ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Coaching instructions and cues are methods of verbal communication that can be used specifically by strength and conditioning and sport coaches to focus an athletes’ attention for enhanced sport performance. Specifically, there is evidence to support that providing athletes external or neutral attentional focus instruction and cues can enhance sprinting speed. The purpose of this article is to translate the findings from the literature regarding the benefits and effects of coaching instructions and cues on sprint performance and to provide general recommendations for enhancing athlete sprint capabilities through the administration of appropriate verbal communications.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Coaching Instructions and
Cues for Enhancing Sprint
Adam Benz, MKin, CSCS,
Nick Winkelman, MSc, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D,
Jared Porter, PhD,
and Sophia Nimphius, PhD, CSCS*D
Centre for Exercise and Sport Science, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia;
Rocky Mountain
University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah;
EXOS, Phoenix, Arizona; and
Department of Kinesiology, Southern
Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
Strength and conditioning is a pro-
fession that largely depends on
communication between a coach
and an athlete. Verbal instructions, cues,
and feedback are essential to the
coaching process to communicate
appropriate information for enhanced
performance. Within the realm of
coach-athlete communication, verbal
instructions, cues, and feedback are the
3 main types of performance-related
communication a coach will use during
practice or competition. Although
many coaches and researchers use these
terms interchangeably, there are distinct
differences between them. The opera-
tional definition of verbal instructions
for this article is medium-to-long task-
oriented phrases, generally 3 or more
words in length, verbally administered
to an individual before the performance
of a motor skill. Verbal cues are short
task-oriented phrases, generally 1 or
2 words in length (22), verbally admin-
istered to an individual before or during
the performance of a motor skill. Most
verbal cues are verbs, for example
“push,” “explode,” and “drive,” and can
be used by an athlete as a mantra to
focus on and/or repeat during the per-
formance of a motor skill. Finally, aug-
mented verbal feedback is task-relevant
information provided during or after
(17) the performance of a motor skill
by an external source (e.g., coach, video
replay) and is supplemental to the nat-
urally available feedback that is available
through the athlete’s senses (i.e., audi-
tory, tactile, and visual). Collectively,
verbal instructions, cues, and feedback
provide a framework for coach commu-
nication before, during, and after the
performance of motor skills.
Despite the role coach communication
has on motor skill development, it is
still common to hear coaching called
as “an art opposed to a science.” How-
ever, emerging research in the area of
motor behavior has provided insights
that clarify the scientific underpinnings
of effective coach communication.
Based on the available findings, this
article will focus on the influence of
verbal instructions and cues on the per-
formance of motor skills. Specifically,
linear sprinting will be emphasized, as
it represents one of the most important
motor skills in sport. Moreover, being
able to sprint faster and more efficiently
puts an individual at a considerable
competitive advantage (55).
There has been a recent increase in
motor behavior publications within
strength and conditioning research
journals (5,46,47,49,67). The primary
emphasis of this research has been to
examine the effects of attentional focus
on explosive power-based tasks (e.g.,
sprinting, jumping). From a coaching
perspective, instructions and cues facil-
itate an attentional focus. For the pur-
poses of this article, attentional focus is
coaching; instructions; cues; feedback;
attentional focus; sprinting
Copyright !National Strength and Conditioning Association Strength and Conditioning Journal | 1
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
defined by the conscious ability of an
individual to focus their attention
through explicit thoughts in an effort
to execute a task. An athlete’s atten-
tional focus can be directed internally
on their body movements (i.e., move-
ment process), externally on the effect
their movements have on the environ-
ment (i.e., movement outcome), or
neutrally whereby there is no explicit
attempts at conscious focus, instead
nonawareness is promoted (19,48,75).
For the purpose of this article, we will
consider analogies (or metaphors) to
fall within the definition of external
focus (e.g., “get off the ground fast like
you’re sprinting on hot coals”), as the
analogies suggested within the practi-
cal sections of this article do not explic-
itly call attention to the body (8). For
example, a coach instructing the push
phase of a sprint may provide an inter-
nal cue by telling the athlete to “focus
on explosively pushing through their
foot,” provide an external cue by telling
the athlete to “focus on explosively
pushing the ground away,” or provide
a neutral cue by telling the athlete to
“complete the sprint as fast as you can.”
The instructions carry the same mes-
sage, but the internal cue calls attention
to the body (i.e., foot), the external cue
calls attention to the effects on the
environment (i.e., ground), whereas
the neutral cue does not focus attention
internally or externally (Figure). It
should be noted that analogy
instructions and cues allow individuals
to implicitly adopt movement profi-
ciency without being explicitly aware
of the body movements being per-
formed (1,14); thus, analogy instruc-
tions and cues may encourage an
external focus of attention by promot-
ing goal-relevant dimensions of the
task (25).
Focus of attention has wide spread
importance across strength and condi-
tioning, sports coaching, physical edu-
cation, and physical therapy. Over the
past 17 years, the evidence showing
the differential role of various atten-
tional foci has grown exponentially
(69). Using a ski-simulator task, Wulf
et al. (75) published the first experi-
ment describing the differential role
of an internal versus external focus of
attention. In that study, the internal
focus group was “instructed to exert
force on the outer foot” and the exter-
nal focus group was “instructed to exert
force on the outer wheels” of the ski-
simulator, whereas the control group
received no instruction (i.e., neutral
focus). This subtle difference in instruc-
tions resulted in superior performance
for the external compared with the
internal focus and control groups, with
no difference observed between the
internal focus and control groups.
More recently, Porter et al. (2015)
found that low-skilled sprinters com-
pleted a 20-m sprint significantly faster
when they were instructed to focus
externally “on driving forward as pow-
erfully as possible while clawing the
floor with your shoe as quickly as pos-
sible as you accelerate” compared with
focusing internally “on driving one leg
forward as powerfully as possible while
moving your other leg and foot down
and back as quickly as possible as you
accelerate” and neutrally within a control
condition where they focused on “run-
ning the 20-m dash as quickly as possi-
ble.” Collectively, a large amount of
evidence has extended early findings in
the laboratory to a diversity of popula-
tions and environments that are relevant
to the strength and conditioning coach.
Specifically, there is now evidence sup-
porting the use of an external focus of
attention across balance and postural
control (10,37,59,76,78), plyometric
tasks (5,31,46,47,49,67,71,72,79), sprint-
ing (18,52), agility (48), various strength
qualities (34,35,63), and a multitude of
sport specific skills (3,70,73,74,77,80).
The effects of attentional focus on sport
performance can be explained through
the constrained action hypothesis
(CAH), which states that directing
attention externally allows the motor
control system to operate under non-
conscious automatic processes by
which movement occurs reflexively
(20,52), leading to superior performance
outcomes (29). According to the CAH,
when attention is directed internally,
the motor control system operates
under consciously controlled processes
Figure. Internal versus external instructions applied to sprinting.
Instructions and Cues for Sprint Performance
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
(i.e., explicit monitoring), potentially
invoking working memory (45), which
constrains the motor system, leading to
less reflexive and fluent movement pat-
terns and poorer performance out-
comes compared with an external
focus of attention (6,20).
Keeping in mind the research findings
regarding attentional focus and perfor-
mance measures, it seems that using
verbal instructions and cues to alter
an individual’s focus of attention has
a meaningful impact on motor perfor-
mance. The impact that verbal instruc-
tions and cues have on performance
directly relates to how the coach or
sport scientist implements the instruc-
tions and cues to the individual, thus
affecting one’s attentional focus. How
the individual consequently focuses
their attention can then have an imme-
diate impact on skill performance, in
this case on sprint performance.
Despite such potential for improving
performance, the literature regarding
coaching tactics for sprinting has re-
vealed that coaches may not be regu-
larly providing the most beneficial type
of coaching instructions, cues, and
feedback to athletes to enhance sport
skills. For example, during the 2009
USA Track & Field National Cham-
pionships, a number of athletes from
various events, including the sprints,
were surveyed and asked what type
of verbal instructions, cues, and feed-
back their coaches provide to them
during training and competition (51).
The results of the study by Porter
et al. (51) revealed that 84.6% of the
athletes reported that their coaches
gave instructions, cues, and feedback
related to body movements (i.e., inter-
nal focus of attention). Consequently,
69.2% of the track and field athletes
reported that they adopt an internal
attentional focus when participating
in track and field competitions. This
finding is consistent with the conclu-
sions reported by Williams and Ford
(66), which stated that it is not typical
for coaches to apply suggestions made
by researchers. Possible reasons for
a disconnect between what sports sci-
ence research has found to be effective
and the methods adopted by coaches
may be the result of multiple factors,
including research being too theoreti-
cal or impractical, research using tasks
that are unrelated to sport perfor-
mance, and the possibility that coaches
are not aware of relevant research
(51,66). However, it is clear that sprint
performance can be enhanced by sim-
ply altering the way instructions, cues,
and feedback are delivered to ath-
letes (60).
Changes in sprint performance as
a result of instruction and cue provi-
sion are likely due to the athlete focus-
ing their attention on their own body
movements or specific body parts, on
a movement goal or effect, or by sim-
ply adopting a nonawareness strategy.
When focus of attention is altered,
there is likely a subsequent augmenta-
tion of biomechanical, physiological,
motor learning, or psychophysical out-
comes, which will all be discussed later
in this article. In regard to providing
athletes with instructions and cues to
enhance sprint times, there have only
been a few studies performed specifi-
cally exploring the effects of verbal
communication on sprinting speed
(Table 1). Currently, the results suggest
that the skill level of the athlete may be
a factor mediating how the athlete re-
sponds to the instructions and cues.
For example, Porter et al. (52) found
that low-skill athletes benefited most
from an external attentional focus
(52), whereas Porter and Sims (50)
found that high-skill athletes benefited
most from no assigned focus (50,60).
However, Ille et al. (18) found that
expert and novice athletes performed
faster 10-m sprint times with an exter-
nal attentional focus compared with
internal and nonassigned conditions.
Collectively, the limited evidence pro-
vides some preliminary conclusions
relative to how coaches should provide
instructions and cues. First, there is no
evidence within the sprinting literature
showing that an internal focus results
in superior sprint performance com-
pared with an external or neutral focus
(18,32,50,52,60). Second, although
some studies have shown that experts
perform better while using a neutral
focus relative to an external focus
(50,68), many studies have shown that
experts perform equally well under
external focus conditions (62) or even
better in some cases (18,74). There is
limited evidence to support the use of
neutral focus of attention instructions
and cues for enhancing novice perfor-
mance for simple tasks (61). However,
there is no evidence to suggest that
novices benefit from a neutral focus rel-
ative to an external focus particularly for
more complex tasks such as sprinting,
and therefore, coaches should preferen-
tially use external focus instructions and
cues with novice athletes (18,52) until
further research clarifies this topic. In
summary, novices and experts equally
benefit from an external focus relative
to an internal focus of attention; how-
ever, there may be instances where ex-
perts with high motor skill automaticity
do not need any explicit instruction (i.e.,
Because there is an absence of litera-
ture regarding the effects of various
attentional foci on specific biomechan-
ical sprint variables, especially kinetic
sprint variables, this section will make
suggestions based on the previous lit-
erature in motor behavior and biome-
chanics. With regard to sprinting,
numerous biomechanical studies have
researched the key performance varia-
bles needed to sprint optimally
(38,39,53,65). One of the primary
methods for enhancing sprint velocity
is through the application of large
mass-specific ground reaction forces
(GRFs), over a minimal amount of
time (i.e., 0.101–0.083 seconds) (33)
during the stance phase (9,11,64).
Skilled sprinters achieve high maximal
velocities compared with non-sprinters
(10.4 60.3 versus 8.7 60.3 m$s
) by
applying larger vertical ground reac-
tion forces (vGRF) during the first half
(2.65 60.05 versus 2.21 60.05 N$N
or “bodyweights”) of the stance phase
Strength and Conditioning Journal | 3
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
Table 1
Depiction of studies that used internal, external, or neutral instructions or cues to influence sprint performance
Effects of verbal instructions and cues on sprint performance
Study Participants Internal instructions
or cues (INT)
External instructions
or cues (EXT)
Control (
instructions or cues (CON)
times (s)
Porter and
Sims (50)
9 males, skill level: highly trained
NCAA division I college
football players. Mean age:
21.11 61.22; mean height:
182.04 cm 64.25; mean
weight: 93.24 kg 636.23
While you are running the 20
yard dash with maximum
effort, focus on gradually
raising your body level. Also,
focus on powerfully driving 1
leg forward while moving
your other leg and foot
down and back as quickly as
While you are running the 20
yard dash with maximum
effort, focus on gradually
raising up. Also, focus on
powerfully driving forward
while clawing the floor as
quickly as possible
Run the 20 yard dash with
maximum effort
Times for 18.28 m—
INT: 2.92 s 60.06;
EXT: 2.92 s 60.07;
CON: 2.90 s 60.07
First 9.14-m split—INT:
1.78 s 60.05; EXT:
1.78 s 60.06; CON:
1.78 s 60.05
Second 9.14-m split—
INT: 1.14 s 60.03;
EXT: 1.14 s 60.03;
CON: 1.12 s 60.04
Significant main effect
for condition in the
second 9.14-m split,
53.182, P,
Ille et al. (18) 16 males, skill level: 8 of 16 were
skilled sprinters involved in
regional to international
competitions. Age range:
Push quickly on your legs and
keep going as fast as
possible while swinging
both arms back and forth
and raising your knees
Get off the starting blocks as
quickly as possible, head
toward the finish line rapidly
and cross it as soon as
No instructions other than
starting block position
and the task goal were
Times for 10 m—
novices: INT: 1.83 s 6
0.07; EXT: 1.77 s 6
0.08; CON: 1.81 s 6
Experts: INT: 1.72 s 6
0.05; EXT: 1.68 s 6
0.06; CON: 1.72 s 6
Significant main effect
for condition,
533.80, p,
0.0001, h
Instructions and Cues for Sprint Performance
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
Table 1
Mallett and
12 sprinters (11 male and 1
female), skill level: sprint-
trained athletes with mean
100-m personal bests at
10.86 s 60.37, mean age:
21.6 62.4, mean height:
176.4 cm 66.8, mean weight:
73.4 kg 69.3
None Push, heel, and claw No description of the
control condition
instructions was given
for this study
0–30-m race segment
—EXT: 4.28 s 6
0.12; CON: 4.36 s 6
30–60-m race segment
—EXT: 3.04 s 6
0.13; CON: 3.13 s 6
60–100-m race
segment—EXT: 4.11
s60.17; CON: 4.21
Significant main effect
—for condition, p#
Porter et al.
84 participants (42 females, 42
males), skill level: none were
former high school or current
collegiate athletes and had no
formal training in sprinting.
Mean age: 20.32 61.73
While you are running the 20-
m dash, focus on driving one
leg forward as powerfully as
possible while moving your
other leg and foot down and
back as quickly as possible as
you accelerate
While you are running the 20-
m dash, focus on driving
forward as powerfully as
possible while clawing the
floor with your shoe as
quickly as you accelerate
Please run the 20-m dash
as quickly as possible
20-m times—INT:
3.87 s 60.64; EXT:
3.75 s 60.43; CON:
3.87 s 60.45
Significant main effect
for condition,
56,565.3, p#
Control conditions in the studies refer to a neutral focus of attention.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | 5
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
during a stride cycle of sprinting (11).
Furthermore, elite sprinters have high-
er hip extension velocity (;8358/s ver-
sus ;7358/s) and swing back velocity
(;6058/s versus ;4508/s) compared
with their slower counterparts (2).
Based on the mechanical determinants
of maximal velocity sprinting, coaches
could use external focus of attention
instructions or cues to enhance sprint
performance by asking the athlete to
“step down hard” or “accelerate into
the ground with maximum effort,”
thereby potentially augmenting the
athlete’s relative GRFs and subsequent
sprint velocity.
Based on the existing literature
(58,64,65), it seems that the reposition-
ing of upper and lower body limbs for
the subsequent step are largely a reflex-
ive process because of energy transfer
rather than by actively moving the
limbs into position. Repositioning the
limbs more quickly than necessary can
result in attenuation of the impulse on
the subsequent stance phase, which
could have a negative effect of overall
sprint velocity and performance (9,64).
It would therefore seem more prudent
for coaches and sport scientists to focus
efforts on providing athletes instruc-
tions, cues, and feedback that regard
the active (as opposed to passive) pro-
cesses of the stride cycle (e.g., the down
stroke movement of the thigh and
hand). For instance, “hammer the
nails” could be provided as an analogy
instruction to the athlete to allow one
to focus externally on the down stroke
motion required of the shoulder exten-
sion during the stride cycle. However,
it should be noted that athletes strug-
gling with the flight phase of the sprint
could still benefit from cues focused on
knee lift and leg recovery (e.g., “drive
your shoe laces to the sky”), as there
is no definitive research to show
It has been reported that elite 100-m
sprinters (those running in the range of
9.90–9.58 seconds) positively acceler-
ate to ;50–70 m into the race
(24,30), with the best sprinters acceler-
ating furthest into the race. Therefore,
using external focus instructions and
cues emphasizing, accelerating as far
into the run as possible is suggested,
as this technique is applied by elite
sprint coaches (e.g., “push as far into
the run as possible”) (4).
There have been a number of studies
performed showing that providing
external focus instructions and cues re-
sults in enhanced efficiency at a neuro-
muscular level. Specifically, an external
focus has been associated with lower
muscle activation than an internal
focus when measured by surface elec-
tromyography (28,63,72,80), enhanced
running economy (by enhanced
oxygen consumption efficiency) (57),
promotion of phasic heart rate decel-
eration just before performing a motor
skill (42,54), and reduction in heart rate
during physical exertion (40) during
a variety of activities. Sprinting is
a complex motor skill involving numer-
ous muscle groups that must be con-
tracted at appropriate times and
intensities throughout the stride cycle
to maximize sprint performance.
Thereby, optimizing the timing of ago-
nist and antagonist muscle activation,
promoting decreased co-contraction at
inappropriate times during the stride
cycle may subsequently improve sprint
velocity (56). Based on the current lit-
erature, external attentional focus in-
structions have been shown to reduce
antagonist muscle activity during
motor skill execution (27) and overall
muscle activation while concurrently
enhancing dynamic motor skill perfor-
mance (72). There is a potential for
external and neutral focus of attention
instructions and cues to promote more
efficient muscle activation and more
optimal timing of the agonist and
antagonist muscles involved during
sprinting to enhance sprinting ability
at a neuromuscular level. However, fur-
ther research will need to be performed
to verify this presumption.
Motor learning literature has shown
that providing external attentional
focus feedback to athletes results in
higher learning rates when compared
with an internal focus condition (74).
Interestingly, in the study by Wulf et al.
(74) it was observed that the with-
drawal of internal focus feedback to
the athletes enhanced their perfor-
mance to a point where it was equiv-
ocal to that of the external focus
instruction group. Such a finding sug-
gests that providing internal focusing
feedback had a depressing effect on
motor learning. The effects of instruct-
ing, cueing, and providing feedback
emphasizing external attentional focus
can additionally transfer over to novel
sport conditions, such as high-stress
situations (7,43), which may prevent
athletes from choking under pressure
in competition settings. Ong et al. (43)
found that providing external focus in-
structions promoted an enhanced rate
of skill acquisition while simulta-
neously resulting in positive perfor-
mance under pressure, whereas
internal focus instructions resulted in
a slower rate of skill acquisition and
poorer performance under pressure
among participants. Based on the ex-
isting literature, it seems likely that pro-
viding external and/or neutral focus of
attention instructions and cues to ath-
letes may result in an expedited motor
learning process and an enhanced abil-
ity to sprint at a high level under pres-
sure situations such as those
experienced when peers are watching
and during competition.
Sports science literature has shown
that providing external focus of atten-
tion instructions and cues can result in
a lower rating of perceived exertion
(RPE) for athletes (12) and has been
shown to reduce the perceived level of
difficulty for a practiced task (41,57).
Relevant to sprinting, in 2 attentional
focus running studies, Ziv et al. (81)
and Schu¨cker et al. (57) both found that
when participants were given external
focus instructions, they had lower RPE
scores compared with internal focus
instructional groups. Furthermore,
Lohse and Sherwood (26) found that
individuals had an increased resistance
to fatigue when focusing externally
rather than internally. With regard to
Instructions and Cues for Sprint Performance
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
sprinting, directing attention externally
may therefore help promote an
improved sprint performance by enhanc-
ing an athlete’s resistance to fatigue.
Quality refers to the ability of the ver-
bal instructions and cues to achieve the
intended result on administration to
the athlete. Because providing external
focus verbal instructions and cues has
been shown to enhance sprint perfor-
mance (32,50,52,60), while internal focus
instructions and cues have been shown
to depress performance, the benchmark
for quality is evident. Providing external
focus of attention instructions and cues
may improve novice and intermediate
athlete sprint performance, whereas pro-
viding external and neutral focus of atten-
tion instructions and cues ensures the
likelihood that expert athletes will sprint
at more optimal levels. Coaches are
encouraged to provide external focus of
attention instructions and cues to novice
and intermediate athletes, while provid-
ing external and neutral focus of attention
instructions and cues to expert athletes to
enhance sprint performance. Verbal in-
structions and cues should be specific
to the phase of the sprint the athlete is
to perform (i.e., acceleration, maximal
velocity, deceleration–speed endurance)
and specific to the areas of improvement
the athlete needs to make to improve
biomechanical efficiency and thus sprint
performance. Examples of quality in-
structions and cues that can be provided
to athletes can be found in Table 2.
With regard to frequency of instruc-
tion and cues provided to athletes, to
the author’s knowledge, no studies
have been performed with the intent
to specifically explore this idea with
sprinting. However, the 4 studies
(18,32,50,52) that have examined
how altering focus of attention effects
sprint performance, all provided the
Table 2
All verbal instructions provided are either external or neutral
Verbal instructions, cues, and feedback for enhancing sprint performance
Acceleration instructions and cues Maximal velocity instructions and cues
Push Slam
Drive March
Explode Run tall
Trim the grass
Step over
Push through the post
Step down
Explode off the blocks Block high
Drive hard out of the blocks Hit the ground hard
Tear back the track Hammer the nails
Hammer the acceleration and
come up gradually
Accelerate into the ground
Explode off the ground Explode through the track
Push the ground/track back
Sprint through the finish line
Drive away from the start line
as fast as possible
Sprint 3 m past the finish line
Drive out like you are sprinting
Push into the ground with maximum effort
Explode out like you are being
Explode off the line like a jet
taking off
Just sprint as fast as you can
Explode off the line like you are
already sprinting
If someone gets in front of you, reel them back in
Drive off the ground as if to spin the earth
Snap your shoe laces to the sky
Snap the ground down and back
Explode off the ground like the crack of a whip
Sprint like you are in a wind tunnel
Trim the grass refers to the athlete having a low heel recovery on the first few steps of the
acceleration in which their toes should “trim the grass.”
Block high refers to the thigh blockage happening close to or at 908, thus allowing for the
athlete a longer time to accelerate the thigh back down toward the ground and possibly
augment the ground reaction forces during the sprint run.
Push through the post refers to the athlete pushing into the ground in line with the force
vectors in which one comes into contact with the ground, thus allowing for efficient force
Strength and Conditioning Journal | 7
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
verbal cues or instructions before each
trial (i.e., 100% frequency). Taking
these studies collectively, what is
known is that a 100% provision level
for external and neutral focus of atten-
tion instructions is likely to result in
sprint performance improvements
dependent on the skill level of the ath-
lete. Therefore, based on the current
literature, to enhance the sprint perfor-
mance of athletes, coaches are encour-
aged to administer external and neutral
verbal instructions to athletes before
each sprint repetition. What is not
known is how a reduced frequency of
verbal instruction and cue administra-
tion would affect sprinting ability. For
example, what if verbal cues were
administered every-other sprint repeti-
tion or only once during a set of mul-
tiple sprint runs? A number of these
issues still need to be clarified. This is
an important issue considering that
previous research has demonstrated
that reducing the frequency of feed-
back provided after trials results in
enhanced learning compared with
feedback provided after each trial; fur-
thermore, delaying feedback adminis-
tration for several seconds has been
found to be more effective in promot-
ing learning compared with feedback
provided during or immediately after
motor skill performance (23). How-
ever, Wulf et al. (76) found that
a 100% provision rate for feedback
was more beneficial for complex motor
skills, as has been suggested by Eriks-
son et al. (15); though, this issue may
be dependent on the expertise level of
the athlete. Although the research pre-
viously mentioned focused on feedback
administration, instruction and cue
provision is likely to have similar effects
on the attentional focus and subse-
quent performance of the individual.
One area that is underdeveloped in
motor behavior literature is how the
quantity of verbal instructions and cues
affect motor skill performance. In
regard to short-term memory, our
biological limit is about 4 items (or
chunks) of information on average
(13). Similarly, it is known that verbal
instructions and cues can have an
impact on working memory, which is
closely tied to the efficacy of motor
skill acquisition (36). The conscious
processing hypothesis (45) states the
load placed on working memory has
internal focus instructions having
compared with external focus instruc-
tions. As a result, poorer performances
associated with the adoption of an inter-
nal focus of attention may be the byprod-
uct of increased working memory
demands placed on the individual. This
may be a result of internal focus instruc-
tions and cues in particular, having
tity), which may disrupt working mem-
ory by engaging explicit processing of
mechanical rules about how to perform
sprinting (36), thus potentially causing
propose that providing short and concise
external directing instructions will lessen
the demand that is placed on the athlete’s
working memory and therefore lead to
enhanced sprinting ability.
Based on the current evidence avail-
able, coaches are encouraged to pro-
vide either external and/or neutral
focus of attention instructions and cues
to athletes at 100% frequency levels
with the quantity of verbal instructions
and cues kept minimal. Verbal instruc-
tions and cues used during training
should be specific to the biomechanical
areas in need of most immediate
improvement. The coach should take
note of landmark positions in the stance
and flight phases of the stride cycle
(e.g., toe-on, toe-off, mid-stance, and
mid-flight positions). Based on the
coach’s evaluation of the athletes’
mechanics in the various phases of the
stride cycle, specific verbal instructions
and cues can then be implemented in
order of priority. Identification of the
mechanical flaw in need of the most
improvement should be the top priority
for implementation of verbal instructions
and cues; identification and improve-
ment of the main biomechanical flaws
may augment multiple other biome-
chanical subareas that may have also
been in need of improvement (44). For
example, a coach that has an athlete who
becomes fully upright within the first 3
steps of the starting blocks during prac-
tice may encourage the athlete to “Keep
aggressively low angle and claw the track
back for the first 10–15 m.” Encouraging
angle during acceleration may poten-
tially enhance the orientation of the
resultant force vector in the horizontal
direction during toe-off and thus may
result in faster acceleration velocity as
rior GRF (53), which has been associ-
ated with faster sprinting velocity more
than less acute torso and shin angles at
take-off (16,21).
Because of the nature of competition,
stress and anxiety will likely be height-
ened during these periods, potentially
leading to a higher chance of the ath-
lete choking due to the performance
pressures (6). Therefore, it is especially
important for coaches to be very care-
ful with the quality and quantity of the
verbal instructions and cues that are
provided to the athlete during compe-
tition. Verbal instructions and cues pro-
vided during competition should elicit
an external or neutral focus of attention
and should be brief in nature to
enhance sprint performance and to
prevent the choking phenomenon
from occurring (7,52,60). An example
of an external and neutral focus of
attention instruction during competi-
tion would be “Push through with an
aggressive acceleration velocity and
stay relaxed during the later stage of
the race.”
Coaches can implement external
and/or neutral focus of attention in-
structions and cues to enhance sprint
performance in athletes by simply
encouraging a movement goal while
omitting body parts and/or limbs
when providing instructions and cues.
For example, as opposed to saying to
an athlete, “Accelerate your foot down
Instructions and Cues for Sprint Performance
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
hard into the ground during maximal
velocity,” the coach could alternatively
say, “Accelerate down hard into the
ground during maximal velocity.” The
movement goal is stated and the refer-
encing to body parts is omitted, leading
the athlete to potentially focus exter-
nally, thus leading to a greater chance
for enhanced sprint performance due
to enhanced vGRF during maximal
In summary, the way coaches provide
athletes verbal instructions and cues
plays an integral role in the skill
development of sprinting. Because
sprinting is a critical locomotor skill
that is an essential determining fac-
tor in numerous team and individual
sports, it is imperative that coaches
use as many methods as possible
to enhance the biomotor ability of
speed. As this article demonstrates,
providing appropriate verbal in-
structions and cues is a simple and
effective way to enhance sprint per-
formance in athletes. More specifi-
cally, the current literature suggests
that verbal instructions and cues
administered to the athlete should
emphasize an external or neutral
focus of attention to optimize sprint-
ing performance. However, further
research will need to be conducted
to determine the mechanisms that
underpin how sprint performance
changes occur and the extent that
instruction and cue frequency and
quantity affect sprint performance.
Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding:
The authors report no conflicts of interest
and no source of funding.
Adam Benz is
PhD candidate
within the Faculty
of Computing,
Health & Science
at Edith Cowan
University (ECU)
in Perth, Western
Winkelman is
the director of
movement and
education at
EXOS and is
currently com-
pleting his PhD
at Rocky Moun-
tain University of
Health Professions.
Dr. Jared
Porter is cur-
rently an Associ-
ate Professor and
Director of the
Motor Behaviour
Laboratory at
Southern Illinois
Dr. Sophia
Nimphius is cur-
rently a senior
lecturer in the
MS of Strength
and Conditioning
at Edith Cowan
1. Abernethy B, Masters RS, and Zachry T.
Using Biomechanical Feedback to Enhance
Skill Learning and Performance in:
Routledge Handbook of Biomechanics and
Human Movement Science. Oxon, United
Kingdom: Routledge, 2008. pp. 581–593.
2. Ae M, Ito A, and Suzuki M. The men’s 100
metres. New Stud Athl 7: 47–52, 1992.
3. Al-Abood SA, Bennett SJ, Hernandez FM,
Ashford D, and Davids K. Effect of verbal
instructions and image size on visual
search strategies in basketball free throw
shooting. J Sports Sci 20: 271–278, 2002.
4. Anderson V. Maximal velocity mechanics
and cuing. Presented at: USTFCCCA
Convention; December 16–19, 2013;
Orlando, FL.
5. Becker KA and Smith PJK. Attentional
focus effects in standing long jump
performance: Influence of a broad and
narrow internal focus. J Strength Cond Res
29: 1780–1783, 2015.
6. Beilock SL and Carr T. On the fragility of
skilled performance: What governs choking
under pressure? J Exp Psychol Gen 130:
701–725, 2001.
7. Bell J and Hardy J. Effects of attentional
focus on skilled performance in golf. J Appl
Sport Psychol 21: 163–177, 2009.
8. Benz A. Verbal instructions and cues:
Providing these for enhancing athletic
performance. In: Techniques for Track &
Field and Cross Country.Metaire,LA:
Renaissance Publishing, 2014. pp.
9. Brown TD and Vescovi JD. Maximum
speed: Misconceptions of sprinting.
Strength Cond J 34: 37–41, 2012.
10. Chiviacowsky S, Wulf G, and Wally R. An
external focus of attention enhances
balance learning in older adults. Gait
Posture 32: 572–575, 2010.
11. Clark KP and Weyand PG. Are running
speeds maximized with simple-spring
stance mechanics? J Appl Physiol (1985)
117: 604–615, 2014.
12. Comani S, Di Fronso S, Filho E,
Castronovo AM, Schmid M, Bortoli L,
Conforto S, Robazza C, and Bertollo M.
Attentional focus and functional
connectivity in cycling: An EEG case study.
Presented at: XIII Mediterranean
Conference on Medical and Biological
Engineering and Computing; September
25–28, 2013; Seville, Spain.
13. Cowan N. The magical number 4 in short-
term memory: A reconsideration of mental
storage capacity. Behav Brain Sci 24: 87–
185, 2000.
14. Craig LC. The effects of focused attention
on batting performance of collegiate
athletes. In: Jackson College of Graduate
Studies. Edmond, OK: University of Central
Oklahoma, 2013.
15. Eriksson M, Halvorsen KA, and
Gullstrand L. Immediate effect of visual and
auditory feedback to control the running
mechanics of well-trained athletes.
J Sports Sci 29: 253–262, 2011.
16. Gamble P. Training for Sports Speed and
Agility: An Evidence-Based Approach.
Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge,
17. Hodges NJ and Franks IM. Modelling
coaching practice: The role of instruction
and demonstration. J Sports Sci 20: 793–
811, 2002.
18. Ille A, Selin I, Do MC, and Thon B.
Attentional focus effects on sprint start
Strength and Conditioning Journal | 9
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
performance as a function of skill level.
J Sports Sci 31: 1705–1712, 2013.
19. Ives JC and Shelley GA. Psychophysics in
functional strength and power training:
Review and implementation framework.
J Strength Con Res 17: 177–186, 2003.
20. Kal EC, van der Kamp J, and Houdijk H.
External attentional focus enhances
movement automatization: A
comprehensive test of the constrained
action hypothesis. Hum Mov Sci 32: 527–
539, 2013.
21. Kugler F and Janshen L. Body position
determines propulsive forces in
accelerated running. J Biomech 43: 343–
348, 2010.
22. Landin D. The role of verbal cues in skill
learning. Quest 46: 299–313, 1994.
23. Lawrence G, Kingston K, and Gottwald V.
Skill acquisition for coaches. In: Jones RL
and Kingston K, eds. An Introduction to
Sports Coaching: Connecting Theory to
Practice. Oxon, United Kingdom:
Routledge, 2013. pp. 31–48.
24. Letzelter S. The development of velocity
and acceleration in sprints: A comparison
of elite and juvenile female sprinters. New
Stud Athl 21: 15–22, 2006.
25. Lohse KR, Jones M, Healy AF, and
Sherwood DE. The role of attention in
motor control. J Exp Psychol Gen 143:
1–19, 2013.
26. Lohse KR and Sherwood DE. Defining the
focus of attention: Effects of attention on
perceived exertion and fatigue. Front
Psychol 2: 1–10, 2011.
27. Lohse KR and Sherwood DE. Thinking
about muscles: Neuromuscular effects of
attentional focus on accuracy and fatigue.
Acta Psychol 140: 236–245, 2012.
28. Lohse KR, Sherwood DE, and Healy AF.
How changing the focus of attention
affects performance, kinematics, and
electromyography in dart throwing. Hum
Mov Sci 29: 542–555, 2010.
29. Lohse KR, Sherwood DE, and Healy AF. On
the advantage of an external focus of attention:
Mov Sci 33: 120–134, 2014.
30. Majumdar AS and Robergs RA. The
science of speed: Determinants of
performance in the 100 m sprint. Sport Sci
Coach 6: 479–493, 2011.
31. Makaruk H, Porter JM, Czaplicki A,
Sadowski J, and Sacewicz T. The role of
attentional focus in plyometric training.
J Sport Med Phys Fit 52: 319–327, 2012.
32. Mallett CJ and Hanrahan SJ. Race
modeling: An effective cognitive strategy
for the 100 m sprinter? Sport Psychol 11:
72–85, 1997.
33. Mann RV. The Mechanics of Sprinting and
Hurdling. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace
Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
34. Marchant DC, Greig M, Bullough J, and
Hitchen D. Instructions to adopt an external
focus enhance muscular endurance. Res Q
Exerc Sport 82: 466–473, 2011.
35. Marchant DC, Greig M, and Scott C.
Attentional focusing instructions influence
force production and muscular activity
during isokinetic elbow flexions. J Strength
Cond Res 23: 2358–2366, 2009.
36. Maxwell JP and Masters RSW. External
versus internal focus instructions: Is the
learner paying attention?. Int J Appl Sport
Sci 14: 70–88, 2002.
37. McNevin NH, Shea CH, and Wulf G.
Increasing the distance of an external focus
of attention enhances learning. Psychol
Res 67: 22–29, 2003.
38. Morin JB, Bourdin M, Edouard P, Peyrot N,
Samozino P, and Lacour JR. Mechanical
determinants of 100-m sprint running
performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 112:
3921–3930, 2012.
39. Morin JB, Edouard P, and Samozino P.
Technical ability of force application as
a determinant factor of sprint performance.
Med Sci Sport Exer 43: 1680–1688,
40. Neumann D and Brown J. The effect of
attentional focus strategy on physiological
and motor performance during a sit-up
exercise. J Psychophysiol 27: 7–15, 2013.
41. Neumann DL and Piercy A. The effect of
different attentional strategies on
physiological and psychological states
during running. Aust Psychol 48: 329–
337, 2013.
42. Neumann DL and Thomas PR. Cardiac and
respiratory activity and golf putting
performance under attentional focus
instructions. Psychol Sport Exerc 12: 451–
459, 2011.
43. Ong N, Bowcock A, and Hodges N.
Manipulations to the timing and type of
instructions to examine motor skills
performance under pressure. Front
Psychol 1: 1–13, 2010.
44. Pfaff DA. Technical and skill aspects of
sprinting: Biomechanics, training theory and
motor behavior. Presented at: USTFCCCA
Convention; December 15–18, 2014;
Phoenix, AZ.
45. Poolton JM, Maxwell JP, Masters RSW,
and Raab M. Benefits of an external focus
of attention: Common coding or conscious
processing? J Sports Sci 24: 89–99,
46. Porter JM, Anton PM, Wikoff NM, and
Ostrowski JB. Instructing skilled athletes to
focus their attention externally at greater
distances enhances jumping performance.
JStrengthCondRes27: 2073–2078,
47. Porter JM, Anton PM, and Wu WF.
Increasing the distance of an external focus
of attention enhances standing long jump
performance. JStrengthCondRes26:
2389–2393, 2012.
48. Porter JM, Nolan RP, Ostrowski EJ, and
Wulf G. Directing attention externally
enhances agility performance: A qualitative
and quantitative analysis of the efficacy of
using verbal instructions to focus attention.
Front Psychol 1: 1–7, 2010.
49. Porter JM, Ostrowski EJ, Nolan RP, and
Wu WF. Standing long-jump performance
is enhanced when using an external focus
of attention. J Strength Cond Res 24:
1746–1750, 2010.
50. Porter JM and Sims B. Altering focus of
attention influences elite athletes sprinting
performance. Int J Coach Sci 8: 22–27,
51. Porter JM, Wu WF, and Partridge JA.
Focus of attention and verbal instructions:
Strategies of elite track and field coaches
and athletes. Sport Sci Rev 19: 77–89,
52. Porter JM, Wu WFW, Crossley RM,
Knopp SW, and Campbell OC. Adopting
an external focus of attention improves
sprinting performance in low-skilled
sprinters. J Strength Cond Res 29: 947–
953, 2015.
53. Rabita G, Dorel S, Slawinski J, Sa
Villarreal E, Couturier A, Samozino P, and
Morin JB. Sprint mechanics in world-class
athletes: A new insight into the limits of
human locomotion. Scand J Med Sci Spor
25: 583–594, 2015.
54. Radlo S, Steinberg G, Singer R, Barba D,
and Melnikov A. The influence of an
attentional focus strategy on alpha brain
wave activity, heart rate and dart-throwing
performance. Int J Sport Psychol 33: 205–
217, 2002.
55. Ross A and Leveritt M. Long-term
metabolic and skeletal muscle adaptations
to short-sprint training: Implications for
sprint training and tapering. Sports Med
31: 1063–1082, 2001.
56. Ross A, Leveritt M, and Riek S. Neural
influences on sprint running: Training
adaptations and acute responses. Sports
Med 31: 409–425, 2001.
Instructions and Cues for Sprint Performance
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
57. Schu
¨cker L, Hagemann N, Strauss B, and
Volker K. The effect of attentional focus on
running economy. JSportsSci27: 1241–
1248, 2009.
58. Seagrave L, Mouchbahani R, and
O’Donnell K. Neuro-biomechanics of
maximum velocity sprinting. New Stud Athl
24: 19–27, 2009.
59. Shea CH and Wulf G. Enhancing motor
learning through external-focus instructions
and feedback. Hum Mov Sci 18: 553–571,
60. Sims BA. Focus of Attention Influences
Elite Athletes Sprinting Performance.
Carbondale, IL: OpenSIUC: Southern
Illinois University Carbondale, 2010.
61. Singer RN, Lidor R, and Cauraugh JH. To be
aware or not aware? What to think about
while learning and performing a motor skill.
Sport Psychol 7: 19–30, 1993.
62. Stoate I and Wulf G. Does the attentional
focus adopted by swimmers affect their
performance? Sport Sci Coach 6: 99–
108, 2011.
63. Vance J, Wulf G, To
¨llner T, McNevin N, and
Mercer J. EMG activity as a function of the
performers’ focus of attention. J Mot Behav
36: 450–459, 2004.
64. Weyand PG, Sandell RF, Prime DNL, and
Bundle MW. The biological limits to
running speed are imposed from the
ground up. J Appl Physiol (1985) 108:
950–961, 2010.
65. Weyand PG, Sternlight DB, Bellizzi MJ, and
Wright S. Faster top running speeds are
achieved with greater ground forces not
more rapid leg movements. J Appl Physiol
(1985) 89: 1991–1999, 2000.
66. Williams AM and Ford P. Promoting
a skills-based agenda in olympic sports:
The role of skill-acquisition specialists.
J Sports Sci 27: 1381–1392, 2009.
67. Wu WF, Porter JM, and Brown LE. Effect of
attentional focus strategies on peak force
and performance in the standing long jump.
JStrengthCondRes26: 1226–1231,
68. Wulf G. Attentional focus effects in
balance acrobats. Res Q Exerc Sport 79:
319–325, 2008.
69. Wulf G. Attentional focus and motor
learning: A review of 15 years. Int Rev
Sport Exerc Psychol 6: 77–104, 2013.
70. Wulf G, Chiviacowsky S, Schiller E, and
Avila LT. Frequent external-focus feedback
enhances motor learning. Front Psychol 1:
190, 2010.
71. Wulf G and Dufek JS. Increased jump
height with an external focus due to
enhanced lower extremity joint kinetics.
J Mot Behav 41: 401–409, 2009.
72. Wulf G, Dufek JS, Lozano L, and
Pettigrew C. Increased jump height and
reduced EMG activity with an external
focus. Hum Mov Sci 29: 440–448, 2010.
73. Wulf G, Lauterbach B, and Toole T. The
learning advantages of an external focus of
attention in golf. Res Q Exerc Sport 70:
120–126, 1999.
74. Wulf G, McConnel N, Gartner M, and
Schwarz A. Enhancing the learning of sport
skills through external-focus feedback.
J Mot Behav 34: 171–182, 2002.
75. Wulf G, Prinz W, and Ho
for motor learning: Differential effects of
internal versus external focus of
attention. JMotBehav30: 169–179,
76. Wulf G, Shea CH, and Matschiner S.
Frequent feedback enhances complex
motor skill learning. J Mot Behav 30: 180–
204, 1998.
77. Wulf G and Su J. An external focus of
attention enhances golf shot accuracy in
beginners and experts. Res Q Exerc Sport
78: 384–389, 2007.
78. Wulf G, Weigelt M, Poulter D, and
McNevin N. Attentional focus on
suprapostural tasks affects balance
learning. Q J Exp Psychol A 56: 1191–
1211, 2003.
79. Wulf G, Zachry T, Granados C, and Dufek J.
Increases in jump-and-reach height through
an external focus of attention. Sport Sci
Coach 2: 275–284, 2007.
80. Zachry T, Wulf G, Mercer J, and Bezodis N.
Increased movement accuracy and reduced
EMG activity as the result of adopting an
external focus of attention. Brain Res Bull
67: 304–309, 2005.
81. Ziv G, Meckel Y, Lidor R, and Rotstein A.
The effects of external and internal focus of
attention on physiological responses
during running. J Hum Sport Exerc 7: 608–
616, 2012.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | 11
Copyright ªNational Strength and Conditioning Association. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
... 20,21 ELT focus on verbal knowledge of performance that involve cognitive stages in the learning process and are reliant on working memory engagement, 22 with verbal instruction, cues and feedback the primary types of performance-related communication used in the applied setting by a coach. 23 The coach can use language through either instructions or cues to direct an athletes' focus of attention, which is defined as a conscious effort of an individual to focus their attention through explicit thoughts in an effort to execute a motor skill or movement pattern with optimal performance. 23 There are three states of attentional focus for an athlete: (1) external, where they focus on the intended movement/skill outcome; (2) internal, where their focus is directly associated with a body part of their own or (3) normal focus, where no instructions/cues are provided and thus the athlete is left to their own discretion on what to focus on. ...
... 23 The coach can use language through either instructions or cues to direct an athletes' focus of attention, which is defined as a conscious effort of an individual to focus their attention through explicit thoughts in an effort to execute a motor skill or movement pattern with optimal performance. 23 There are three states of attentional focus for an athlete: (1) external, where they focus on the intended movement/skill outcome; (2) internal, where their focus is directly associated with a body part of their own or (3) normal focus, where no instructions/cues are provided and thus the athlete is left to their own discretion on what to focus on. 24 ILT relate to learning that occurs through practice that accentuates task involvement and reduces explicit information. ...
... 24 Despite the lack of consistency in results in an elite athlete setting, the majority of researchers have advocated the benefits of using externally focused attention in applied sporting settings to enhance the performance of their athletes. 23,88 These external cues provide the athlete with less attentional resources being directed internally and result in more effective motor performance and motor learning. 89 ...
Full-text available
Coaching behaviours often derive from sporting traditions, instinct and previous experiences. Practitioners tend to follow traditional, inherited methods rather than adopt new evidence-based approaches associated with athlete development. This article reviews literature relating to theoretical constructs of a novel coach education framework (CEF) developed by the Irish Rugby Football Union. The three constructs included are: self-determination theory (SDT), explicit learning theories (ELT) and implicit learning theories (ILT). A total of 82 publications met the inclusion criteria (SDT: n = 18, ELT: n = 28, ILT: n = 36). This review supports the efficacy of these constructs in isolation for promoting effective coaching practices and provides a justification for future implementation of the framework and its evaluation. This framework may have the potential to address a shortfall in current coach education formats, which have traditionally focused on What content should be used for athlete development as opposed to How practitioners can coach more effectively.
... As far as we know, only our studies have focused on interleg muscular coordination patterns in running. Previous studies demonstrated that verbal cues used to enhance sprint performance such as "raise the knees" or "push against the ground more" (36)(37)(38)(39). Moreover, communication between coaches and athletes using verbale instruction, cues, and feedbacks are essential (36). ...
... Previous studies demonstrated that verbal cues used to enhance sprint performance such as "raise the knees" or "push against the ground more" (36)(37)(38)(39). Moreover, communication between coaches and athletes using verbale instruction, cues, and feedbacks are essential (36). We suggest a new cue, "Scissors," to encourage an athlete to pay attention to synchronizing the activity of both thighs at the instant of ground contact. ...
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between spatiotemporal variables and the muscle activity of the rectus femoris (RF) and biceps femoris (BF) in both legs at various running speeds. Methods: Eighteen well-trained male athletes (age: 20.7 ± 1.8 yrs) were asked to run for 50 m with 7 different "Subjective Efforts (SEs)" (20 %, 40 %, 60 %, 80 %, 90 %, 95 %, and 100 % SE). SE scaled relative to the maximal effort running (100 %). The spatiotemporal variables (running speed, step frequency, step length) were measured over the distance from 30 m to 50 m. The RF and BF muscle activities were obtained from both legs with wireless electromyography (EMG) sensors. We calculated RF and BF onset/offset timings in both legs (e.g., ipsilateral leg RF is "iRF", contralateral leg BF is "cBF"), which were expressed as % of a running cycle. Based on those timings, we obtained the EMG timing variables (%), as Switch1(iBF-offset to iRF-onset), Switch2 (iRF-offset to iBF-onset), Scissors1 (cBF-onset to iRF-onset), and Scissors2 (iRF-offset to cBF-offset). Results: Running speed was well correlated with the SE, and higher running speed (> 9 m·s-1) was achieved with higher step frequency (> 4.0 Hz). Relative timings of RF and BF onset/offset (%) appeared earlier and later, respectively, with an increase in running speed. The absolute duration of RF activation (sec) was elongated with the decrease in absolute running cycle time (increase in running speed). Both Switch and Scissors showed significant negative correlations with running speed and step frequency. Conclusions: RF and BF excitation in both legs, as evidenced by changes in both Switch and Scissors, is coordinated for controlling running speed as well as step frequency.
... When it comes to planning an effective training program, the International Guidelines highlight the correct manipulation of different parameters (i.e., volume, intensity, load, exercise order, exercise selection, velocity of muscle action and rest periods) for wellness or performance enhancements [2]. However, other parameters, such as the instructions on how to communicate adequate information for improving performance, are key to a successful training program [3]. ...
... Cues are important within the training context for both sedentary and highly active individuals and may play a pivotal role in directing attention towards a specific way that affects motor performance or motor learning [4]. In fact, instructions facilitate the shifting of attention through an explicit thought during a specific task that is executed thanks to conscious or sub-conscious abilities [3]. With this in mind, an individual's focus could be directed externally (i.e., external focus, EF) with metaphors or analogies (i.e., "explode by jumping high like a rocket") [5] considering the effects of a specific movement on the environment, or internally (i.e., internal focus, IF) when the main focus is directed on specific body parts during movement (i.e., "flex your elbow at 90 • "). ...
Full-text available
This pilot study compared the effects of two attentional focus strategies on fitness parameters and body composition in outpatients with obesity. This was a randomized, controlled study that enrolled 94 obese individuals and allocated them into an internal focus group (IF) or an external focus group (EF) while performing six weeks of a home-based training program. The home-based exercise program was the same for both groups except for the instructions that shifted the attention to an external or an internal condition. At the beginning and after the intervention period, participants were assessed for functional performance using the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), body balance using the Modified Balance Error Scoring System (M-BESS) and muscular strength with the Handgrip Strength Test (HST) and the Five-Repetition Sit-To-Stand (FRSTS) test. Concerning body composition and anthropometric parameters, the body mass index (BMI) and fat mass percentage (FM%) were calculated. Significant improvements, main interactions and effects of time and groups were highlighted in the EF group as compared to the IF group in FMS (35% vs. 21%), M-BESS (42% vs. 18%), HST (13% vs. 7%) and FRSTS (23% vs. 12%) measures, while FM% (5%) and BMI (6% vs. 5%) showed a similar improvement overtime (p < 0.001). In conclusion, our findings provide initial evidence that a 6-week training program performed following external focus instruction is able to promote significant enhancements in movement efficiency, balance and muscular strength as compared to an internal focus cue. Fitness coaches and therapists might consider integrating a specific attentional focus strategy when designing rehabilitation programs in subjects with obesity.
... Over recent years, the role of attentional focus has emerged as a significant modulator in sprint performance. Attentional focus refers to an individual's intentional attempt to direct their attention through explicit thoughts for the purpose of executing a motor skill [16,17]. An individual can pay attention to an IF (i.e., concentration on the body 2 of 13 movements) or an EF (i.e., concentration on the intended movement effect). ...
... Furthermore, an EF, which is helpful in suppressing needless neural activity [62] and muscular co-contractions [59], contributes to clarifying neuromuscular coordination. Sprinting, as a complex motor skill, requires the contraction of several muscle groups at accurate times and intensities during the stride cycle for the purpose of achieving optimal sprint performance [16]. Therefore, through more efficient muscle activation at the neuromuscular level, an EF has the possibility to boost sprint performance. ...
Full-text available
Sprinting is often seen in a variety of sports. Focusing one’s attention externally before sprinting has been demonstrated to boost sprint performance. The present study aimed to systematically review previous findings on the impact of external focus (EF), in comparison to internal focus (IF), on sprint performance. A literature search was conducted in five electronic databases (APA PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science). A random-effects model was used to pool Hedge’s g with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The meta-analysis included six studies with a total of 10 effect sizes and 166 participants. In general, the EF condition outperformed the IF condition in sprint performance (g = 0.279, 95% CI [0.088, 0.470], p = 0.004). The subgroup analysis, which should be viewed with caution, suggested that the benefits associated with the EF strategy were significant in low-skill sprinters (g = 0.337, 95% CI [0.032, 0.642], p = 0.030) but not significant in high-skill sprinters (g = 0.246, 95% CI [−0.042, 0.533], p = 0.094), although no significant difference was seen between these subgroups (p = 0.670). The reported gain in sprint performance due to attentional focus has practical implications for coaches and athletes, as making tiny adjustments in verbal instructions can lead to significant behavioral effects of great importance in competitive sports.
... This difference may help to explain the increased lean mass observed for those with a higher level of IGF-1, such as MS in the present study. Greater lean muscle mass is known to benefit both speed (Benz et al., 2016) and long-distance (Rønnestad & Mujika, 2014) athletes, which corroborates the present results according to the positive correlation between performance and IGF-1. ...
Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate and compare the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone (T), estradiol (ES), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in master sprint (MS) and master endurance (ME) athletes. Additionally, the possible associations between these hormones, body composition, and lipid profile with athletic performance (% of performance in relation to the current world record) were analyzed. Materials and Methods: The participants were all men: (i) 34 MS (51.0 ± 6.8 years); and (ii) 32 ME (51.7 ± 9.4 years). Student's t-tests for independent samples were performed to compare all variables between groups. Results: MS had a significantly higher (p = .008) average IGF-1 (154.78 ± 29.85 ng/mL) when compared to ME (129.92 ± 25.48 ng/mL). Performance was significantly correlated with IGF-1 (r = 0.424). The MS group had a moderately lower body fat than ME athletes (MS 12.54 ± 4.07 vs. ME 14.60 ± 4.12; p = .078; d = 0.503). Conclusions: Thus, strength/power training exercise/sport seems to be more beneficial for obtaining a higher IGF-1 compared to aerobic/distance exercise/sport. In addition, LH, T, ES, and SHBG were similar between the two groups of athletes and were comparable to the reference values of younger adults.
... Also, a more perpendicular lower limb shank angle during touchdown has been identified to reduce acceleration performance and differentiate between elite and subelite sprinters (21,77). To improve the technical characteristics of athletes located in category 3, the coach should provide technical cues that focus on a more conducive start position to push greater force horizontally, improve Table 4 Characteristics of movement and training recommendations to improve technical characteristics of sprint performance (1,4,7,9,(13)(14)(15)22,35,43,51,54,60,79) Category Characteristics Visual description of movement Technical cues to improve or maintain the efficiency of movement their shin roll, focus on pushing down and back, improve trunk-shank symmetry (21), and slowly raise the torso with each successive step. Recently, Alt et al. (1) emphasized the importance of the shin segment's orientation to produce a mechanically efficient acceleration, which appears to support previous studies highlighting the orientation of the body center of mass and subsequent propulsive impulse (43). ...
The purpose of this article is to provide practitioners with a system to categorize and individualize training prescription from sprint force-velocity (F-v) profiles to enhance performance in team and individual sport athletes. Despite F-v variables presenting key information about the underpinning mechanisms contributing to sprint performance, the overall data interpretation may be limited for the practitioner to implement applied training interventions compared with the researcher. Therefore, this article provides a conceptual framework for appropriate training prescriptions based on individual biomechanical and technical characteristics contributing to sprint performance.
... Introduction A coaching cue is a verbal instruction that can be used to focus an individual's attention on a movement to optimise its execution [1]. Cues that direct a performer's attention externally (focus placed outside of the body) or internally (focus on body part) have been shown to have effects on subsequent motor skill performance [2][3][4]. ...
Full-text available
Purpose: The way coaching cues are worded can impact on the quality with which a subsequent motor skill is executed. However, there have been few investigations on the effect of coaching cues on basic motor skill performance in youths. Method: Across several international locations, a series of experiments were undertaken to determine the effect of external coaching cues (EC), internal coaching cues (IC), analogies with a directional component (ADC) and neutral control cues on sprint time (20 m) and vertical jump height in youth performers. These data were combined using internal meta-analytical techniques to pool results across each test location. This approach was amalgamated with a repeated-measures analysis to determine if there were any differences between the ECs, ICs and ADCs within the different experiments. Results: 173 participants took part. There were no differences between the neutral control and experimental cues in any of the internal meta-analyses except where the control was superior to the IC for vertical jump (d = -0.30, [-0.54, -0.05], p = 0.02). Just three of eleven repeated-measures analyses showed significant differences between the cues at each experimental location. Where significant differences were noted, the control cue was most effective with some limited evidence supporting the use of ADCs (d = 0.32 to 0.62). Conclusion: These results suggest the type of cue or analogy provided to a youth performer has little subsequent effect on sprint or jump performance. Accordingly, coaches might take a more specific approach that is suited to the level or preferences of a particular individual.
... S&C coaches meet the learning needs of their athletes with effective exercise instruction and cueing (3,81). Cues are short, action-oriented verbal instructions provided to direct the athlete's focus to relevant information (3,4,10,48,80). Cues may be delivered within formal exercise instruction, immediately before, or during exercise (3). Cues provided for the purpose of improving technique are termed "corrective" (3). ...
The landmine row is an upper-body pulling exercise using a barbell as a lever. This column provides the strength and conditioning coach with a summary of trained musculature, technique descriptions for common landmine row variations, suggested instructional cues for improving technique and performance, an overview of unique exercise biomechanics, and programming recommendations.
Full-text available
Education to work transition is the phase encountered by youths while moving to labor market in search of job. This study was conducted to examine how Pahari youths in Badikhel's Godawari Municipality-4 transition from higher secondary education to employment using a qualitative interpretative inquiry as a research paradigm. The research explored the experiences of Pahari youth who dealt with evolving circumstances, beliefs, and perceptions over the time transitioning from school to work. The theoretical bases of the study are Social Cognitive Career Theory, Capability Approach, and Schlossberg's transition theory. Following the theoretical sampling method, 5 participants were selected purposively as a sample for the study. Two males and three females were chosen by applying the purposive sampling method. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted and categorized themes into three categories; social and economic situation, the importance of support in a transition period, and uneven transition of Pahari youth. The study found that Pahari youths are struggling to pursue higher education due to financial problems, family issue, social pressure and the like. Because of this, transitioning Pahari youths from education to work is very challenging. They cannot complete their education, which limits the skills related to the professional sector. As a result, getting engaged, even in a small part-time job with few wages, has become essential to sustain their lives and their families. Despite this, Pahari youths are found aware of these challenges and trying to overcome the situation. This study suggests the government prioritize the Pahari community for education, which could benefit Pahari youths to get the higher qualification and find better employment opportunities in the long term.
Full-text available
Detriments to performance under pressure are common in many performance settings, from public speaking to skilled sports or music performances. In the last few decades, sports scientists have suggested that the quality and accuracy of movements can depend on what the performer attends to while executing the action, with an external focus of attention directed at the effects of the movement on the environment resulting in better performance than an internal focus, where attention is directed at the performer’s own body movements. Here we investigated the effects of attention focus instruction on the accuracy of piano performance. Amateur pianists were asked to practice a set piano piece for 7 days and then perform it to the experimenter under different performance instructions (no instruction, internal focus, external focus). An external focus of attention resulted in more accurate performance compared to an internal focus instruction, as evaluated by the difference in the number of note pitch errors and note corrections between the two conditions. Importantly, the advantage of an external over internal focus did not depend on pianistic expertise in our sample. Our research supports the idea that an external attention focus can improve music performance and should be considered in music teaching practice.
Full-text available
Performance in sprint exercise is determined by the ability to accelerate, the magnitude of maximal velocity and the ability to maintain velocity against the onset of fatigue. These factors are strongly influenced by metabolic and anthropometric components. Improved temporal sequencing of muscle activation and/or improved fast twitch fibre recruitment may contribute to superior sprint performance. Speed of impulse transmission along the motor axon may also have implications on sprint performance. Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) has been shown to increase in response to a period of sprint training. However, it is difficult to determine if increased NCV is likely to contribute to improved sprint performance. An increase in motoneuron excitability, as measured by the Hoffman reflex (H-reflex), has been reported to produce a more powerful muscular contraction, hence maximising motoneuron excitability would be expected to benefit sprint performance. Motoneuron excitability can be raised acutely by an appropriate stimulus with obvious implications for sprint performance. However, at rest H-reflex has been reported to be lower in athletes trained for explosive events compared with endurance-trained athletes. This may be caused by the relatively high, fast twitch fibre percentage and the consequent high activation thresholds of such motor units in power-trained populations. In contrast, stretch reflexes appear to be enhanced in sprint athletes possibly because of increased muscle spindle sensitivity as a result of sprint training. With muscle in a contracted state, however, there is evidence to suggest greater reflex potentiation among both sprint and resistance-trained populations compared with controls. Again this may be indicative of the predominant types of motor units in these populations, but may also mean an enhanced reflex contribution to force production during running in sprint-trained athletes. Fatigue of neural origin both during and following sprint exercise has implications with respect to optimising training frequency and volume. Research suggests athletes are unable to maintain maximal firing frequencies for the full duration of, for example, a 100m sprint. Fatigue after a single training session may also have a neural manifestation with some athletes unable to voluntarily fully activate muscle or experiencing stretch reflex inhibition after heavy training. This may occur in conjunction with muscle damage. Research investigating the neural influences on sprint performance is limited. Further longitudinal research is necessary to improve our understanding of neural factors that contribute to training-induced improvements in sprint performance.
Full-text available
Porter, JM, Wu, WFW, Crossley, RM, Knopp, SW, and Campbell, OC. Adopting an external focus of attention improves sprinting performance in low-skilled sprinters. J Strength Cond Res 29(4): 947-953, 2015-For more than 10 years, researchers have investigated how the focusing of conscious attention influences motor skill execution. This line of investigation has consistently demonstrated that directing attention externally rather than internally improves motor skill learning and performance. The purpose of this study was to test the prediction that participants completing a 20-m sprint would run significantly faster when using an external focus of attention rather than an internal or no-focus of attention. Participants were college-aged volunteers (N = 84; 42 women, 42 men; mean age = 20.32, SD = 1.73 years) with no prior sprint training. This study used a counterbalanced within-participant design. Each participant completed 3 days of testing, with each day utilizing a different focus of attention (i.e. internal, external, or control). Running times were collected automatically using infrared timing gates. Data were analyzed using a 1-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). The results of the ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for condition, F (1, 83) = 6565.3, p ≤ 0.001. Follow-up analysis indicated that the trials completed in the external focus condition (mean = 3.75 seconds, SD = 0.43) were significantly faster than trials completed in the internal (mean = 3.87 seconds, SD = 0.64) and control conditions (mean = 3.87 seconds, SD = 0.45). The analysis also indicated that the control and internal conditions were not significantly different. The results of this study extend the findings of previous research and demonstrate sprinting performance can be improved by using an external focus of attention.
Full-text available
The present study examined whether the previously observed benefits of an external focus of attention (i.e., focusing on the movement effect), relative to an internal focus (i.e., focusing on one's body movements) and control conditions, would generalize to tasks requiring maximum force production, such as jumping. In two experiments, participants performed a vertical jump-and-reach task. A Vertec™ measurement device was used to determine jump-and-reach height. Participants performed under three conditions in a within-participant design: External focus (i.e., focus on the rungs of the Vertec that were to be touched), internal focus (i.e., focus on the finger, with which the rungs were to be touched), and control conditions (i.e., focus on jumping as high as possible). Experiment 1 showed that participants' jump-and-reach height was greatest with an external focus. Those results were replicated in Experiment 2. In addition, it was observed that the vertical displacement of the center of mass was greater under the external focus condition, compared to the other two conditions. This suggests that participants jumped higher by producing greater forces when they adopted an external focus. These findings indicate that the previously shown benefits of an external attentional focus generalize to tasks requiring maximal force production.
The study examined effects of attentional focus on swim speed in expert swimmers. In previous studies, an external focus directed at the movement effect has been shown to enhance automaticity, relative to an internal focus directed at the body movements (or no particular focus). The swimmers in the present study were given focus instructions related to the arm stroke in crawl swimming. All participants swam 3 lengths of a 25-yard pool, once under each of 3 conditions. In the external focus condition, they were instructed to focus on "pushing the water back", in the internal focus conditions they were asked to focus on "pulling your hands back", and in the control condition they were not given instructions. Swim times were similar in the control and external focus conditions, but they were significantly slower with an internal focus. Furthermore, questionnaire results revealed that most swimmers focused on the overall outcome (e.g., speed) in the control condition, whereas others indicated that they focused on specific body parts. Post-hoc analyses demonstrated that those in the latter group had slower swim times in the control condition than those with a focus on the outcome. Overall, the results provide converging evidence that a body-related, internal focus hampers performance. Moreover, when movements are already controlled automatically at a high skill level (and the focus is on the outcome), external focus instructions may be superfluous.
The content of instructions strength coaches give can have a significant impact on how an athlete or client performs. Research in motor learning has shown an advantage of instructions focusing on the effects of movements (external focus) over those focusing on the movements themselves (internal focus) in the performance of motor skills (15). Internally focused cues are abundant in coaching, so the purpose of this study was to test whether some internally focused cues might be more helpful than others. Participants (68) were randomly assigned to either an external focus (EX), broad internal focus (B-IN), narrow internal focus (N-IN), or a control group (CON), and performed five standing long jumps. All groups were instructed that the goal was to jump as far as possible. In addition, the EX group was told to "jump as far past the start line as possible." The B-IN group was told to "use your legs." The N-IN group was told to "extend your knees as rapidly as possible," and the CON group received no additional instruction. An ANCOVA showed the EX group (198.09 +/- 31.89cm) jumped significantly farther than both the B-IN group (173.74 +/- 35.36cm), p = .010 and the N-IN group (178.53 +/- 31.17cm), p = .049, with no group different from the CON group. The results suggest that a broad internal focus is no more effective than a narrow internal focus, and that an external focus leads to the greatest jump distance. Strength and conditioning professionals should carefully word their instructions to induce an external focus of attention whenever possible.
Over the past 15 years, research on focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e., on the movement effect) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e., on body movements). This article provides a comprehensive review of the extant literature. Findings show that the performance and learning advantages through instructions or feedback inducing an external focus extend across different types of tasks, skill levels, and age groups. Benefits are seen in movement effectiveness (e.g., accuracy, consistency, balance) as well as efficiency (e.g., muscular activity, force production, cardiovascular responses). Methodological issues that have arisen in the literature are discussed. Finally, our current understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the attentional focus effect is outlined, and directions for future research are suggested.