View Full Version : To scream or not to scream

Mike Tuchscherer
07-15-2013, 07:21 PM
TRON, if you read this let's keep it PG... lol

I read this post in the blogs (please read the comments): http://forum.reactivetrainingsystems.com/entry.php?52950-Singapore-Powerlifting-Open-2013

My question is this... how do you feel about outward emotional events (yelling, screaming, aggressive approaches, etc)? Beneficial or not? I'm most interested in personal experiences, but any conversation will do.

07-15-2013, 08:14 PM
I don't scream before or after I lift.

Not trying to offend anyone but it seems like the people that do scream are people that never played a competitive sport at a competitive level and I think they don't know how to handle it emotionally. I for example was captain of the football team and ran track so I think from that you learn the controlled aggression and focus needed to give maximum effort without an emotional outburst. Here's what the great Ed Coan thought.



Ed Coan: I don't like to waist all my mental energy. I keep it inside and let it out on the weights.

Einar B. Gilberg
07-15-2013, 08:37 PM
Theoretically I am sure that it is the way I said it in the post ; screaming before or under a lift is lost energy. Very simple. I guess it is some kind of reaction some people want to do to not get over-excited. They are nervous as hell and wants to get out some steam. I also believe that they who scream wants to somehow tell the audience that "this is heavy! Help me!". So in practice they might benefit from it because when they are too excited or nervous they will rather puke than lift so they they lower their maxium theoretical strength to a better practical strength. Also they will get more cheering from the audience which also helps psychologically. The best and most experienced lifters does not yell and shout ; it's mostly beginners. Ed Coan can tell anyone about this. Blaine Sumner did a lot of screaming, but even he seems to be controlling this more than before. To be an extrovert is just fine, though, I am talking about screaming out of your lungs. I have seen people scream so much that if I should have done the same I would have needed oxygene from a bottle afterwards. Keep that oxygene in your body, fill up your lungs so that you get that gut-power and blow, not air, but kilos up! In the original thread there was something written about farmers walk etc. ; in such events that has a long duration the negative effects from screaming will get less. In explosive events getting that air out of the baloon is not smart.

07-15-2013, 08:42 PM
For me I find it hard to scream with the rubber ball in my mouth and the leather mask on but I digress...

I think it is an individual matter. I definitly have seen some very good lifters give a shout or a loud positive affirmation like "yep" prior to lifting. Others prefer to take a business-like attitude, focused but like it is just another day at the office and they have "been there before". Others seem to scream with their eyes in a reptilian brain fight or flight kind of thing.
I think one or two short yells or bursts could perhaps help one to focus and perhaps stimulate the senses a bit. I saw the videos in the post mentioned and that looked very reasonable to me.

07-15-2013, 09:53 PM
In my younger years I had an Olympic weightlifting coach from Russia who reminded us all during heavy sessions that one's focus and fury need only be directed inward, and that the stomping, yelling, clapping and such seen in pre-lift routines only diverts an athlete's attention from the immediate task at hand. And to a large degree I find this maxim to be true in weightlifting, and would add that the athletes that engage in these habits are often very tense, while lifting in a manner that contributes to technical errors like swinging the bar, over-pulling, etc.; whether such technical errors are a function of this tension, I would only be able to comment on those whom I see in training with some frequency.

Powerlifting, however, is not Olympic weightlifting, and the demands of the sport in terms of movement are far more straightforward. Perhaps that tension leading to technical mis-cues is not entirely negative when tension (say, at the pause in the press or in the hole of a squat) is absolutely crucial in making heavy attempts. Nonetheless, I'm going to agree with Einar and say that outward emotional outbursts are both unnecessary and distracting. One should have confidence in their preparation for an event, select attempts based upon realistic assessments of how they are doing/feeling versus their experiences in training, and execute with technical proficiency. I get the impression that overly-expressive athletes think that they are somehow going to "pull one out of their hat" by frothing at the mouth while yelling at their demons, and it seems to be an act of desperation, not confidence.

With well-handled attempts and good technical performances, an athlete - especially in a long meet - can save that energy to fight gravity, not silence.

07-15-2013, 10:46 PM
Great discussion! First I have to say that I am indeed less experienced than you are, but I will speak for my experience. I hope to compete for many years and my attitude may change later.

What you are saying totally makes sense but in my opinion it neglects the mental aspect of the event. I like the "fight or flight" reference TRON made, I am a very emotional lifter and I used music, self talk and scream to induce the highest level excitation I could. Screaming is very primal and instinctive and allows me to let loose of inhibition.
When I walk to the platform I am not a 30 years old white male ready to take a business decision, I'm an animal ready to fight and I will crush the bar. I think I am inconsciently claiming the space (notice my imaginary lats syndrome when I walk to the deadlift) screaming is part of that I guess.

07-15-2013, 10:58 PM
With the inverted U of performance versus arousal (I'm sure it has a more meaningful name than that) ideally we lift, at least in competition, with the ideal level of arousal because too much or too little means less performance. The thing is the actions and thoughts that I use to get to my ideal level of arousal may not be ideal for another person. So it is all relative. The only thing I would say as an absolute is a yell that empties a good portion of your lungs while you are supporting a barbell is probably going to reduce your stability and make the lift harder than it has to be.

As for a personal anecdote, I used to slap my face before heavy deadlifts. It was never a problem in the basement gym, but at the regular gym I would feel self conscious about it and wait till no one was looking to do it. I kind of realized there was no way this was a useful tool at a meet and just stopped doing it in training.

07-15-2013, 11:46 PM
I was watching videos of Kirk Karwoski, now I am obviously NOT comparing myself with Captain Kirk but I couldn't help noticing he screams before his squat and it's hard to deny his squat proficiency.

Now I will refrain from screaming with the bar on the back, this is just stupid, the reason why I can do it and make the lift is probably because it's not really heavy. :)

07-16-2013, 04:32 AM
As Butcher mention there should logically be an ideal state of arousal, and yes we are all individuals but I can't help thinking we often overestimate our differences. The major difference is probably rather in how we act in that state of arousal, and how we get ourselves there. Some of us need to build up that feeling for +5 minutes before the lift, others can turn it on/off in a second. If you're extrovert you're probably more likely to be jumping around, taking up space and making noice. If you're introvert you're maybe just closing your eyes and speaking to yourself and visualising the lift. Same mental state but different ways of acting upon it.

But coming down to physiology, you only got so much energy so wasting it being amped up from weigh ins to price ceremony I doubt you are going to get a good deadlift in. Particulary when the meets get real long.
As for the anecdote, a damn good lifter once told me the best feeling going into a lift is fear. Nothing gets our adrenaline pumping like fear, that's why sometimes people can do extra ordinary things when they (or their children) are in danger. This is why we use ammonia, going back to our primal selves ammonia resembles the smell of predator urine. So we get scared, our bodies produce adrenaline which can make us run faster and escape the danger etc. Now this may be a bit hard to create, at least over and over, but I do think there is a point to some screaming or stomping the floor or so going on before a lift. To get that adrenaline started.

07-16-2013, 08:25 AM
as Karolina is saying having high state of arousal is very demandning. ive been thought about this alot the last months and i think being hyped for 3-5 hours isnt optimal for preformance in the later part of the meet.

in my experience the last meet i did i actually was more low key then im used to and think i preformed more solid than ive ever done. So for me ill try to drift over more to being introvert.. saving all that energy in a meet, but also save energy in training. I think once you start taping in to the "extra strenght" or rage it's really easy to go overboard and start depending on the adrenaline instead of your strenght. Ive been there and it's really draining.

07-16-2013, 08:58 AM
Oh yes it's like a ace card. I did for the 3rd squat and the 3rd deadlift. I don't do it in training.

Mike Tuchscherer
07-16-2013, 10:36 AM
Screaming is very primal and instinctive

First off, you're taking all of this in stride and you are to be commended for that. I honestly thought there would be a more divided response.
I think the quote above is of central importance. The fact that it's instinctive is central. And to that end, I don't have a problem with it and don't really suggest changing it.

I saw a study years ago that looked at this question. They found those who shouted did show a strength increase over those who didn't. That's far from conclusive when you begin to think about populations and methodologies. But it is interesting.

People have mentioned nerves, arousal, etc. I know for me, I'm so damn nervous during a meet (save for the 2nd or 3rd deadlift) that I'm actively calming myself down (deep breaths, calm positive self talk, etc). To me the nerves are uncomfortable and I want them to go away so I can concentrate and lift. But I'm also a bit of an introvert too, so personality-wise it makes sense. If someone is an extrovert who doesn't get terribly nervous, maybe a shout is the way to go. Butcher nailed this with his post.

Karolina, I've never heard that before about the ammonia. That's very interesting! There was an ammonia post here a few weeks ago. Do you use ammonia? How often?

And then, let's take this a step further...
If someone's personality type (introversion, extroversion, propensity to be nervous, how they handle nerves, etc) influences their competing, should it also influence their training?
Let me clarify...
Robin alluded to people not being able to maintain high arousal for long periods. I agree. I've said before that, even in the training environment, high arousal over long periods can cause as much stress as the volume of work does. So should people who like lower arousal train in different ways than people who like (even need) higher arousal to perform?

07-16-2013, 04:50 PM
This discussion is bound to a "whatever floats your boat" consensus I guess. We can agree upon that shouting (releasing air) when the bar is on your shoulders aint good. This is a beginners mistake I think.

As to getting aroused/adrenaline pumping, we need different stimuli. But I Believe in habit. Getting a few Cues in that sets the mood and tells our system it's time to perform. It's the ace card, and should be saved for just a few lifts per competition and training. Not for warm ups or maybe even openers. For my own sake I think I scream once before grabbing the bar in squat, when I sit down on the bench and then I hit my wrists on the bar laying down, and in deads before walking up to the bar. It's not a lot but it helps to set my mood. And these habits should be reflected in training as well, it's just stupid to start something completely new when you're allready on the platform. If you do chances are you're going to miss something else, like adjusting the belt, getting your air in good, all those pressure breaths etc. Having solid habits regarding preparations, setups, walk outs, breathing, lift offs, tilts etc helps making us "do it right" every time on the platform.
Yet this routine should not be so vigorous that it produces stress or makes our training sessions twice as long.

But it is okay if the routine is so hilarious that people produce videos mimicking you. :)

As for the ammonia trivia it is something I Heard a long time ago, but it makes sence to me so I Believe in it. I did sniff ammonia when I started powerlifting (mostly because the others did so too!) However I'm actually quite fond of the smell and I spent the better part of 5 years of Chemistry studies with my nose in an ammonia bottle. I guess at school it actually (mentally) took me down to the gym instead. Need I say I don't really react to it any more? As anything I Think you will get used to it and it will lose effect.

And for another anecdote, I have a friend who always pulls on her eleventh breath, and if that does not feel right, she has to take another eleven breaths before pulling. At some point a few years ago she could almost be called on time because of this.

07-17-2013, 12:17 PM
Interesting topic...for me, I do not properly "scream", but I rather emit a couple of "grunts" of sort before getting under the bar, especially when lifting in gear: it seems to "unlock" something and enhances my alertness.

Mark Jamsek
07-17-2013, 09:27 PM
I think physiologically it is exciting the sympathetic nervous system, which is when and where you want it stimulated, but it may provoke a response initiating hormone secretion to counter the adrenal cortex cortisol synthesis so in that respect it might be counterintuitive.

I think it depends on the individual, but I also think that those predisposed to screaming might be able to find another means to reach that level of arousal that produces their best performance. In terms of technique and force production, I think a calm, collected, low level of arousal will produce the best results.

There are some world class athletes here, Mike and Blaine in particular, and both display contrasting behaviour regarding this topic, but both are exceptional athletes. So individuality influences the psychology of what's best in this instance.

07-18-2013, 06:30 AM
it seems to "unlock" something and enhances my alertness.

Exactly what I feel, I used the same word to describe it in the comment of the blog post.

07-20-2013, 09:37 AM
Robin alluded to people not being able to maintain high arousal for long periods. I agree. I've said before that, even in the training environment, high arousal over long periods can cause as much stress as the volume of work does. So should people who like lower arousal train in different ways than people who like (even need) higher arousal to perform?

This is an interesting little nugget. Would you be referring to workout or program structure, order, and parameters like intensity in the differences between high and low arousal-prone athletes?

Mike Tuchscherer
07-25-2013, 04:56 PM
Yes. I think people who use high arousal in training will need to organize their training differently (sets, reps, frequency, loading, etc). It causes more stress and takes more to recover from.