Quick post today- sorry for the scattered thoughts. Hope you still get some good tidbits!
Right off the bat- what I am talking about is cognitive arousal, not sexual arousal. However, both have influences on the brain and physical body, and both have to do with a heightened attentional state vs your normal resting state.
Blood starts pumping, pupils dilate, your focus goes up, blood is shunted to different parts of your body...
Sound familiar? This is your body going through a stress response ("fight or flight") similar to what we've discussed in previous MNMR posts.
How do we define arousal and how is it related to performance?
Arousal pertains to your levels of alertness and attentiveness. Being in this heightened state, you will use your attentional resources (after concentrating for a long time your brain is FRIED), so any state of arousal will eventually burn you out.
When trying to manipulate our arousal levels, many of us try to get "pumped up" by using several different tactics- whether it be through stimulants like caffeine, preworkout, or sugar (see Ricky Bobby reference below), cranking up the music, or creating a competitive environment with our training partners to hit supramaximal numbers for given repxset schemes or PR lifts.
However, you can always have too much of a good thing. While we don't want to treat our training like we were doing the dishes, getting too excited can definitely lead to performance decrease as well. Think of a time you were playing, and you got too excited in the moment and let the pressure get to you. Did you get tunnel vision and couldn't see your teammates around you to pass the ball to? Did you tighten up and your movements become a little less fluid, making you a little less athletic? Or maybe you just froze- your actions no longer automatic and you were just flat out thinking too much?
This graph is a perfect representation of the optimal levels of arousal.
This is the original graph presented by Yerkes and Dodson back in 1908. They were the first ones to find any link between arousal and performance. They even had a scientific law named after them- the Yerkes- Dodson Law which stated that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point.
While this graph also demonstrates that simple tasks are not dependent on arousal- more complex tasks (such as training or playing a sport) are extremely linked to arousal level. Also, while you may complete the task with some extra adrenaline, how much longer do you have to recover from all the sympathetic overdrive you just put yourself in? You don't get to just turn the switch off- you have to pay the price in recovery for the level of excitement.
As you can see- getting yourself too excited (like when you were a kid jumping up and down for a new toy and your parents freaked out from dealing with you) may not always be advisable. Save those big, motivational yelling PRs for competition or big moments, don't make them the norm and rely on them to train.
Approach most training sessions, lifts, or games like business. Hopefully you're doing something you love- but it's still business.