Increasing the Distance of an External Focus of Attention Enhances Standing Long Jump Performance According to a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, simply by increasing the distance of an external focus of attention, relative to the body, standing long jump performance can immediately improve. Numerous studies have already indicated that using verbal cues to direct an athletes attention externally significantly enhances motor skill performance. However, the tasks tested were not complex, explosive movements such as standing broad jumps and vertical jumps.
Findings from an early study done in 2003 by McNevin et al. provided initial evidence that increasing the distance of an external focus away from the body enhances balance performance. The study by Porter et al. verified this hypothesis for jumping. Testers performed 2 reps with 3 sets of different coaching cues. The first coaching cue was “jump to the best of your ability”. Followed by, “jump as far past the start line as possible” and lastly, “jump as close to the cone as possible”, the cone was placed directly in front of the subject 3 m away.
The results showed testers jumped a significantly greater distance focusing on an external cue rather than the internal cue, and even further when the external cue was moved to a greater distance.
Providing verbal instructions that direct athletes attention externally, either near or far, elicit automatic motor behaviors that result in greater jumping distances than compared with neutral instructions that do not promote automaticity within the motor control system.
What does this mean for you as an athlete? Well, if your not already doing so, concentrate on an object that is further away than your target length before you jump! Don’t think about internal cues before you jump. Ever hear a coach say, “Don’t think too much just go do it!” Well there appears to be some validity to that. Take it a step further and focus your concentration on a single point at a greater distance away from you and see your broad jump improve instantly.
As a coach, giving your athletes external coaching cues can increase their performance. When testing your athletes, try placing a cone, piece of tape or some other target at a distance that is beyond the athlete’s jumping ability, then tell the athlete to jump toward the target.
McNevin, NH, Shea, CH and Wulf, G. Increasing the distance of an external focus of attention enhances learning. Psychol Res 67: 22-29, 2003
Porter, JM, Anton, PM, Wu, WFW. Increasing the distances of an external focus of attention enhances standing long jump performance. J Strength Cond Res 26: 2389-2393