Personality Concepts And Behaviors In Weight Lifting

By Rowney Martinez

The first things I notice when I walk into a weight room are the massive amounts of weights available. I wonder how these weights will sculpt my body into a muscular Greek god. As I look around the room, I observe people with different body structures: either endomorphic, mesomorphic, or ectomorphic (Sheldon in Mischel, 1993, 144). I notice the expressions on their faces when they are weight lifting and their behaviors towards one another. I begin to realize that they are not only displaying their bodies, but they are also displaying parts of their personalities through their behavior. Some of these personality traits include motivation, aggression, and prosocial behavior. Thus, the weight room is not only a place to build a personÍs body. It is also a place to develop and display peopleÍs personality in a social environment.


Maslow (1970, 35) states in his theory of motivation, that there are basic hierarchy needs that humans must satisfy for gratification. For example, he mentions that there are physiological needs such as hunger and thirst and external emotional needs like self-esteem and self-actualization. In relation to weight lifting, I would say that there is one basic need that everyone shares. It is to build a stronger muscular body. This need satisfies both the physiological and emotional needs that Maslow suggested. It takes into consideration the nutritional aspects of body building and the emotional aspects of satisfying personal goals.

The intensity of a personÍs behavior to satisfy a need determines their degree of satisfaction (Carver & Scheier, 1988, 102). In other word, satisfying a need depends upon the personÍs willingness to accomplish the intended goal. For example, on some days I feel less motivated to work out. Therefore, my performance will not be at optimum level. For this reason, I may only achieve a certain amount of the goal for which I am trying to accomplish. Because of this, I may experience feelings such a inadequacy and failure. Having these negative feelings about myself affects my cognitions. I start to think that I will never reach my goal or I will never satisfy my needs. These types of negative attitudes affect my self-concept and lowers my self-esteem. On other days, I am extremely motivated which can be seen through the intensity of my work out. I feel a sense of gratification and accomplishment during this type of work out. These feelings also affect my cognitions. I start thinking of ways to further enhance my competence and persistency of the rewarding feeling that I receive. Thus, motivation starts from the affect and creates the cognitionÍs which in turn produces the behavior (Dr.James, personal communication, June 17, 1994).

Unattained Goals

Through my years of experience, certain things happen to a person when they fall short from their ideal goals. Their feelings and thoughts about themselves will be affected because they set their goals too high (Wolf, 1992, p. 67). Wolf stated that this type of goal setting may stop that person from reaching success. This could add unnecessary pressure for that person to complete the task. For example, my friend had set a goal for himself to lift a certain amount of weight for a particular exercise; which was the bench press. He allowed himself a week to satisfy his goal. During the first two days, he was extremely motivated, but by the fourth day it was clear that his progress was moving slowly. Apparently, he hesitantly admitted that the goal was too high for him. In turn, he became less motivated and stated that he was beginning to feel frustrated. By the sixth day, he gave up on his goal because he realized that he was too far from it. I tried to explain to him that he had made some improvements, but he would not believe my words of encouragement. His main concern was to reach his goal with disregard to the small improvements he was making. Because he was unsuccessful, I noticed that his character had changed from being highly motivated and confident to being unsure about himself and frustrated. Through this example, it can be learned that setting goals too high, can change a personÍs self-confidence and lessen motivation.

Need To Achieve

The need to achieve is a part of motivation that people are concerned with (Carver & Scheier, 1988, 107). Using related studies, Carver and Sheier explained that there are two groups of people; low achievers and high achievers. Low achievers tend to choose goals that are fairly intermediate. This is the reason why some people fall short of their goals while others attain them. My friend that was previously mentioned, never reached his gaols because of its' high difficulty for him. I would classify him as a low achiever because he consistently set goals that are too difficult and unrealistic for his capabilities. On the other hand, I would classify myself as a high achiever. In relation to weight lifting, I have set realistic goals for myself; most of which I have achieved. One example of a goal I had achieved, involved my weight. I wanted to gain ten pounds of muscle within a year. Faithfully, I went to the weight room with one purpose in mind; to gain muscle. After three months, I had gained the muscle mass that I had strived for. Accomplishing this type of goal makes me feel more confident and satisfied. Thus, I credit my achievement to the realistic goals that I had set for myself. Because of my own success, I have assumed people who set realistic goals usually become successful.

Staying Motivated

In order to stay motivated in weight lifting, a person has to set new goals each time he satisfies an old one (Gaspari, 1992, p. 65). Gaspari stated that when a goal is satisfied, a person becomes content. This contentment can make a person becomes less motivated to work out. It can even influence a person to stop going to the weight room. To alleviate this type of problem, a person must think of new goals to accomplish. Other methods to help a person stay motivated are external environments. These include other people. Gaspari said that having an enthusiastic training partner helps you stay motivated. You begin to feel more like the other person.

I have trained with many people that have different personalities. Some people were always enthusiastic and others were less enthusiastic when working out. Training with enthusiastic partners made me feel motivated because I adopt their character and I receive more encouragement from them. These people seem to be more outgoing and more sociable. This type of person certainly helps me achieve my goals. On the other hand, when I work out with less enthusiastic people, I feel less motivated due to the type of character I adopt from them. Through my experience and observation, these people are boring and unhelpful to my needs. Thus, setting new goals and having a training partner with a positive attitude can help a person become and stay motivated.

Factors Of Aggression

Through observation, some weight lifters show signs of aggressive behaviors. Slamming weights on the floor and swearing to oneself are evidences to link weight lifting with aggression. This is occasionally seen in the weight room that I go to. I often wonder what causes this type of behavior within a person. The answer may lie within the body builder himself. Literature suggests that aggressive behaviors are caused by states of arousal (Geen & Donnerstein, 1983, 96). These states of arousal are acted upon by other factors causing aggressive behavior. For example, frustration and stress are factors that may arouse a weight lifter to become more aggressive; manifesting itself through his behavior. Other times it can be the external environment. During some days in the weight room, the atmosphere can be high in aggression. This can be seen through other people's behavior such as cussing, slamming of weights, and other aggressive behaviors. Behaviors such as these can influence other people when they walk into the weight room. Because of this, the environment is part of the reason why people are influenced to behave a certain way (Taylor, Peplau & Sears, 1994, 207). Taylor explains that conformity is a way of influencing a person's behavior.

A behavior of an individual can be stimulated by cognition that is considered external (Atkinson, 1990, 408). Before attempting to lift a weight, I sometimes think certain thoughts to make myself become aggressive. These certain thoughts become the links for my desire to become aggressive in the affective realm. It takes a while before my thoughts become linked with my emotions. Dr. James (personal communication, June 17, 1994) states that thoughts occasion feelings. In body building, this method is called "psyching up" (Kubistant, 1988, 151). It involves thinking certain thoughts that will affect internal drives to accomplish a task. I use aggression as a source for "psyching up" and accomplishing the task at hand.

Before "maxing out" on the bench press exercise, I sit on the bench and close my eyes to focus on the darkness to clear my mind. When I feel ready, I begin letting images of aggression enter my mind. By this time, I am in a fantasy world and the weights become my enemy that hinders me from satisfaction and gratification. These thoughts immediately affect my emotion such as my desire to become angry. With my eyes still closed, I slowly lay down on the bench. When I feel the time is right, I open my eyes and I firmly grip the bar with both hands. Then, I start swearing and cussing at the weight. At this particular moment, I am at a highly aggressive state where my main focus is lifting the weight. After lifting the weight, whether successful of unsuccessful, this aggressive attitude is still with me and begins to gad away only when I counteract this feeling with pleasurable thoughts. This is an example of how I change my personality to become more aggressive. Through my observations, most weight lifters show the same techniques such as the eye closing and deep concentration. However, their thoughts and feelings may not be the same.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

Frustration-aggression hypothesis may be another reason for weight lifters' aggressiveness. This hypothesis states that people tend to get angry because of frustrating situations (Taylor, 1994, 2). By talking to weight lifters, I have found that the majority of frustrations take place outside of the weight room. These frustrations concern the economy, family, and relationship problems. For example, heated arguments with my significant other cause me to head straight towards the weight room to release my frustrations. I realize that I am able to lift more weights than usual when I am angry. Sometimes I do not realize the type of behavior I am portraying until after the work out or when someone points it out to me. After the work out, my aggressive behavior served the function of reducing arousal built up through the experience of frustration (Geen & Donnerstein, 1983, 141).

Defining Prosocial Behavior

I often see weight lifters help each other in times of great difficulty usually when it involves lifting heavy weights. For example, I observed someone who was working out on the bench press struggle to push the weights back onto the rack. He was in a dangerous position because he was fatigued and the weights were about to pin him. Because of this, certain weight lifters came to his aid to save him from any injury that may occur. In turn, the weight lifters did not get any external rewards for their actions. This type of helpfulness is termed prosocial behavior in psychology. Why do some people behave this way? Rosenhan describes prosocial behavior as "acts of helpfulness, charitability, self-sacrifice, and courage in which the possibility for reward is presumed to be minimal or nonexistent" (cited in Wispe, 1978, 103). He states that there are three variables that make people behave this way: affect, self-reinforcement, and cognition. Only affect and self-reinforcements apply heavily to weight lifting. The third, cognition, is integrated in both aspects.

Empathy In Weight Lifting

One variable that is affective is empathy. Rosenhan mentioned that people usually help other people for external rewards. But, he explains that forging any external rewards to help another person requires strong feelings of sympathy for that person. In relation to weight lifting, weight lifters help other in need because they can related to the helplessness of being in a dangerous position while lifting weights. Basically, the reward other weight lifters get for helping another person is positive effect. Thus, their joyful experience of helping another person facilitates future prosocial behavior. My friend is a person who occasionally displays prosocial behavior regardless of the mood he is in. I asked him why he keeps helping other people and he said that it makes him feel better about himself. He also stated that it is the normal thing to do. For this reason, his feeling good about himself is a positive effect.


Self-reinforcement is another reason why certain weight lifters display prosocial behavior. Rosenhan suggests that there are standards of overt behavior that hold true for most people such as helpfulness. These standards of behavior are learned by imitating other people. Thus, weight lifters who initiate in prosocial behavior know that helping other people is good because other people have done the same thing in the past. This can be described as another positive effec

Years of Experience

Through my own observations and years of experience of weight lifting, I have categorized two types of people in the weight room. The two categories are the tryer and the doer. I would say that the success of a person depends on what type of person he is. In addition to a low achiever, I would label my weight lifting partner as a tryer. He sets goals too high for himself. Sometimes he can be so enthusiastic to try a difficult goal and later become so doubtful about his capabilities. I would have to say that tryers are people who limit themselves because they do not have the right frame of mind to succeed. They let negative thoughts like being doubtful stop their progress to become whatever they want to be. They always say negative remarks such a "I can't do it" or "it's too heavy". This could lead someone to feel down about themselves because of their negative attitudes. Just recently, I had heard a beginning weight lifter make an excuse about how heavy the weights look and the fact that he would try to lift the weights. Thus, I categorized him as a tryer because he made negative excuses and he said the word "try". With this type of attitude, this person may never get anywhere. He might not even accomplish anything. Thus, a character of a tryer would be a person that makes excuses, who thinks negatively, and is unrealistic.

The other category is the doer. This is the category that I would place myself in. It is not my intention to brag about myself, but I seem to always set realistic goals for weight lifting. I organize my workouts very carefully to reach those goals intended. This helps me to become more concentrated in working out. Everything I do in my work out is aimed at my specific goal. I apply all the energy that I have into lifting weights. even it it takes becoming aggressive like shouting or cussing. This is the way I "psych up" myself to perform a task. So, if I fall a little short in my success, I don't feel down because I know I gave it my best shot and there is always room for improvement. i would describe the characteristics of doers as focused, determined, realistic, and positive. In short, doers just do it to succeed, and tryers keep trying to fail.


In reiteration, weight lifters display more than their bodies when weight lifting, they also display their personalities. Motivation, aggression, and prosocial behavior are just three of the number of personality traits that individuals display. These are the most common three characteristics that I have seen through the years of weight lifting. Using these three traits, many thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected in a weight lifter. These thoughts, feelings, and behaviors determine the degree of success that is accomplished. Thus, success in weight lifting is determined by the type of positive or negative characteristics people display. For this reason, weight lifting can shape someone's character according to the type of personality trait involved.

Finding A Topic

If you are given a chance to choose your topics then do so because it is more advantageous for you. Other classmates will unlikely be reporting on the same topic. Therefore, there shouldn't be any problems find resources. Also, make sure the topic you choose is relevant to the major requirement. In my case, my topic was on weight lifting and personality. I had problems finding the relationship between weight lifting and personality. This type of problem can slow you down which can have consequences. One major consequence is the unwanted stress it can add. Therefore, it is wise to choose a topic that relates to the requirements. Otherwise, stick with the topics that are assigned to you.

Getting Resources

Having a computer at home is very advantageous, especially if it has a modem. I used my computer modem at home to search for resources on my topic. First, I called the Hawaii State Library System (839-2020) and types in D2 for the magazine articles. Then, I typed the subject "weight lifting" but it was not in the data base. My next option was to type "body building" and there were about forty-three headings under it. I was amazed at the amount of information that I could choose from. But, I found only nine magazine articles that I thought was going to deal with my subject about weight lifting and personality. I wrote the call numbers down for all nine magazines. Next, I types D1 to go into the book section. For subject heading, I type "weight lifting". I found two books that I thought dealt with weight lifting and personality and I took the call numbers down.

Next, I called the UhCarl system (946-5080) from my home computer using my modem. I choose number one for the Library catalog system. I typed in the subject personality and I found hundreds of books under personality. To narrow the subjects down, I typed in the word "aggression". I recorded five books that I thought were going to be pertinent to my subject. Then, I started over and I typed in "prosocial behavior". I recorded five books under that particular heading. Lastly, I typed in "motivation", and under this heading I recorded four books that seemed useful.


After recording all my resources on a paper, I traveled first to the Waipahu state library. From the nine magazines that I requested, the librarians found four that were available. I borrowed those magazines that were available. The librarians advised me to go to the Pearl City library to try and find the other five magazines that I wanted. They stated that the facilities there were much larger, therefore, I has a better chance in finding the articles. When I reached the Pearl City state library, I requested the magazines. The librarian state that it was going to take a while for them to locate the magazines, so I looked for the two books that I had recorded on paper. I found them, and I put one of the books back because it did not seem to fit my subject. It dealt more with exercise training. When I went back to the check out desk, the librarian told me that she could only find two. I took the time to look through the book and magazine and I decided to borrow all of them.

At UH it was much easier. All the books that I had recorded at home were all there. I was lucky to have them all located on the second floor, which made things easier and faster. While trying to find the books, I came across other books that were interesting and related to my topic. Thus, finding books at the UH Hamilton library was not very difficult compared to the state libraries.

Author's Comments

The one major advice that I can give to a person is to do your best. If you are like me who has never done a report of this magnitude, then start praying or drop the class before you even start. Because once you start, there's no turning back.

From this report, I have learned a lot about my lack of capabilities in writing. I learned that I have a difficult time putting my thoughts on paper and organizing it logically. Thus, if you are now in the same situation that I'm in, force yourself to get some help because it's going to be difficult to catch up. I plan to help myself by reading old high school grammar books and other writing aids. It may not be enough to catch up, but it's a start. To help me in writing this research paper, I borrowed writing books form the Hamilton library. In particular, one book that I recommend is called "Writing With Style" by John R. Trimble. The call number is PE 1408 T69. This book helped me a lot with styles of writing and other technical aspects concerning writing. Also, it's not a boring book like other writing aids.

I would like to let everyone know that this report was a pain in the butt for me. I had to make big sacrifices like not going out with the boys and not being with my significant other. So be ready to make huge sacrifices.

On the other hand, there were some positive things that I have learned from doing this research. I learned that like weight lifting, I have a desire to succeed. Although faced with big sacrifices, I wondered to myself how all this hard work will pay off at the end.

Academically, I learned how to write in the APA format. This is the first paper that I have written in this style. My past papers were written in the MLA style that is almost the same, but it has differences. I even bought the APA Publishing manual that was a big help with my research. Since this is only my second psychology class that I have ever taken, this is a good start for me. It gives me a perspective on the type of papers that I will be writing in future psychology classes. After completing this research paper, I feel I will be more confident in writing other research papers of this magnitude. To be honest, I am almost liking it. It is the feeling at the end of writing a report that I enjoy; the feeling of gratification and accomplishment. Thus, all was not as pessimistic as it seems for me. I actually did gain a lot from this research paper.

Another common sense piece of advice is to start your paper early, the sooner the better. It will relieve the unnecessary stress that will build up. From my experience, starting your paper early involves organizing your time for research, studying class material, and writing the actual paper. It is also important to pace yourself. To do this, you could set little goals for yourself at the end of each week that you will have to accomplish not matter what comes up. These goals could be things like reading two chapters for your class and writing the outline of your paper by the end of a week. Goals such as these can help you succeed because you have a purpose and you are organized. If you fall behind, then you would have to double up the work with goals that you didn't finish. This is the type of unnecessary stress that I had mentioned before.

In reiteration, do your best and strive to succeed. Think positive thoughts when you begin doing your research paper and don't get stressed out. Stressing out can really jam you up and slow you down. It can even give you a headache. Manage your time wisely so that there is an equal distribution of work for your class studies and your research paper. If you manage everything correctly, you shouldn't be adding unnecessary pressure to yourself. But, if you find yourself lagging behind your goals, then evaluate what you are doing wrong and quickly catch up. After you are done with your research paper, reward yourself by patting yourself on the back and head for the beach to relax. You most certainly deserve it!

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