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Energy Management

Energy Management in Strength & Conditioning

Energy management includes two main topics, arousal control and relaxation. Arousal is defined as a blend of physiological and psychological responses an individual is experiencing [1]. Arousal can be viewed as a fluid continuum of emotions athletes experience throughout their day from deep sleep to extreme excitation [1]. However, each athlete will interpret situations differently and require their own skills to manage the situation. This is known as their Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) [2]. The IZOF model proposes that each individual athlete experiences a unique range of positive and negative emotions that are either functional or dysfunctional in performance [3]. Achieving peak performance is a result of athletes being able to identify their current levels of emotions and knowing how to get them in their ideal zones [4]. There are two key strategies for regulating the levels of emotions, psyching-up and relaxation [5].

In strength and conditioning we see all types of unique athletes. Each athlete acts differently in the weight room, when under pressure, when completing a difficult task, and requires a different set of skills to help them get in their zone. Being able to recognize an athlete in their optimal zone is just the beginning. Being able to work with them, to create triggers and modifications to help them get in their zone more quickly and stay there is the key component. These specifications help coaches to put assumptions to rest, the goal of absolutely hyping everyone up to the max is no longer the standard. To preform best as an individual, and team, the coach needs to understand their teams' energy levels and cater to them. As a strength and conditioning coach ,we have the unique ability to influence athletes and other coaches to utilize this method of thinking and preparing for competition.

Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning (IZOF)

IZOF represents how each athlete has their own optimal level of functioning. Compare a goalie and forward in hockey; the goalie needs to be relaxed and zeroed in on the puck at all times, whereas the forward needs to be aggressive to attack the goal and get a shot off. The IZOF model proposes that each individual athlete experiences a unique range of favorable and unfavorable emotions that are either functional or dysfunctional in performance [3]. These establish four zones of emotions to be identified: dysfunctional unfavorable (uncomfortable, displeased, frustrated, nervous), functional unfavorable (irritated, uneasy, scared, fierce), functional favorable (fun, pleased, inspired, confident, excited), and dysfunctional favorable (comfortable, overconfident, content) [2]. 

Click below for a worksheet to lead you through finding your own IZOF.


Psyching-up is an important skill for athletes when they become aware that they are experiencing feelings such as fatigue, lethargy, lack of enthusiasm, and lower levels of attention [5]. Strategies used to psych-up athletes include increasing attentional focus, self-efficacy statements (“I can do it”), and imagery [6]. These strategies include several techniques such as, standing positions, intensity keywords and positive statements, energizing imagery, increased breathing rate, and upbeat music [1]. The previously mentioned techniques can be implemented at a team or individual level; however, it is imperative that the psyching-up techniques do not over-psych individuals out of their optimal zone for peak performance.

In the weight room, early mornings and afternoons can be difficult for athletes to individually bring the energy they need, so it is here that the coach needs to step in. A strength and conditioning coach can do many things to assist in raising energy, or psyching-up athletes, such as playing loud music or their preferred playlist. These are the easiest to implement and thus are the most common interventions by coaches to assist athletes. In discussion, coaches can tie energy management back to previously taught skills, motivational self-talk or imagery of an exciting play. Utilizing these known skills along with the new skill will help for athletes to learn it more quickly and be able to implement the principles more clearly.


Relaxation is a key component for peak performance and a skill that can be easily transferred from one area of a performer’s life to another. Relaxation includes physical and cognitive techniques that can combat the different types of anxiety and emotions felt by the performer [1]. Each technique used should be specific to the type of anxiety being experienced, whether it be cognitive (psychological) or somatic (physiological) [7]. Cognitive anxiety consists of negative feelings about success or preparedness. Somatic anxiety consists of increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweaty hands, increased muscle tension, cold sweats, and butterflies [1]. To successfully target the anxiety experienced by the athlete, the practitioner should be aware of the matching hypothesis. The matching hypothesis states that an anxiety management technique should be matched to the specific needs of the individual [8: 1]. Using this matching hypothesis, a state of worry should be matched with cognitive techniques that will focus on calming thoughts, and nervous sweating or shaking will be matched with physical techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) or breath control. Common cognitive relaxation techniques include meditation, thought focusing, and using repetitive phrases or mantras [9].

Click below for a PMR script to help athletes through relaxation or for a news article showing how a UW-Madison Strength and Conditioning coach is incorporating mental skills in their work.

The Skills
The Skills_Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Energy Management: Resources

[1] Weinberg, R. (2013). Activation/arousal control. In S. J. Hanrahan & M. B. Andersen (Eds.), Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: a comprehensive guide for students and practitioners (pp. 471–480). Routledge.
[2] Hanin, Y. L. (1980). A study of anxiety in sports. In W. F. Straub (Ed.), Sport psychology: an analysis of athlete behavior (pp. 236-249). Mouvement.
[3] Harmison, R. J. (2006). Peak performance in sport: identifying ideal performance states and developing athletes' psychological skills. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(3), 233–243. 
[4]  Cooper, J. J., Johnson, M., Radcliffe, J., & Fisher, J. (2018). Optimal emotional profiles for peak performance in strength and conditioning. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 00(00), 1–8. 
[5] Pineschi, G., & Di Pietro, A. (2013). Anxiety management through psychophysiological techniques: relaxation and psyching-up in sport. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 4(3), 181–190. 
[6] Shelton, T. O., & Mahoney, M. J. (1978). The content and effect of "psyching-up" strategies in weight lifters. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2(3), 275–284. 
[7] Flint, F. A. (1998). Integrating sport psychology and sports medicine in research: the dilemmas. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10(1), 83–102. 
[8] Terry, P., Coakley, L., & Karageorghis, C. (1995). Effects of intervention upon precompetition state anxiety in elite junior tennis players: the relevance of the matching hypothesis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 81(1), 287–296. 
[9] Mellalieu, S. D., & Shearer, D. (2012). Mental skills training and strength and conditioning. In D. Tod & D. Lavallee (Eds.), The psychology of strength and conditioning (pp. 1–37). Routledge.

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