What are the benefits of cursing? Strength, for starters. You gotta love when science says supposedly bad things have benefits. Chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants. Wine may reduce risks of heart disease. Marijuana treats ailments from pain to nausea to glaucoma. And, right in The Barbell’s wheelhouse, cursing can make you stronger.
BENEFITS OF CURSING: THE STUDIES
In a 2009 study, researchers demonstrated that swearing can increase the ability to tolerate pain, concluding: “The observed pain-lessening effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.” However, a second study showed that habitual swearing reduced swearing’s pain-lessening effectiveness. So, curse in moderation.
A more recent study focused on swearing with anaerobic and isometric exercise. In one experiment, 29 participants did 30 seconds of maximum stationary cycling, once while repeating their swear word of choice and once while repeating a neutral word. In a second experiment, 52 participants performed a hand grip test three times while swearing and three times while repeating a neutral word. While they were swearing, subjects demonstrated 4.6% more initial cycling power and 8.2% more maximum hand grip strength.
BENEFITS OF CURSING: CONCLUSION
“Swearing appears to be able to bring about improvements in physical performance that may not be solely dependent on a stress response arising out of the shock value of the swearing,” Dr. Richard Stephens, one of the recent study’s authors, explained. “We know that swearing appears to be handled in brain regions not usually associated with language processing. It is possible that activation of these areas by swearing could produce performance improvements across many different domains.”
Another study author, Dr. David Spierer, added, “Cursing may allow people to shut down their inhibitions and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task. Using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed is required.”
This is probably not a strategy for Planet Fitness, but most people in most gyms are listening to their own earbud soundtracks (often laden with f-bombs), so, even if you don’t train at home, you can probably swear in a gym—as long as you’re not shouting. Cussing just before and/or during a set may help you block pain and eke out an extra rep or two. And if someone tells you to watch your bad language, tell them bad is good.
Related: Science Says: Music Boosts Strength