The EXPLAIN command provides detailed information about the execution plan chosen by MySQL to execute a given query. This information can be crucial for optimizing query performance by identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies.




  • EXTENDED: Display additional details in the output, such as nested joins and execution times.
  • PARTITIONS: Display information about data partitions, if used.
  • FORMAT=JSON: Outputs the explanation in JSON format.


  • -v, –verbose: Enable verbose output, providing even more detailed information than the default.
  • -d, –debug: Display internal query optimizer information, primarily for debugging purposes.
  • -a, –analyze: Analyze the query without executing it and display the execution plan.
  • -json: Output the execution plan in JSON format instead of the default text format.


Simple query:

EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM users WHERE name = 'John';

Complex query with joins:

EXPLAIN SELECT u.name, o.order_date
FROM users u
JOIN orders o ON u.id = o.user_id
WHERE o.order_date > '2020-01-01';

Outputting JSON format:


Common Issues

  • Missing indexes: The absence of appropriate indexes can significantly impact query performance. EXPLAIN can help identify which indexes are missing or could be improved.
  • Inefficient joins: Poorly written joins can lead to slow queries. EXPLAIN can reveal the join strategy and identify any potential issues.
  • Subqueries: Nested subqueries can also impact performance. EXPLAIN can show how subqueries are executed and whether they can be optimized.


EXPLAIN can be used in conjunction with other MySQL commands to optimize queries efficiently. For example:

  • SHOW INDEXES FROM table_name;: Display index information for a table, which can be used to determine whether additional indexes are needed.
  • REPAIR TABLE table_name;: Rebuild corrupted or fragmented indexes to improve query performance.
  • OPTIMIZE TABLE table_name;: Optimize the table structure for better data access and retrieval.
  • SHOW PLAN: Similar to EXPLAIN, but provides additional information about the query’s execution plan.
  • PROFILE: Analyze and display performance metrics for a given query, including execution time and resource usage.