External Versus Internal Focus Improves Athletic Performance

Joshua Wortman
Bodybuilding, Supplements, Nutrition, Strength Training

As an athlete or coach, you may be torn between internal and external focus during performance - focusing on the body's movements versus focusing on the desired outcome. A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, focused on standing long jump, examined the performance differences when athletes were directed to focus internally and externally. There has been limited research that shows increasing the distance of an external focus relative to the body increases the effect of an external focus of attention. In addition, previous studies have shown that directing attention externally rather than internally can improve jumping ability. The intention of the recent study was to investigate the effect of increasing the distance of an external focus of attention on standing long jump performance.1


long jump, standing long jump, external focus, internal focus, coachingThere were 35 active male college students who were recruited to participate in the research. A total of three experimental conditions were examined in this study. The first condition was a control condition in which the participants performed the standing long jump and were not given instructions on a specific focus of attention. The subjects of the control condition were allowed to choose their focus of attention. The other two conditions were provided with verbal instruction that either instructed subjects to use an external focus of attention that was near the body (EXN), or a focus that was further from the body (EXF). The instructions were read aloud to the participants prior to each jump.2


A large black rubber composite floor mat was used to assess the distance jumped by each subject, and after each jump, the distance was measured from the start line to the back of the heel nearest to the start line. The distance of the jumps were recorded to the nearest half-inch in a computer spreadsheet and used for later analysis. Each participant completed a 5-minute warm-up before completing 2 jumps in each of the 3 experimental conditions, with 1 minute rest periods between jumps.3


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