.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Sex Factors
  • Weight Lifting / psychology*