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External and Internal Focus of Attention Increases Muscular Activation During Bench Press in Resistance-Trained Participants

Kristiansen, Mathias1; Samani, Afshin1; Vuillerme, Nicolas1,2,3; Madeleine, Pascal1; Hansen, Ernst Albin1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: September 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 9 - p 2442–2451
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002613
Original Research

Kristiansen, M, Samani, A, Vuillerme, N, Madeleine, P, and Hansen, EA. External and internal focus of attention increases muscular activation during bench press in resistance-trained participants. J Strength Cond Res 32(9): 2442–2451, 2018—Research on the effects of instructed attentional focus during execution of strength training exercises is limited and has thus far only been performed on single-joint exercises. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of instructed internal (INT) and external (EXT) focus of attention with a baseline measurement of no instructed focus of attention (BASE) on the surface electromyographic (EMG) amplitude during a free-weight bench press exercise in resistance-trained participants. Twenty-one resistance-trained male participants performed bench press at 60% of their 3-repetition maximum, with BASE, EXT, and INT. The order of EXT and INT was randomized and counterbalanced. Electromyographic data were recorded from 13 muscles of the upper and lower body. Subsequently, mean and peak EMG amplitudes were computed. EXT and INT resulted in significantly increased mean EMG amplitude of 6 upper-body muscles as compared with BASE (p ≤ 0.05). In addition, EXT and INT also resulted in increased peak EMG amplitude of 3 upper-body muscles as compared with BASE (p ≤ 0.05). These results show that muscular activation is increased during bench press, when applying an instructed focus of attention compared with a baseline measurement with no focus instructions (BASE).

1Department of Health Science and Technology, Physical Activity and Human Performance Group, SMI, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark;

2University of Grenoble Alpes, AGEIS, Grenoble, France; and

3University Institute of France, Paris, France

Address correspondence to Dr. Mathias Kristiansen,

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.