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What's your focus? Improving Motor Performance

The Importance of External Focus of Attention

By erica demarch - May 24, 2018

I just reread a great article on the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning and decided to apply it to my class for people with PD this am and was impressed with the results.  I had the attendees focus on external focus of attention rather than internal focus of body movements.  For example, during the warmup, I said “reach toward the ceiling and push through the floor” to improve posture extending their hips and knees as they pushed through the floor and extending their trunk, elbows and fingers as they reached toward the ceiling.  Reflecting on my past cues, at times I emphasized more on the internal focus of body movements, such as spread your fingers, shift your weight to your left foot etc. The research shows changing just one word or focus can change a movement pattern.  Yoga and Tai Chi and some sports do this well, but do we do this in everyday movement training? 

Try today to use an external focus of attention and see if it improves performance. 

The article I read is “Optimizing performance through intrinsic motivation and attention for learning: The OPTIMAL theory of motor learning” by Rebecca Lewthwaite and Gabriele Wulf.  It states “Evidence has amassed for the advantages of concentrating on or adopting an external focus of attention on the intended movement effect (e.g., motion of an implement, striking a target, exerting force against an object) relative to an internal focus on body movements.”

Stay tuned for my next blog using auditory feedback to help with the timing and speed of movement.