Authors of a brand-new research study published in the European Journal of Sport Science sought to determine where we should be placing our focus during an intense set of resistance training. They designed a study in which one group of trainees adopted an INTERNAL focus, meaning they focused on contracting and “feeling” the working muscle, while another group adopted an EXTERNAL focus, meaning they focused on moving the weight from point A to point B and “completing the rep.”
Over 8 weeks of training, the INTERNAL focused group experienced significantly more muscle mass growth (measured in the biceps with ultrasound) compared to the EXTERNAL group. Interestingly, an INTERNAL focus had less of a benefit on lower body muscle growth in this particular study (the authors hypothesized that perhaps the trainees weren’t as adept at focusing on the correct leg musculature being used).
They concluded, “Our findings indicate that an internal focus of attention is superior to an external focus of attention when the goal is to maximize hypertrophy of the elbow flexors (biceps).” How can you apply this? In your next workout, focus less on “completing the rep” and focus instead on the muscles you are using; consciously think about contracting or “squeezing” the targeted muscles. This new research has informed all of us as trainers that it is increasingly important for us to remind the trainee which muscle is being worked and that mental energy should be channeled toward this muscle.