Mental Fatigue: The Cost of Cognitive Loading on Weight Lifting, Resistance Training, and Cycling Performance

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Walter Staiano Department of Physical Education and Sport, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Department of Psychology, Biological and Cognitive Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

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Lluis Raimon Salazar Bonet International University SEK, Quito, Ecuador

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Marco Romagnoli Department of Physical Education and Sport, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

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Christopher Ring School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

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Purpose: Mental fatigue (MF) can impair physical performance in sport. We tested the hypothesis that cognitive load alone, and intermixed with standard resistance training, would induce MF, increase rating of perceived exertion (RPE), alter perception of weight lifting and training, and impair cycling time-trial performance. Methods: This 2-part study employed a within-participant design. In part 1, after establishing leg-extension 1-repetition maximum (1RM), 16 participants lifted and briefly held weights at 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% of 1RM. RPE and electromyography (EMG) were measured for each lift. During the testing sessions, participants completed cognitive tasks (MF condition) or watched neutral videos (control condition) for 90 minutes before lifting the weights. In part 2, they completed submaximal resistance training comprising 6 weight training exercises followed by a 20-minute cycling time trial. In the MF condition, they completed cognitive tasks before and between weight training exercises. In the control condition, they watched neutral videos. Mood (Brunel Mood Scale), workload (National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index), MF-visual analogue scale (MF-VAS), RPE, psychomotor vigilance, distance cycled, power output, heart rate, and blood lactate were measured. Results: In part 1, the cognitive task increased lift-induced RPE (P = .011), increased MF-VAS (P = .002), and altered mood (P < .001) compared with control. EMG did not differ between conditions. In part 2, the cognitive tasks increased RPE (P < .001), MF-VAS (P < .001), and mental workload (P < .001), but reduced cycling time-trial power (P = .032) and distance (P = .023) compared with control. Heart rate and blood lactate did not differ between conditions. Conclusion: A state of MF induced by cognitive load, alone or intermixed with physical load, increased RPE during weight lifting and training and impaired subsequent cycling performance.

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