The Effects of Attentional Focusing Instructions on Force Production During the Isometric Midthigh Pull

J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Apr;30(4):919-23. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001194.


Verbal instructions play a key role in motor learning and performance. Whereas directing one's attention toward bodily movements or muscles (internal focus) tends to hinder performance, instructing persons to focus on the movement outcome, or an external object related to the performed task (external focus) enhances performance. The study's purpose was to examine whether focus of attention affects maximal force production during an isometric midthigh pull (IMTP) among 18 trained athletes (8F & 10M). Athletes performed 3 IMTP trials a day for 3 consecutive days. The first day was a familiarization session in which athlete's received only control instructions. The following 2 days athletes received either control, internal, or external focus of attention instructions in a randomized, within-subject design. Compared to performance with an internal focus of attention, athletes applied 9% greater force when using an external focus of attention (p < 0.001, effect size [ES] = 0.33) and 5% greater force with control instructions (p = 0.001, ES = 0.28). A small positive 3% advantage was observed between performances with an external focus of attention compared with control instructions (p = 0.03, ES = 0.13). Focusing internally on body parts and/or muscle groups during a movement task that requires maximal force hinders performance, whereas focusing on an object external to the self leads to enhanced force production, even when using a simple multijoint static task such as the IMTP.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Random Allocation
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult