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Different attentional foci may modify muscle activation during exercises. Our aim was to determine if it is possible to selectively activate the pectoralis major or triceps brachii muscles according to specific verbal instructions provided during the bench press exercise. 13 resistance-trained males (25.6±5.4 yrs, 182.7±9.1 cm, 86.4±9.7 kg) underwent an electromyographic signals acquisition of the sternocostal head, clavicular head of the pectoralis major, the anterior deltoid, and the long head of the triceps brachii (LT) during bench press exercise. Participants performed one non-instructed set (NIS) of 4 repetitions at 50% 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) and one NIS of 4 repetitions at 80% 1-RM. Four additional sets of 4 repetitions at 50% and 80% 1-RM were randomly performed with verbal instructions to isolate the chest muscles (chest instructed set, CIS) or to isolate the triceps muscles (triceps instructed set, TIS). Participants showed significantly higher LT activation during TIS compared to non-instructed set both at 50% (p=0.0199) and 80% 1-RM (p=0.0061) respectively. TIS elicited a significant (p=0.0250) higher activation of LT compared to CIS. Our results suggest that verbal instructions seem to be effective for increasing activity of the triceps brachii but not the pectoralis major during the bench press.


This work was originally published in European Journal of Translational Myology, available at

This article is distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) License ( .



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