Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

David Sherwood

Second Advisor

Alaa Ahmed

Third Advisor

Alena Grabowski


Focusing externally (outside the body) leads to better motor learning and performance than focusing internally (within the body), yet many coaches and other instructors still use internal cues to teach. This is the first study to use electromyography (EMG) to assess the distance effect, to examine the benefit of a focus of attention (FOA) beyond a target, and to test the constrained action hypothesis in a stationary, dynamic task. Novice and expert martial artists kicked a force bag while acceleration (for the experts only) and EMG was recorded using different verbally cued foci of attention. Force-accuracy (F-A) and cocontraction were significantly higher in the distal external focus condition than in the other conditions. There was a negative correlation between F-A and cocontraction and a positive correlation between peak X acceleration and F-A in the distal external focus condition, suggesting that cocontraction may be beneficial in some circumstances, but not others.