The study of Sport Behavior is the study of topics concerning inter and multi-disciplinary knowledge of neuroscience, biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology as it relates to sports behavior.
Careful analysis of behavior modification, coaching intervention and training/competition mindset will be explored.
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Attentional Focus: External v. Internal
MMC-Mind Muscle Connection
Author: Rose D.
MIND-MUSCLE-CONNECTION (MMC) is a mantra that has been circulating in fitness circles for many years. When we relate MMC to the actual sequence of motor activation it reinforces the mantra. The mind controls motor actions, through a feedback process between the brain and receptors through biochemical pathways. Therefore, thoughts are then transported into movement. MMC also has some cross sections with Attentional Focus which describes psychological aspects of training and performance.
Attentional Focus is the process in which mental resources such as cues and stimuli, can be interpreted internally or externally and expressed broadly or narrowly.  MMC has largely been studied as an internal focus and narrowly, it is the effects of conscious thought, while focusing on the performance of one body part, at a time.
Muscle grows through the process of continual contraction. Contraction is controlled through the release of Acetylcholine (a chemical neurotransmitter) in the neuromuscular junction. Biochemicals activate synapses, in the muscle spindle, that causes contractions.
The recruitment of several muscle fibers over time leads to more contractions leading to muscle growth. Descriptions surrounding MMC rarely delve into the biological-neurological connections that make movement possible. In addition, the bio-
neuro connection that MMC is closely related to is training periodization. Periodization of training offers the brain, different stimuli & instructions, which alter strength and fitness adaptations.
Periodization can be achieved through pyramid schemes, changing a routine (more reps, low weight, or volume training with heavyweights), or doing a routine for a set period (9 weeks, 12 weeks intervals). Therefore, to battle training-related adaptations and plateaus, there appears to be a strong correlation between the power of thoughts during training and training progress.
Though much of the research surrounding MMC have been small cohort studies, they have yielded some compelling data. However, they are small and have significant limitations, which should not go unrecognized, one being self-reporting thought during tested activity. A factor that can be wrought with inconsistencies and introduces bias.
Data on muscle activity obtained from studies around MMC are measured through Surface Electromyography (sEMG). Surface Electromyography is a non-invasive and computer-based technique that utilizes electrical impulses from strategically placed electrodes on the surface of the skin. It records electrical activity of nerve impulses, transmitted by motor neurons from the spinal cord, that attach to skeletal and smooth muscles. A sEMG records impulses from muscles at rest (static) and during activity (dynamic).
Researchers found through a systematic review of literature, that focusing on intended movements, an external focus, produces superior learning and performance outcomes. Rather than, internal focus, an awareness and consciousness of movement.
However, this is especially true for sports specific training while internal focus, such as MMC, provide superior results on muscle growth, strength and joint health concerning weightlifting/ bodybuilding training. Research found that EMG activity was greatest for internal focus at a set tempo and load. While EMG activity for external focus was low.
Discrepancies arising from low EMG readings during weight training varied between weight movements and experience,
experienced lifters tended to exhibit a mixture of internal and external focus. Instinctual or habitual lifting may result in low EMG activity while weightlifting.
Therefore, according to recent literature, MMC is best suited for developing muscle growth, strength gains, and improved joint health, through internal focus as the mantra presents. Whereas, attentional focus that is externally focused, is best suited for sports/team training practices and sports competition.
 Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M.D. et al. (2016). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive
resistance training. European Journal Applied Physiology,116: 527–533.
 Neumann, David L. (2019). A Systematic Review of Attentional Focus Strategies in Weightlifting. Frontiers in Sports
and Active Living Journal, 1 (7): 1-14.