Movement observation (MO) has been shown to activate the motor cortex of the observer as indicated by an increase of corticomotor excitability for muscles involved in the observed actions. Moreover, behavioral work has strongly suggested that this process occurs in a near-automatic manner. Here we further tested this proposal by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) when subjects observed how an actor lifted objects of different weights as a single or a dual task. The secondary task was either an auditory discrimination task (experiment 1) or a visual discrimination task (experiment 2). In experiment 1, we found that corticomotor excitability reflected the force requirements indicated in the observed movies (i.e. higher responses when the actor had to apply higher forces). Interestingly, this effect was found irrespective of whether MO was performed as a single or a dual task. By contrast, no such systematic modulations of corticomotor excitability were observed in experiment 2 when visual distracters were present. We conclude that interference effects might arise when MO is performed while competing visual stimuli are present. However, when a secondary task is situated in a different modality, neural responses are in line with the notion that the observers motor system responds in a near-automatic manner. This suggests that MO as a task with very low cognitive demands which might be a valuable supplement for rehabilitation training, particularly, in the acute phase after the incident or in patients suffering from attention deficits.