Stick with me a moment while I bore you with a definition: A hormone is a molecule produced in the body that signals changes in physiology or behaviour. Hormonal changes and levels are influenced by a myriad of social, physical and environmental cues.
The obvious example is cortisol—the stress hormone. Stress signals your body to increase your cortisol levels to help combat the perceived threat.
Another example: Testosterone. Being in a position of power or authority can lead to increased levels of testosterone.
And get this: Your body language can essentially “trick” you into producing more testosterone. Your mother was onto something when she told you to stop slouching, to look alert, to stand up tall etc…
Evidence: In one experiment, participants provided saliva samples to measure their testosterone and cortisol levels. Then, they were split into two groups.
The first group spent two minutes posing in what is considered a “high-power” pose. Something like this:
The second group spent two minutes posting in a “low-power” position. Something like this:
I think you know where this is going. After the two minutes of posing, new saliva samples were taken. Here’s what they discovered:
The “high-power” pose led to testosterone levels going up by 20 percent and cortisol levels going down by 25 percent, while the “low-power” pose had the opposite effect: Testosterone levels dropped, while cortisol levels rose.
This isn't the only study of its kind. A similar experiment manipulated participants’ facial expressions into a smile by putting a pencil between their clenched teeth. Smiling increased their tolerance to pain, as compared to the group whose face was manipulated into a furrowed brow, wrinkled nose and pursed lips—that group’s pain threshold decreased.
Here’s a great TedTalk by Amy Cuddy on the topic: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc)
The same is true when you workout. If you rest by slouching over and putting your head into your knees, or if you’re one of those workout pain face makers that makes you look like you’re dealing with a bad case of constipation, chances are you’re doing more hormonal damage than good. Facial tension and strained grimacing might make you look like you’re trying harder, but you’re not. It just raises your level of perceived effort, and decreases your performance outcome in the process.
Check out this guy—Hossein Rezazadeh hitting an Olympic record on the clean and jerk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOA5RbAQWA8).
Pay close attention to his face: He’s cool and collected, as if he’s spreading smooth peanut butter on toast.
Just something to consider.