Who doesn’t have the urge to let out a really strong curse when the last rep on the final bench press set seems impossible? There actually is good reason why we do it.
This site being as PG as possible, you will forgive me for circumventing the expletives in question a bit.
But, rest assured, if you so far thought that a juicy “come on, *****!” sometimes makes that last rep possible, you weren’t wrong. Neither are all those football and other coaches that get their team in the mood with pre-game speeches I could only repeat by blanking the entire text.
Expletives tap into an ancient brain region designed to make us more immune to pain when the going gets tough:
Yet Being Nice Also Helps
So far, so good, yet interestingly doing what is pretty much the exact opposite of swearing and gearing us up for pain was also useful: when Harvard psychologists asked volunteers to hold up a 5 lb weight for as long as possible, they were able to do it longer when they thought “good” thoughts like giving money to a charity. People thinking neutrally gave in sooner (PDF).
So let out the occasional curse, but don’t overdo it and if you are in an environment where cursing could get you in trouble, think about making the world a little better instead.
Picture courtesy of “stockicide“.