Every teenage pro wrestling fan absolutely must emulate their favorite wrestlers whenever an occasion allows for it. As a high school swimmer, this meant that I’d finish sets of 30 body-weight dips and tear off my shirt like Hulk Hogan, strut along the pool deck and “Woo!” like Ric Flair or constantly lay along the lane lines after brutal practice races and point my fingers like Randy Savage. However, one of the dumbest mid-workout antics I ever aped from a pro wrestler was to slap myself in the face, smack dumbbells off my chest and refer to myself as the “Blue Jay Wrecking Machine” out of respect to “The Human Wrecking Machine” Zeus.
Yes, I know I had issues. I probably still do.
To that end, I’ve carried the occasional weight-room face slap into adulthood. Typically, the slaps have been administered to jolt me out of lethargy, or occasionally from the outright drowsiness induced by sleep deprivation. But despite my acts of self-flagellation, none of them ever seemed to shake me from my situational doldrums or produce the adrenaline surge I desired.
So were those face slaps providing me with any relevant workout benefits, or was I wasting valuable training energy with each worthless slap?
Yes! Will slapping myself in the face enable me to “Hulk Up” in the weight room?
Let’s start by asking whether or not a slap is a good tool for awakening a sleeping person. Obviously, if the slap is disturbing a person who has fallen dead asleep, it’s a surefire way to startle them out of their slumber. However, medical researchers have identified slapping yourself in the face as a poor way to prevent yourself from falling asleep, specifically while driving, because the physical pain doesn’t trigger the part of the brain that needs to be sparked into alertness to eliminate the actual fatigue. Basically, there is nothing about a self-imposed slap that’s going to trigger the hypothalamus to halt the process that’s coaxing you off to bed.
Okay, but I’m not sleepy! I’m just trying to psych myself up!
Well, if you want it to work, it’s going to require one of your associates to ask you a surprise question: “What did the five fingers say to the face?”
If you want a slap to result in measurable improvement to your workout routine, it’s going to need to trigger some adrenaline in response to the presence of what you perceive to be a legitimate threat. The only way that’s gonna happen is if the slap causes anger, and invites a fight-or-flight response from your body. Fortunately for you — but unfortunately in this situation — it’s very challenging to evoke adrenaline-producing anger from a self-induced slap that you knew was inbound. You may very well be disciplined enough to provoke some real pain, but it won’t have any adrenaline radiating beneath it.
Now, if you can productively channel your very real post-slap rage over to your shoulder raises, you might be in business, because a University of Tokyo study linked surges in adrenaline to average strength-level increases of around 10 percent. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But in reality, most impromptu, uninvited slaps — even among friends — are far more likely to result in the sort of weight-room retaliation that even James Bond would consider excessive.
So is the slapping of zero benefit to me?
In the weight room? Probably. However, not all is lost. Apparently slapping your face can have incredible benefits with respect to the health of your skin. So while your show of excessive slapping may not be contributing anything of true value to your psych-up routine, it may be intimidating any onlookers, for whatever that’s worth to you, and also increasing blood flow to your face.
In other words, slapping yourself won’t help your body get swole, but your face? That’s a different story.