EMG activity as a function of the performer's focus of attention

J Mot Behav. 2004 Dec;36(4):450-9. doi: 10.3200/JMBR.36.4.450-459.


In previous studies of attentional focus effects, investigators have measured performance outcome. Here, however, the authors used electromyography (EMG) to determine whether difference between external and internal foci would also be manifested at the neuromuscular level. In 2 experiments, participants (N=11, Experiment 1; N=12, Experiment 2) performed biceps curls while focusing on the movements of the curl bar (external focus) or on their arms (internal focus). In Experiment 1, movements were performed faster under external than under internal focus conditions. Also, integrated EMG (iEMG) activity was reduced when performers adopted an external focus. In Experiment 2, movement time was controlled through the use of a metronome, and iEMG activity was again reduced under external focus conditions. Those findings are in line with the constrained action hypothesis (G. Wulf, N. McNevin, & C. H. Shea, 2001), according to which an external focus promotes the use of more automatic control processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*