Public Library of Science
Centre for Exercise and Sport Science Research, School of Medical and Health Sciences
Training in front of mirrors is common, yet little is known about how the use of mirrors effects muscle force production. Accordingly, we investigated how performing in front of a mirror influences performance in single and multi-joint tasks, and compared the mirror condition to the established performance effects of internal focus (IF) and external focus (EF) instructions in a two part experiment. In the single-joint experiment 28 resistance-trained participants (14 males and 14 females) completed two elbow flexion maximal voluntary isometric contractions under four conditions: mirror, IF, EF and neutral instructions. During these trials, surface EMG activity of the biceps and triceps were recorded. In the multi-joint experiment the same participants performed counter-movement jumps on a force plate under the same four conditions. Single-joint experiment: EF led to greater normalized force production compared to all conditions (P≤0.02, effect-size range [ES] = 0.46–1.31). No differences were observed between neutral and mirror conditions (P = 0.15, ES = 0.15), but both were greater than IF (P<0.01, ES = 0.79–1.84). Surface EMG activity was comparable across conditions (P≥0.1, ES = 0.10–0.21). Multi-joint experiment: Despite no statistical difference (P = 0.10), a moderate effect size was observed for jump height whereby EF was greater than IF (ES = 0.51). No differences were observed between neutral and mirror conditions (ES = 0.01), but both were greater than IF (ES = 0.20–22). The mirror condition led to superior performance compared to IF, inferior performance compared to EF, and was equal to a neutral condition in both tasks. These results provide novel and practical evidence concerning mirror training during resistance type training.
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