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Does Focus of Attention Influence Performance Outcomes?


A popular assumption regarding fitness exercises is that focusing your attention on the working muscles enhances contractility, force production and functional capacity.  In simpler terms, when you concentrate on the muscles that you are strengthening, you will improve the outcome of the exercise. But how true is this claim? Can simply focusing on an internal point improve exercise outcomes?

Actually, the opposite is true.  Focusing attention internally, to the working muscles, inhibits function.  Researchers call this “constrained action,” whereby the internal focus results in too much conflicting muscle activity, resulting in inefficient movement and reduced force application.

Does Focus of Attention Influence Performance Outcomes

Research has demonstrated that concentrating on an external point of focus improves coordination, increases joint velocity, and enhances functional capabilities, such as jumping and other complex movements.

So, whether your interests are simple strength gains or athletic skills, focusing on external objects, such as a point on the ground or a point in space towards which to move, will produce better results than thinking about the contracting muscles.

To learn more about focus of attention, read the full article at the CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science.

Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science 

Dr. Juris earned his Doctorate in Motor Learning from Columbia University in 1993, followed by a variety of positions in higher education, rehabilitative medicine, professional sports, and fitness. Paul Juris, Ed.D. was named Executive Director of the CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science in January of 2007.