The optimal activation, key to sports performance.

activación deporte arousal

The sportive competition generates levels of anxiety that achieve that his levels are the optimum will be one of the keys to improve the sportive performance in any type of physical activity-sportive. We remember the anxiety is not any type of problemto or disorder, what himself is it is his disequilibrium and the consistent disorder that general.

The anxiety is a system of natural alert of the organism and in any competition will be necessary to keep some good levels of activation to improve the sportive execution. If it does not achieve  this suitable balance, the anxiety can affect to the physiological and cognitive processes of the sporty until deteriorating the execution. That is to say, it loses  the concentration and the optimum sportive tension.

>> Article related: When the anxiety is the solution and no the problem.

When a sportsman finds  in a state of “loss of concentration” presents levels higher of heart rate, dryness in the mouth, pressure in the breast or throat (knot in the throat), tremors and a feeling of inability and clarity of ideas that arrives even to paralyse it.

In function of the type of sportive activity that are made will need some levels of activation or other adapted to the requirements of concentration but what yes seems to be clear is that it is not good neither a high activation neither a high relaxation in the moment of the competition.

In search of the arousal sportive optimum: the sportive activation.

The answer to the optimum levels of activation has it the term arousal. The arousal is a physiological general activation and psychological of the organism, variable along a continuous that goes from the deep dream until the intense excitation (Gould and Krane, 1992)

The function of the arousal is to hold responsible of the taking of ideal energy so that the resources of the sportsman are the most efficient possible, to keep the intensity of the motivation in the balance of the continuous of the arousal. Therefore, the people with levels of arousal low will find  too calm and relaxed what merma, between other things, his capacity of reaction and his reflections. On the other hand, the people with an arousal high will have more ease to keep  activated.

>> Article related: psychological Preparation for the competition: the psychology like part of the sportive planning.

It is used to  use the term arousal indistintivamente to refer us to the anxiety or the stress, but in the sportive field is fundamental to know differentiate them. The anxiety is more related with the emotional state of the person and linked to states of worry and nervousness, that relates  later with the state of activation or arousal of the individual. We could say that the anxiety would be the emotion that active to the organism and that the arousal are the levels in which it keeps  this activation.

The anxiety will influence therefore in three systems of answer that will delimit our arousal:

  • System Engine: the observable behaviour derived: tremors, inappropriate movements, restlessness.
  • Cognitive system: the internal state, the thoughts and worries of the person.
  • Physiological system: I increase cardiac frequency, respiratory tax, conductance of the skin or blood volume. The sobreactivación physiological will involve taquicardias, sleeplessness, sudoración excessive.

How it affects the level of activation to the performance?

As we come saying, in the sportive practice has vital importance find the level of arousal optimum and know as it affects, together with the anxiety, to the sportive performance. During the years, the studious of the sportive psychology developed diverse theories.

Theory of the impulse.

The theory of the impulse or drive, developed by Spence and Spence (1966) indicates that the relation between arousal and sportive performance is linea. That is to say, to measure that increases the state of activation also does it his performance:

Sportive execution (P) = Habit (H) x Impulse (D)

The habit (H) refers  to the hierarchical order or dominancia of the correct answers (tarpaulin) or wrong (failure) of the subject , whereas the impulse (D) has the meaning of the intensity of the behaviour.

This theory is at present little accepted, since the sobreactivación and excessive worries finish for influencing in the final execution.

Theory of the Or invested.

This theory developed by Yerkes and Dodson (1908) proposes that to measure that increases  the arousal (from the somnolencia until the state of alert) increases  of progressive way the efficiency of the sporty in the execution. However, when  soprepasa a true level of activation  to the excitation begins to decrecer the performance. That is to say, it exists an optimum point of execution of the task. Gráficamente,  sucede one Or invested in the relation between execution and arousal.

Article related: Difference between performance in the training and in the competition.

Model of the catastrophe of Hardy.

Improving the previous models is the theory of the catastrophe of Hardy (1990). In this case, the performance and the arousal also relate  in shape of Or invested as in the theory explained previously but only for the cases in which the sportsman is not concerned, or his cognitive levels of emotional anxiety are low. When the state of anxiety is high, arrives a moment in which, just after arriving to his more optimum state any type of extra activation can produce a remarkable descent in the performance of form more drastic that in the previous model. What sucede is that the sportsman detects the possibility of the failure, and this fear does him descend quickly his potential execution. It is what would go through example in the case of a player of football that has to encarar the launching of a penalti. His activation was high but the fear to the failure can do him descend his levels of optimum execution if previously it achieved his state of activation with a been of anxiety elevated.

Therefore, so that the performance was optimum is not sufficient with reaching an ideal level of arousal, needs  control the cognitive state of anxiety.

Theory of the Investment.

In this case, Kerr (1985) matiene that that the way in which the arousal of a sportsman affects to his performance depends on the interpretation that the own sporty does of his particular level of arousal. That is to say, the sportsman has to understand his level of activation or like a pleasant or unpleasant emotion and in function of the moment and context of the sportive practice. Besides, it can be that it vary his interpretation of a moment to another. It is by this, that goes back  important the work of the emotional intelligence to know like these external stimuli affects to the emotions of the person and to the back behaviour derived. The work with technicians of control of the arousal is one of the most important tools to achieve an ideal performance, autocontrolando our levels of activation. These technicians have to train  previously to the competition for afterwards put them in practice so much before, during as after each competitive milestone.

Theory of the Zones of Optimum Operation.

The zones of optimum operation (ZOF), theory developed by Hanin (1986) concludes that the level of activation of a sportsman is an individual question by what each sportsman has his optimum zone of activation. It determines that a sportsman will reach his maximum level of performance when his anxiety precompetitiva was comprised inside a rank of optimum zone of operation (ZOF) quye goes to depend on the personal characteristics of the individual and of the difficulty of the task.

It differentiates  of the model of the Or invested in that the optimum state no always coincides with the half point of the curve, can vary of person in person, each achieves it before or afterwards. And it differs besides, in that the optimum level is not a point but a wide rank, being able to like this even keep during more time the state of full performance.

The trainers or psychologists have to help to that the sportsmen identify cual is his optimum zone of activation to learn to keep it or know when they have to make the executions of the exercises to achieve a greater performance.

A sportsman that learns to manage his activation and understands when it has to and when it does not have to act will be a more efficient sportsman. They exist numerous technicians that will help to the sporty to identify his optimum zone in function of his personal characteristics, physiological and technical to surrender to the maximum. It attends to a sportive psychologist if you need to take autoconsciencia of your level of activation.



Gould, D. & Krane, V. (1992) Thand arousal-athletic performance relationship: current status and future directions. In T. Horn (ed.) Advances in sport psychology. Champaign: HumanKinetics , 119-141.

Hanin, And.L. (1980) To study of anxiety in sports. In W.F. Straub (ed.) Sport psychology: an analysis of athletic behavior. Ithaca: Mouvement Publications, 236-249.

Hardy, L. (1990) To catastrophe model of performance in sport. In J.G. Jones and L. Hardy (eds.) Stress and performance insport . Chichester: Wiley,  81-106

Kerr, J.H. (1985) The experience of arousal: to new basis for studying arousal effects in sport. Journal of Sport Sciences, 169-179.

Yerkes, R.M. & Dodson, J.D. (1908) The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology of Psychology, 459-482


Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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