Human drag racing

October 3, 2013

At the weekend I went to watch some drag racing. The noisy 12,000 horse power ultimate speed vehicles always fill me with awe. And then it hit me. These cars are fast and powerful because they are noisy. Newton or Einstein proved millions of years ago that noise creates power. This is also true in the gym, listen out to the source of the loudest grunting and screaming in your local sweat box and turn your head in that direction you’re sure to see the hugest, most muscular dude around causing that noise-power.

To experiment with this, I did a placebo controlled, double blind experiment. I wanted to test whether sprinting quietly, or whilst screaming at maximum amplitude would cause the best performance. I wrote the two test conditions on slips of identical paper (‘screaming’ and ‘quietly’), then folded them up, shuffled, and selected one at random. This is the ‘double-blind’ part, since I did not know which slip of paper I had received. I opened the slip of paper and read it. I was going to perform the screaming experiment first. I inserted earplugs, then donned an audacious pair of noise isolating ear defenders. This is the ‘placebo controlled’ part of the experiment, since my ear holes would not be able to detect if I was screaming or silent.

I measured out 50 metres and prepared myself at the start line, before lening down, pumping my arms, and accelerating at maximum pace, whilst screaming at maximum intensity. Strings of saliva ringed my mouth as I heaved out air through my warbling vocal chords. I crossed the finish line, and immediately turned round and sprinted back to the start line – the 2nd 50m experiement, this time, with no noise. I silently crossed the finish line.

To my absolute astonishment, the ‘silent’ time, was over 2 seconds slower than the ‘noisy’ time.


The implications for this are immense, and I just cannot wait to try creating more noise in every situation which requires power or strength (mowing the lawn, bodybuilding, washing the car, powerlifting, etc). The next time I can’t hear someone working out in the gym, I’m just gonna laugh at them, really loudly.


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