My muscle memory practice project

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Curious, Aug 21, 2018.

  1. Curious

    Curious Hall of Fame

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    After talking to @ADS recently and reading his book '' Muscle memory and imagery: Better tennis'' I'm volunteering to be a guinea pig to test his theory.
    In a nutshell, I'm starting today to hit crosscourt forehands only ( no other hitting, matches etc) 3-4 times a week for the next 3-4 weeks, every session about 1-1.5 hours using the ball machine, aiming to hit a total of about 5000-6000 balls.
    Even though it's still a theory ( although he backs it up with quite a bit of scientific research) it just makes sense to me ie doing the exact same thing over and over again for thousands of times is the best way to perfect it. It's crucial to not do anything else in order for the learning and retaining process in the brain, muscles,nerves etc to take place smoothly without any interference.
    The critical thing though is practising the perfect movement for thousands of times, otherwise obviously you're just mastering the less than ideal shot which is pointless. In his book he says you need to focus on the most basic, fundamental elements of a good stroke which every good player do regardless of how different they may look individually. So things like early prep, good unit turn, using the legs and torso for power, looking at the contact zone and keeping the head steady. That's really all about it.
    I have an option to have a lesson with my coach to make sure that I have a good foundation to work on or ask you guys here after posting videos ( ADS recommends having a 30 min lesson with the coach to decide on the form before starting the whole process and maybe once a week to make sure you're on the right track)
    I'm excited to give this a go and would like your feedback also.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
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  2. FiReFTW

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    Same shot over and over for weeks non stop repeating over and over.

    Hmm sounds like a recipe for going insane!!!

    But I dont doubt that it should help alot and improve your CC shot alot, just sounds extremely repetitive.
     
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  3. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    expect some ups and downs, but working thru them should lead to a higher state...
     
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  4. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    If I play @Curious, I'm hitting to his BH!

    If I do hit it to his FH, I'll cheat way over CC!
     
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  5. Curious

    Curious Hall of Fame

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    It's basically to groove the main movement. Hopefully tweaks and adjustments would be easy to add later.
     
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  6. Keendog

    Keendog Rookie

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    Are you grooving the CC forehand or forehand in general?
     
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  7. Curious

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    Forehand in general and CC fh is like a starting point to groove the fundamental pieces.
     
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  8. ADS

    ADS New User

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    I have had others worry about it becoming boring, myself included. Curiously, this is not happening, in fact sort of the opposite. When only one stroke is focused on, almost every day you notice it is getting better and better. In fact it becomes almost addicting (to minor extent) because you clearly know it is getting better and you are aware of the fact that if you do not practice (or practice something else) for two days in a row, then you start to lose the gain. Just an observation, and not sure it will apply to everyone but I’ve heard it more than once.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  9. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    Will there be cones? :cool:
     
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  10. Jamesm182

    Jamesm182 Semi-Pro

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    Given how easy it is to develop bad habits I would make the sessions with a coach or someone who can "monitor" your progress quite regularly.
    The last thing you want is to start off well, then all it takes is a day where you are tired, not playing well or something similar to slip into a bad habit. Just the sheer amount of balls you are proposing to hit would very quickly groove that habit and be hard to break out of.
    Your brain is always going to try to be efficient, or what it sees as efficient , which is where a degree of laziness will come in , compared to when you start off.
    I would possibly book the 30 mins , and then maybe a quick review for 10 minutes where someone could view a video or pictures to help against the point above.

    Good luck , commend you on the effort and patience it will take , at the very least your concentration mental capacity and endurance should all improve
     
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  11. Curious

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    Ok I had a session with the coach and he said I was ready to go!
    Couldnt stop hitting and over did a little. The plan was to hit about 600 balls but ended up with 900. After an hour or so you get some sort of a 'high' feeling and you don't even want to stop to pick up the balls.
    Absolutely great feeling and this was only the first session. I made some adjustments along the way until I started feeling natural/comfortable with my elbow height, wrist bend, spacing from the ball etc. I will continue tomorrow if I dont have too much aches and pains.
     
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  12. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    Curious ... fyi ... it took me 3-4 months, hitting ball machine 3-4 times a week that first summer of 2hbhs to hit 10,000+ balls.

    Make sure you record the first hitting session and the last. :cool:
     
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  13. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    900 is a lot for one session. I think I averaged 450-500 ... 8 x 50 balls per hopper. I had one disadvantage you will not. The 2hbh was completely new ... so probably new muscles involved.
     
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  14. Curious

    Curious Hall of Fame

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    I was excited as I was hitting better gradually and feeling that some things were clicking. But I will take it easy because I don't want injuries to prevent me from completing this 3-4 week experiment.
     
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  15. Jamesm182

    Jamesm182 Semi-Pro

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    Pumped to hear how awesome you felt during the first hit, def agree hat hopefully you have video of your start and end sessions.

    Also going forward if you play matches it would be interesting to see how it will condition your brain , and whether you will have to make a conscious effort to hit elsewhere! really interesting stuff , consider me following until the end!
    It will also be interesting o see how any breaks or delays in the process may affect you , ie weather , court availability, coach not being available etc
     
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  16. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    Glad to hear "excited" ... I was afraid you were going through some burn out. Enjoy the project/journey. My left handed FH project is over ... but it was fun trying something new.
     
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  17. Curious

    Curious Hall of Fame

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    I'm happy that the Melbourne weather will finally be fine the next few weeks.
     
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  18. ADS

    ADS New User

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    I believe it helps to start every session with at least 1-2 minutes of Tai chi/shadow swings. The I would suggest 20-30 drop feeds from service line, the no-man’s land, then baseline (but all CC FH). “Technique is everything”. To do the short drop feeds forces you do do the stroke more slowly and deliberately, then as you move back, it forces you to speed up.

    I bet you are going to be really impressed how things improve over the next few days (got my fingers crossed)
    I like to use the orange bottle caps off Gatoraid / Powerdrinks. I prefer low profile and this is much less pretentious. If windy, then stick tennis balls in the cap
     
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  19. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    We (me and Curious) both have cones ... previous discussions. The reason I ask is hitting strokes without targets is like going to the driving range without targets (wide fairway :D ... every shot looks fine). I was just curious if the point of this exercise was to work on the stroke without a target (on purpose). I know when I started with the 2hbh a target would have been a negative ... better to just get a relaxed full stroke down. Then you get to a point where really all sessions should have some targeting component ... unless you are making a major change, then rinse and repeat. That is what has worked for me, anyway. Curious isn't learning to hit a FH from scratch ... so I would guess targets. Then the question becomes drill with a single target, and add variety (extra targets ... for example with cc ... one in corner and one near sideline nearer service line). I do both on my cc 2hbh depending on what I am drilling. Lately I have been hitting more semi open spinny/loopy 2hbhs, and a single target in the corner serves the purpose. When I work on drives, I put down the 2 targets.

    Bottle caps? hehehe ... you are more accurate and have better eyes than me. :D
     
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  20. ADS

    ADS New User

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    Agree! One needs targets. In the past I thought I was doing reall good until I added targets. Turned out my shots were not nearly as good as I thought. Point of clarification - I use 4 bottle caps to make a rectangle or square - about 4x4 feet. If you keep at it like Curious, you start to get pretty good over time
     
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  21. Curious

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    I really think I'm relearning the forehand with this project. I want to focus on the correct form for now and add targets after a few sessions.
     
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  22. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    This project is interesting, but I question it.

    Here are what I see as potential issues. First, diminishing marginal returns can set in fairly quickly if you're doing the same thing again and again. That could lead to less engagement and therefore less rapid skill acquisition. I've seen numerous learning (not physical activity studies) studies showing that for instance, multiple practice session over many days bring better results than a large block practice session. If that carried over to learning tennis, it would mean that it made more sense to do 10 minutes of forehand drills every day of the week than spend an hour doing forehand drills on a single day. That doesn't address the question of the benefit of doing an hour of forehand drills every day. More time is probably better, but at what cost?

    I also question the worry about interference. For a while I used to look at a juggling discussion boards. Juggling tends to attract nerds, who would argue about the best way to learn new tricks. A lot of jugglers were actively seeking interference in order to more quickly acquire a skill. They were citing studies showing more rapid skill acquisition with interference (this was about a decade ago and I don't have the references). An example is that they would work on a new trick for a set period of time and then jump to a trick that involved a different set of skills before going back to the original trick. The theory was that changing to a new set of skills and then coming back required the ability to refocus and that studies showed this led to faster development of the neural pathways. That seems counter to ADS's hypothesis.

    In any case, I'm interested in the result of your experiment. I don't think we have enough data yet to know the optimal way to robustly learn new skills.
     
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  23. Curious

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    Well it is a theory to be tested and I'm more than happy to do it as it makes enough sense to me. There's nothing to lose and if it works as planned that would be awesome.
     
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  24. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    I think most of us with ball machines live in redundancy land.
     
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  25. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    My feedback is that you are probably retired with plenty of time and/or money?
     
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  26. spun_out

    spun_out Rookie

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    I don't understand the focus on the cc fh. Why is the fh differentiated through the cc/dtl 'opposition'? Why not high/low fhs? Why not by the angle of deflection (i.e. hitting a dtl shot crosscourt would be a different shot than hitting a cc shot back crosscourt, etc.)? Is the cc fh that different fundamentally from a dtl fh or an even i/o fh?
     
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  27. Dan R

    Dan R Rookie

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    Good question. I'd add why the fh at all? I'm assuming like most people his fh is already his best stroke. Why not pick the bh? Just curious.
     
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  28. Curious

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    It's just about starting somewhere I think. Also maybe because it's the most commonly used shot in tennis. I will add variety down the track.
     
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  29. Curious

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    I wish. I would be a 5.0 in one year!:D
     
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  30. Dan R

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    Does he talk about visualization? There's some evidence that visualizing the stroke, alone, and more so in combination with actual practice can be nearly as effective as real practice.

    How are you going to measure improvement?
     
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  31. ADS

    ADS New User

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    Good comments! Blocked practice vs varied practice studies usually consist of something like this (to generalize). One group does the usual mixed drills practice, and the other does 50 FH, 50 BH, 50 volleys, 50 serves etc. Do both daily for 2-3 weeks and which groups does better - the varied practice group. Both also go with the usual tennis instruction: “Watch the ball”, “Rotate”, “Move your feet”, “Follow through next time”. Technical focus is usually all over the place. Varied practice is a good name. Of course there is sometimes a more focused instruction (with practice) but then one would possibly call that a variant of blocked practice.

    Also studies involving the two above seldom discuss anything similar to the ‘consolidation’ phase. MMP has ‘consolidation’ as a key component in the process, rather than almost an after thought

    MMP is all about creating new technique and/or revising existing tennis skills with better technique. It also includes deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is many things, but what is most important is
    -Requires focus on detecting and correcting your mistakes for progress – to specifically target your mistakes. This means it must be highly structured.
    -Requires challenging yourself – it stretches you – you must push the edge of what you can do.
    -Requires revisions – You must search for methods to improve performance. Strive so that with each repetition you learn more.

    Muscle memory is established by acquisition and consolidation. First you acquire the new skill. A key principle is you are trying something that you cannot easily do, you then acquire that skill. Then you keep doing it to do two things - to perfect it better still, and the repetition builds the neuromuscular connections that make long lasting. (consolidation). This takes time. You continue to do that over consecutive days (and no other motor skills). I have never seen any studies involving blocked vs varied practice with those guiding principles. Think about the muscle memory involved in learning a piece of music or a dance routine. How would varied practice work for that?

    But you are right in that this is all really theory/theories - unproven. There is evidence to support my theory, but you can also force the proven varied practice studies on my proposals. You may well be right. So very reasonable to me if you choose to keep doing the same things you are doing now, along with with your current rate of improvement. It is reasonable to see how this all plays out before giving it a try. What I propose may be wrong, but I am getting some really positive feedback. Of course anecdotal reports do not prove anything, but the data will hopefully add up -to see if right or wrong. It is a working hypotheses, but it does seem to be going in a direction suggesting this may be a better way. Time will tell.

    I also agree with with your statement that "diminishing marginal returns can set in fairly quickly if you're doing the same thing again and again. That could lead to less engagement and therefore less rapid skill acquisition." (Very impressive knowledgable statement I might add!). In the book I discuss this in more detail but one brief section is as follows:
    "Habituation is a decreased response or performance when repeatedly doing the same task. A more formal definition is that habituation is the decrease of a response to a repeated eliciting stimulus that is not due to sensory adaption or motor fatigue. (“ Habituation”, 2017, para. 1). The occurrence of Habituation affects the acquisition phase. Your learning peaks, then diminishes. You actually get worse. Therefore, if you practice too much during a single session, it can have negative effects. Note also from Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer (1993) – “Deliberate practice is an effortful activity that can be sustained only for a limited time” (p. 369). To go beyond the time you are fully focused and concentrated on your deliberate practice is probably detrimental.

    Fatigue etc can also contribute to the negative effect.

    Archie Dan Smith. Muscle Memory and Imagery (Kindle Locations 643-648). Archie Dan Smith.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  32. FiReFTW

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    Absolutely impossible even if you made the optimal tennis schedule throughout the whole year with the best coach in the world!
     
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  33. ADS

    ADS New User

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    The research suggests learning dirrence patterns back to back can cause interference or unlearning with the originally learned pattern. So how different if different. A FH and BH are different, but is a flat FH vs topspin FH too different, or a CC FH vs a FH DTL to different??? I do not know! No one does, but since this is unexplored territory, it makes sense to keep the variables to a minimum.

    It is just get the basic stroke down really really really well, then add then variations. A couple of quotes from the book:

    “Practice begins when you get it right” Kimberly Meier-Sims (as quoted by Daniel Coyle, 2012, p. 55)

    “The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, and then do them the same way every time” Pat Riley (Mike Klinzing 2015, para. 3)
     
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  34. Curious

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    I was joking, bro.;)
     
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  35. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    You can say that again.
     
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  36. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    I think most of us with ball machines live in redundancy land.
     
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  37. spun_out

    spun_out Rookie

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    So practicing different things back to back can be bad but what constitutes different is up for debate. Got it. But what about two things that are so different that they don't interfere with each other? What about fh practice followed by volleying practice? My gut says too close/similar. But what about fh practice followed by agility drills? Or what about fh practice followed by soccer?
     
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  38. StringSnapper

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    Man i absolutely love this and im 100% sure it will improve your game.

    Remember how i said.ive been shadow swinging like crazy 100 reps morning and night? Its like it developed a new "feeling" of the stroke on my forehand. I changed a lot of stuff, now i hit off the back foot and the way i throw my racquet into the ball is different, but im hitting balls probably twice as fast and placing them twice as well, dtl or crosscourt... i feel like i cant miss.

    Anyway, i can talk about what i do differently but i think thats largely irrelevant to others any myself. What matters is you find some pro technique to emulate and then just do, and then feel what works, and pursue that avenue. Just keep pursuing it. Eventually youll feel something click. Right now im hitting forehands and i think "this must be similar to how the pros feel". Its like any kind of ball, skidding, on the rise, a serve return, even when they hit an amazing shot and my racquet is late, i can just jerk it into position and it hits a great shot. Maybe because theres a deep base of fundamentals ingrained from all those reps.
     
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  39. Curious

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    Honest update. The high feeling wore off, I watched the videos and am not happy with what I see! It seems like I tried to hit good shots, mostly focused on the swing. Hit much harder than needed, torso rotation was suboptimal, keeping head at contact zone was almost nonexistent. But the good thing is as ADS mentions in the book, you will be hitting some occasional good shots, the idea is to increase them so that they become the majority, which was what exactly happened towards the end. Anyway I will definitely focus on the form and slow everything down in today's session. This was just the beginning and silly things happened due to being overly excited.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  40. StringSnapper

    StringSnapper Professional

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    Remember its a marathon not a sprint!!

    Btw where is this book?

    Also i think the nature of making change like these is a bit like that. It feels really good, it feels positive. But when you look at the video maybe its not so good... BUT small changes over and over a long period of time add up. Its like a long dark tunnel before you see the light of actual change. Not to say that you shouldnt use positive feelings to drive you to do training. Just dont rely on them, consistency is key
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  41. Curious

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    Good points. I bought the Kindle version of the book on amazon Australia: '' Muscle memory and Imagery: Better Tennis''.
     
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  42. Curious

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    I have been thinking about my stance since yesterday after my coach talked to me about hip and shoulder angle separation. I always use neutral stance where this separation is almost impossible. Just watched this latest practice video of the great man and it reinforced my opinion to switch to semi open stance which is what he mostly uses. I might need to hit an additional 10.000 balls to be able to do his signature head turn thing!

     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  43. StringSnapper

    StringSnapper Professional

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    On my forehand one big thing that i did was switch to hitting off the back leg (unless the ball is really short and im running towards the net to hit). A completely different feeling, my back leg and hitting arm feel so connected. It gives more time too between the ball and contact, which if feel enables hitting on the rise so much better.
     
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  44. Curious

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    That sounds like what I want to do, semi open stance, right? Like your left foot at 6 oclock, right foot 2-3 oclock (being a lefty).
     
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  45. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Thanks for the detailed response.

    So much of your method involves focus on the 'consolidation' phase, which I take to mean the tennis player has demonstrated a reasonable form pattern and can fairly consistently hold that form and apply it.

    What is your opinion of the "contextual interference" literature and studies? I looked it up, and that's what the jugglers were talking about. The claim is that contextual interference in practice leads to the seemingly paradoxical outcome of lower performance levels during practice but better retention and application over time.

    Are you familiar with Ash Smith's posts here on constraint based coaching? They were made a number of years ago, but Ash Smith is a respected coach and a big proponent of constraint-based and game-based learning.

    Since I'm hammering you with questions, what feedback method do you suggest for a coach working with a student? When I was coaching, I'd try to use video fairly often. It was a great way to demonstrate major technique flaws to a student, but most students need more immediate feedback when drilling form. With one student, I used a dog 'clicker' to make a sound whenever the student hit a proper elbow position checkpoint in the serve. That way she got instant feedback when she was properly performing part of her repetition.

    Getting students to hold form is a huge problem with adult students trying to break habituated patterns. With some, it is almost impossible to stop reversion back to old technique without monitoring every repetition.
     
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  46. IowaGuy

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    Curious - you might try the baseline drop feeds for an entire session. Sometimes the ball machine (kind of like live tennis) can add one additional variable to distract from things like keeping head at contact zone, etc. Plus, drop feeds are more consistent feeds than the ball machine (require less adjustment to the incoming ball).

    Honestly, if you can't hit the baseline drop feeds correctly, you're not ready for the ball machine IMO. YMMV.
     
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  47. Curious

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    Really good point. Thanks.
     
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  48. 2forehands

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    ADS

    please look up the proper definitions in the motor learning literature between

    Blocked practice (the same skill repeated for the duration of the session)
    Distributed practice (what I think you're calling varied practice)
    Serial practice

    Then look up
    Variable practice (this is not what you call varied practice)
    Random practice
    Random variable practice

    They are all different and you need to understand these differences if you are to make sense of the research literature. I would recommend looking at a books by Terry McMorris, Utley and Astil, and anything by Richard Schmidt as a start. You're representation of the learning research is misguided.
     
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  49. ADS

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    Actually the name of my book is “Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis”, so yes I talk about visualization (which has multiple high quality studies to show its effectiveness, several specific to tennis) a great deal, but let’s leave that to another post at a later time.
     
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  50. ADS

    ADS New User

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    Supposedly it is any motor skill, and there is high quality study I use in the book about triathletes demonstrating this. Again, any motor skill! I found it hard to believe but there are multiple supporting studies, though none specific for Tennis.
     
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