The purpose of this study was to investigate whether using different focus affects electromyographic (EMG) amplitude and contraction duration during bench press performed at explosive and controlled speeds. Eighteen young male individuals were familiarized with the procedure and performed the one-maximum repetition (1RM) test in the first session. In the second session, participants performed the bench press exercise at 50% of the 1RM with 3 different attentional focuses (regular focus on moving the load vs contracting the pectoralis vs contracting the triceps) at 2 speed conditions (controlled vs maximal speed). During the controlled speed condition, focusing on using either the pectoralis or the triceps muscles increased pectoralis normalized EMG (nEMG) by 6% (95% CI 3-8%; p = 0.0001) and 4% nEMG (95% CI 1-7%; p = 0.0096), respectively, compared with the regular focus condition. Triceps activity was increased by 4% nEMG (95% CI 0-7%; p = 0.0308) at the controlled speed condition during the triceps focus. During the explosive speed condition, the use of different focuses had no effect. The different attentional focus resulted in comparable contraction duration for the measured muscles when the exercise was performed explosively. Using internal focus to increase EMG amplitude seems to function only during conditions of controlled speed.
Keywords: EMG; Instruction; internal focus; power; strength.