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Mind-muscle connection training principle: influence of muscle strength and training experience during a pushing movement



To investigate the effect of different attentional focus conditions on muscle activity during the push-up exercise and to assess the possible influence of muscle strength and training experience.


Eighteen resistance-trained men performed 1RM bench press testing and were familiarized with the procedure during the first session. In the second session, three different conditions were randomly performed: regular push-up and push-up focusing on using the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscles, respectively. Surface electromyography (EMG) was recorded and analyzed (EMG normalized to max; nEMG) for the triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscles.


Participants had on average 8 (SD 6) years of training experience and 1RM of 1.25 (SD 0.28) kg per kg bodyweight. Focusing on using pectoralis major increased activity in this muscle by 9% nEMG (95% CI 5–13; Cohen’s d 0.60) compared with the regular condition. Triceps activity was not significantly influenced by triceps focus although borderline significant, with a mean difference of 5% nEMG (95% CI 0–10; Cohen’s d 0.30). However, years of training experience was positively associated with the ability to selectively activate the triceps (β = 0.41, P = 0.04), but not the pectoralis. Bench press 1RM was not significantly associated with the ability to selectively activate the muscles.


Pectoralis activity can be increased when focusing on using this muscle during push-ups, whereas the ability to do this for the triceps is dependent on years of training experience. Maximal muscle strength does not appear to be a decisive factor for the ability to selectively activate these muscles.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2





Normalized EMG


One-repetition maximum


Pectoralis major




Triceps brachii


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The authors thank the participants for their contribution to the study.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joaquin Calatayud.

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No conflicts of interest or sources of funding are declared by the authors of this article.

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Communicated by Nicolas Place.

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Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M.D. et al. Mind-muscle connection training principle: influence of muscle strength and training experience during a pushing movement. Eur J Appl Physiol 117, 1445–1452 (2017).

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  • Instruction
  • Muscle activity
  • Strength
  • Resistance training
  • Attentional focus
  • EMG