Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
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©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2016) 15, 434 - 450

Review article
Effects of Mental Imagery on Muscular Strength in Healthy and Patient Participants: A Systematic Review
Maamer Slimani1, , David Tod2, Helmi Chaabene1, Bianca Miarka3, Karim Chamari4
Author Information
1 Research Laboratory “Sports performance Optimization”, National Center of Medicine and Science in Sports (CNMSS), Tunis, Tunisia
2 School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
3 Physical Education School, Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil
4 Athlete Health and Performance Research Centre, ASPETAR, Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar

Maamer Slimani
✉ Research Laboratory “Sports performance Optimization”, National Center of Medicine and Science in Sports (CNMSS), Tunis, Tunisia
Email: maamer2011@hotmail.fr
Publish Date
Received: 11-05-2016
Accepted: 03-06-2016
Published (online): 05-08-2016
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ABSTRACT

The aims of the present review were to (i) provide a critical overview of the current literature on the effects of mental imagery on muscular strength in healthy participants and patients with immobilization of the upper extremity (i.e., hand) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), (ii) identify potential moderators and mediators of the “mental imagery-strength performance” relationship and (iii) determine the relative contribution of electromyography (EMG) and brain activities, neural and physiological adaptations in the mental imagery-strength performance relationship. This paper also discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the contemporary literature and suggests possible directions for future research. Overall, the results reveal that the combination of mental imagery and physical practice is more efficient than, or at least comparable to, physical execution with respect to strength performance. Imagery prevention intervention was also effective in reducing of strength loss after short-term muscle immobilization and ACL. The present review also indicates advantageous effects of internal imagery (range from 2.6 to 136.3%) for strength performance compared with external imagery (range from 4.8 to 23.2%). Typically, mental imagery with muscular activity was higher in active than passive muscles, and imagining “lifting a heavy object” resulted in more EMG activity compared with imagining “lifting a lighter object”. Thus, in samples of students, novices, or youth male and female athletes, internal mental imagery has a greater effect on muscle strength than external mental imagery does. Imagery ability, motivation, and self-efficacy have been shown to be the variables mediating the effect of mental imagery on strength performance. Finally, the greater effects of internal imagery than those of external imagery could be explained in terms of neural adaptations, stronger brain activation, higher muscle excitation, greater somatic and sensorimotor activation and physiological responses such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate.

Key words: Imagery, strength gains, strength loss, ACL, rehabilitation


           Key Points
  • Coupling mental imagery with physical training is the best suited intervention for improving strength performance.
  • An examination of potential moderator variables revealed that the effectiveness of mental imagery on strength performance may vary depending on the appropriate matching of muscular groups, the characteristics of mental imagery interventions, training duration, and type of skills.
  • Self-efficacy, motivation, and imagery ability were the mediator variables in the mental imagery-strength performance relationship.
  • Greater effects of internal imagery perspective on strength performance than those of external imagery could be explained in terms of neural adaptations, stronger brain activation, higher muscles excitation, greater somatic and sensorimotor activation, and higher physiological responses such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate.
  • Mental imagery prevention interventions may provide a valuable tool to improve the functional recovery after short-term muscle immobilization and anterior cruciate ligament in patients.
 
 
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