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Could a Slap Be the Wake Up Call Your Workout Needs?

This physical motivation tactic might be the edge you’ve been looking for.

When self-affirmations and your go-to workout playlist fail, perhaps turning to something more physical will motivate you to squeeze out that last rep. In a recent Instagram post, Nick Mitchell CEO of Ultimate Performance divulges how he ignited Glen Powell to get in shape for his role as Hangman in the hit Top Gun: Maverick. His secret?


When your goal is to build a body that will be immortalized on the big screen, apparently there are no bounds to what motivational tactics you’ll use to get results. “Did I need to push his buttons to make him work hard? No. Was it helpful to push his buttons to take him to another level? Yes,” says Mitchell.

Why Slapping? 

The best workouts require your undivided attention – a concept trainers refer to as mind-to-muscle connection. It means switching auto-pilot off, moving with intention, and concentrating on actively engaging the muscle you’re aiming to use during an exercise.

A friendly body slap might just be the push you need to focus in the moment. “A slap isn’t about hurting someone,” says Mitchell, it’s about waking them up to the sets and reps ahead. Turns out a slap on the back was the edge Powell needed; and, according to Mitchell, he began calling on them in the grittiest moments of his sessions.

Mitchell isn’t the only one using a back-hander to get his clients and gym buddies going. The legendary CT Fletcher has long used slapping as a technique to get fired up. “It’s an adrenaline rush that gets people pumped for whatever task is in front of them,” Fletcher says.

Does Slapping Work? 

“Slapping for motivation can apply in rare instances,” says Tim Liu, CSCS, “sometimes lifters need a little extra boost to get hyped for a heavy single or extremely tough set of squats.”

There’s no doubt a slap will alert your mind, but will it direct your attention to the right place? An old trick for activating a muscle is tactile stimulation, or lightly touching a muscle you want to work. As soon as you lay fingers on your skin, your mind-to-muscle connection fires up. Immediately you become more attentive to that area of your body, your nerve endings become engaged, and your muscles more responsive.

When appropriately aimed, a slap has potential to work the same way. But an oddly placed slap could distract from good form during your workout. The question is, what are you after: a jolt to the system or a quality rep?

Should You Ask For a Slap Next Time You Need Motivation?

Should you try it? “Like most things in fitness, it depends,” says James King III, CSCS, “Someone deadlifting at home may require different motivation tactics than someone who simply wants to move and feel better.”

If you’re not the physical type, leave it. “You’re probably better off drinking a cup of coffee to get you amped,” says Liu. But, if you’ve been looking for that extra push to grind out those last reps, why not give it a try? Your next gym buddy might thank you for it. But maybe ask them first.

At the end of the day, it’s about what puts the grease in your fire. “The important thing is to know what motivation works best for you and seek a coach who provides that coaching style,” King says.