When you find your muscles fatiguing, becoming leaden at the end of a sprint interval, what do you tell yourself? Dig deeper? Take longer strides? Relax your form?
If you revert to one or all of these internal cues to power through a workout, stop. Thinking about the actual motions your body is going through won’t help you perform at your best, a study from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests.
Externally focused cues that stress the effects of a given movement, not the action itself, produce the best results.
In the study, nearly 70 participants were divided into four groups and asked to perform five standing long jumps. There was an external focus group told to “jump as far past the start line as possible,” a broad internal focus group told to “use your legs,” a narrow internal focus group told to “extend your knees as rapidly as possible,” and a control group.
The external group performed the best, jumping a longer average distance than any other group, because they focused on the end goal, not the means of achieving it. This simple tip works for strength and conditioning and other sports, too. Just remember: focus on the finish line, whatever it may be.