Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by ADS, Aug 5, 2018.
See ITF article, page 18
If you liked that, check out The Talent Code
Yes! I loved it. “Talent is Overrated” and “Bounce” also good, but “The Talent Code” is my favorite of the three
It's really interesting what they state about practicing and improving. The "doing it right" and "concentrated period of time" things sound very reasonable. The "learning different patterns" part really doesn't correspond with almost all training I've ever seen and participated. Is it still true for significantly different patterns, like tennis serve and front kick of martial arts? How it corresponds with already learnt patterns - should we practice already good serve after a several hundred of "improvement" forehands? What about simplier patterns, like footwork drills?
I'll give the whole paper a read, thanks.
Yes, Law #5 that: Learning different patterns back to back may cause forgetting of the initial one” is radically different. Neverless that is what the science suggests with multiple studies, which indicates that using the ‘Laws’ may be a better way. I did not believe law #5 initially but I do now. I’ve had anecdotal reports of much success from a few who tried. This post does not have room for that whole chapter from my book, but if you are have access to “Competetive Tennis Coaches Vault” - see March 12 for that chapter.
I don't have but this really hooks me. I'll definitely dig for more info. Namely, I'm interested to know how a skill/pattern is determined and limited. For example, one can practice CC forehands as a pattern for 3 weeks, then give another 3 weeks to DTL forehands. Or one can practice just forehands, and then apply different ball approach, or minor adjustments. Or let's look on advice which is popular and not that bad - hit ALL your forehands the same way by moving your feet and timing it in such a way, that you achieve one same pattern for the swing and shot. The problem is, one can aim for this and even hit many of forehands this way, but definitely not all of them - in a match situation. So how learned and reinforced pattern operates with minor adjustments? Doubt any book gives me a pure answer But still lots of things to think about.
This is from my book “Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis”. However, if you are interested, I can send you a link to a much more detailed summary that I published in Researchgate (quite a bit of detail really) (so no book purchase needed related to muscle memory theory). I am currently trying to get a University to do a formal controlled study to put the Laws” to the test. I will be very happy to send that proposal too in case anyone knows some research type people. I will use this web site’s message or whatever you prefer. The details are far too much for a typical post, so I only want to send to those that are really interested.
Does this apply to the same stroke only? - such as changing two things on the forehand back to back?
But does it also apply to one thing on the forehand and one thing on the backhand, back to back?
No evidence one way or the other. I have tried different different things for a week at a time (that is NOT enough for consolidation), but when you only do one stroke, or aspect of one stroke, just one week of ‘pure’ Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) is enough to tell a difference. The FH and BH are different enough to where ‘interference’ between the strokes is likely to occur, but is the FH down the line vs FH CC different enough to create interference? I tend to think yes, but not to the degree the FH and BH. However once you get the ‘core’ stroke fully consolidated (say the CC FH), I think it advantageous to try FH CC variations - say work on deep CC with short sharply angled FH CC. Again, there are no studies and I have tried a few different things (which really means nothing). I hope somebody somewhere will study. See my book, and try just 1.5 weeks of pure MMP, and you may be surprised. As noted above, I can send more info - what I published in Researchgate as a “Working Paper” (as I plan to add to it later).
According to the article just before entitled "The effect of a variable practice method on tennis groundstroke learning of adult beginners", you should make some slight variation to improve success. It reminds me of this blog which is about learning from a musician's perspective.
Where I recall reading that concentration and focus are very finite resources, and that doing the exact same thing over and over again yields less and less results. The ITF article makes a point of using consistent, focused but relatively short practice as a framing instead of just sitting and doing the same thing for hours on end. Basically, take breaks, don't jam or noodle around.
Now on a completely different topic, I'm not sure I quite understood what was the point and goal of practice matches both from a player's perspective, and from a coach's perspective after reading the article entitled: "Training matches in women’s tennis", both parts.
@ADS *clap*clap*clap* Well done. Change the word tennis to "martial art" and it would still be 100% applicable to it.
I reviewed a lot on variable practice vs blocked practice. I strongly believe my proposal for Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) is significantly different (so I chose to not get involved with that discussion in my book - I felt it would only confuse and take away from my main points). However, in my book, I did recommend adding a limited degree of variable practice. An abbreviated narrative is -
In the beginning, learn the core stroke first (for example, a CC FH). Start with an “average” forehand stroke – meaning medium paced, medium spin, medium height. This will be your core stroke. You are trying to perfect your technique on this stroke as much as you can. Proper technique with attention to the fundamentals using Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) lead to consistency. Once consolidated, variations and adaptations come much more easily. So then practice moving around, moving – side to side, rushing the net – but all CC FH. Practice shots coming at you fast and low, slow and high, topspin and underspin, a sharply angled short cross-court, or a power shot, to the corner of the deuce court. etc. Give it variety, but keep it all on the one shot, the CC FH (but only after you complete the MMP for the ‘core’ stroke).
For a more advanced player, the words ‘core stroke’ could be substituted for ‘fundamental technical change that you want to achieve’. Really so much of this centers on trying to get the proper technique wired into your muscle memory.
I am impressed that you keyed in on an analogy between music and learning tennis strokes!!! (Both complex motor actions requiring muscle memory). I do compare the two briefly in my book. You are so correct!
Really too much to go into. I will send you further info
Cool that you appreciate the similarities between martial arts and tennis strokes (both complex motor actions). In fact, one of my favorite quotes in the book is from Bruce Lee:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”
I also advocate for what I call Tai Chi strokes - repeated use of shadow strokes in very slow motion - a concept often used in martial arts (Grant Grinnell used this term before I did - Kudos to him!!!)
Chapter 24: About Me
My tennis story is this – I have not played a lifetime of tennis. I played two years at my small town high school. Then for the next 10 years or so, I played a friend here or there, maybe a half-dozen times a year. Then I did not play for decades. I started playing more regularly about 10 years ago, but still was working full-time and busy with my family.
Also, I am not the best natural athlete, to put it mildly! I am skinny, short, weak, and slow. My reflexes are definitely slower than normal. My hand-eye coordination is well below average – and now I am old (65 years old at the time of first writing this book).
Sounds kind of bad, but it is worse than that – so let me put all this in more proper perspective. I grew up in a small east Texas town. My high school graduating class was around 100. All the way from elementary through senior in high school, we had PE (physical education). When we ran races, I was the slowest in the entire class. When teams were chosen, I was almost always last (and this in spite of being relatively popular).
I am exactly the opposite of a “natural athlete”. That is just how it is.
However, I have had recent success in tennis. A few years ago, in my early 60s, I was a mid-level 3.5. I noticed my game slipping, even though I was playing about 3 times per week, going to clinics, and hitting occasionally against the ball machine. I figured that is just how things are when you get older. I then came up with, and partially started implementing, my Muscle Memory theory and Practice. I guess I am lucky (in retrospect) to not be a natural athlete, because I have had to come up with props, prompts, and practice methods to compensate for my lack of athletic ability.
Instead of getting worse, I started getting better. To be honest, until last year, I never did more than a few days of Muscle Memory Practice in a one-week period (which is why I have since written my “How To” chapters – see later in the book). Nevertheless, instead of getting worse, I started to improve.
Last year I won the 3.5 Men’s division of the long running main City of Austin tournament – the Courtyard Classic – in singles. I beat a 26 year old in the finals. Now I am being recruited by different USTA teams that win regional and go to Sectionals, but cannot quite break through. They think I could be the answer (I am not convinced, but I surely take it as a compliment). Now I play #1 doubles for my Austin Tennis League (never happened previously). Now I get recruited to be a doubles partner in the final Texas tournament where only the top 8 teams (for that division) are selected to compete. Now I can hit comfortably with and against 4.0 and 4.5 men – maybe not “too comfortably” with the 4.5 guys. (Yes, the 4.5 guys are tough – but I hang in there pretty well.) I also now routinely play with or against players who were college scholarship Division 1A athletes who have been playing tennis for years. That is quite remarkable, practically impossible, for the loser of the PE class. (Over the last month - I added this one statement today 08/06/18 - I have had two of the club 4.5 guys ask me if I wanted to hit with them. Without question, I am not 4.5, but to have not one, but two of them invite me to hit with them does say something about how I continued to improve).
This only means – given the genetic material I was born with, and given the limited amount of time that I have had to work on my game, and given that I have never fully committed to my Muscle Memory Practice, and considering my OLD AGE – that I clearly have gotten better, while most others have not.
I feel safe in saying that many who are my age do not play as well as they did when they were younger. Furthermore, I have improved rather efficiently, and with only an abbreviated form of Muscle Memory Practice. I find it fantastic that I have improved significantly. I am in my mid-60s and not really spending that much time on the courts, but I am improving.
Also consider that I am skinny, small, short, weak, slow, somewhat poorly coordinated, have slower than normal reflexes…and now am OLD (age 65 at the writing of this book, actually closer to age 66). However, I clearly have gotten better every time I used Muscle Memory Practice for around a week – even with just an hour a day over 5 times!
I conclude there may be something to my theory.
I am embarrassed that I have not (YET!) completed my full 3 weeks session related to fully developing Muscle Memory. I am hesitant to confess this, but I am very honest. I do not want to deceive or mislead.
Also, I really am a busy person. The courts are always booked at nights and on weekends. I admit it is difficult. There are all kinds of good excuses to not “Get it Done”. In my journey to Better Tennis I picked up quite a bit of experience. I can confidently say that just hitting against a ball machine or with a pro is not going to take you very far if it’s done in the usual random manner. As you now know, I have carefully thought about this and reviewed the subject. Hence, Muscle Memory Theory and Practice.
Thankfully, even a smattering of Muscle Memory Practice can get meaningful results. Think about all the disadvantages that I have, and that I never fully applied my theories, but I have clearly gotten significantly better. I am in the bottom 5% of athletic ability. Think of the possibilities for improvement to the other 95% of you! Consider what this means to someone who is younger than age 65. Contemplate what this would do for your game if you are willing to commit to just a few weeks of the needed effort that is Muscle Memory Practice.
We are what we are. I get it. But if I can become a dominant 3.5 (or a decent 4.0 player), then think what someone with youth and natural gifts could accomplish. Me, I’m 65. I was going downhill, but I have now improved. Think what you can do! It is safe to say that, most of you, with your size, speed, reflexes, coordination, youth, etc. – that you can do so much better. Heck, just think if you actually completed the recommended 3 weeks of Muscle Memory Practice!
I have really tried hard to write something that will be helpful. So now we move on to another topic. I clearly recognize that getting 3 weeks of at least every other day practice has many significance obstacles. All of us have many distractions (busy life, booked courts, weather, etc.) to overcome. That is why I have recently researched and added another chapter to this book, the Chapter on “How To”. Read on!
Martial arts are extremely relevant to the discussion. I've been practicing traditional karate for many year, and we're looking forward to re-establishing our group soon. But the way we practice include multiple tasks covered through a session. And while part of them is "polishing" moves we already own, there are also lots of correction and improvement involved. And I cannot imagine how we can ever restructure the process in a way that we do something like Archie's suggested MMP. The only practical approach I can see is to consider group meetings as a source of understanding the form of moves, getting familiar with excellence criteria, and then to practice daily one chosen task as a homework.
Now back to tennis, @ADS as I read your researchgate paper I should point out one thing you maybe lack in your initial post here: the importance of deliberate practice, namely - addressing specific issues in your technic you want to solve, changes you want to make, including pushing the borders (imagine hitting with more leg drive involvement for more power, and make it produce consistent outcome by ingraining into muscle memory). So as far as I get it, you don't just go out and hit FHs for 3 weeks. You are here for delibetate change.
Now this brings me to the next question. What if I have several components to change? We all know "one thing at a time" mantra, but 10+ outings is a long period, and once some element starts clicking, we can further on only monitor it to stay in place. So, can I work simultaneously on takeback and racquet preparation, into-contact focused move and finishing fully? They are all components of compound task, and tasks by themselves.
Another angle of view. What if I practive with variation of incoming balls? Frankly speaking, I think approaching the ball may be or not be covered by muscle memory. Some incoming balls for some heavy practitioners may be so common, that everything gets in place by the moment they see the ball come. But for others (or for different kinds of balls) it's all councious to get to the ball with relation to where and what type of shot one aims to hit. So what's best for MMP - consistent feeds, or variation? And if former, how we get to variation later - possibly, through different training patterns, MMP not applicable?
And one more issue, getting back to martial arts. I guess, right leg front kick and left leg front kick are different tasks. They have similar excellence criteria, which helps to control ourselves through practice, but definitely use different muscles (even though "mirror" ones) to be performed. So shouldn't be trained back-to-back (what about simultaneously?). But once again, I cannot imagine practicing just one kick for 10 days in a row. The paper and citation say one should get at least a good-night sleep after a session. So can I practise 1st task today, 2nd tomorrow, then 1st again on the 3rd day? Or would they interfere? Unclear.
Another idea - what if I practice my FH, then rest a day (or do some cardio running - by the way, how performing such different "level" task interferes with complex tasks?), then play a match and right after one get a brief practice session to hit some good FHs to keep the MMP flow? Can this work?
Sorry for long and ill-structured post, but those are points I find useful for discussion.
From the preceding paper in the pdf linked to above:
"In another study performed to detect the effects of
alternative approaches on the learning of tennis, two different
groups were used one using a constant practice method and
another one a varied practice method. In this study, variability of
the forehand and backhand strokes was ensured by alternating
each stroke. It was concluded that the varied practice group
showed greater increase in their performance than the constant
practice group (García, Menayo, Sánchez, 2017).
In our study, we conclude that during the learning of open sports
such as tennis, which include complex tasks and require high
level of performance, variable practice increases performance
more than constant practice."
I like to vary practice in terms of particular shots but not randomly eg you could make the forehand approach the main focus but then add in what would come next in a rally; a volley or overhead. Or vary the type of incoming ball. I think this is difficult discussion though because it depends on the player/group eg how much time do they have, how long can they focus for? etc etc
I would be interested in more studies of different training methods like the one above.
I very much appreciate the interest!
Note this is all from a 143 page book with about 150 references (I reviewed over 250 references). Since this is just a post, I cannot go into everything, and I’ve shortened what I posted. However this seemed to cause some confusion, so the next two posts are lengthy.
First, Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) is definitely not “blocked practice”! (see above post)
No one does it the way I propose. Long story short, I was not improving (see above “About me” - actually I did not mean this to be a public post. I was trying to send to Lukas- oh well (hurried trying to finish as was time to eat ) I would be happy to remove if desired). So I read/researched everything I could find on muscle memory, and put it all together in a unique way it certainly worked for me and some others, with impressive results, (see next post) but this is literally a handful of people. All with less court time than the usual ways. My conclusions (“Laws”) are guiding principles, based on some personal experience, common sense, and science. Most everything beyond that is unchartered waters without hard supporting data.
Now some more background data. First, reread the post with the link to the ITF publication. Below is a very brief summary on MMP, and next post are some facts about about how the process that creates Muscle Memory.
Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) is repetition in a concentrated period of time, with no further type of practice involved. It especially means no further practice after your practice session on that one stroke. It is dedicated, focused practice. The concept of Muscle Memory Practice builds on deliberate practice (also called “Deep Practice” by Daniel Coyle of “The Talent Code”). So let me summarize some of the principles of “Deliberate Practice”, then state the key elements of Muscle Memory Practice.
Deliberate Practice . . .
-Requires focus on detecting and correcting your mistakes for progress –to specifically target your mistakes. This means it must be highly structured. This contributes mightily to mastering your mistakes.
-Requires challenging yourself –it stretches you –you must push the edge of what you can do –strive for what you cannot consistently perform. You must practice the skill at a more challenging level.
-Requires revisions –You must search for methods to improve performance. Strive so that with each repetition you learn more. This process is enhanced if you have a pro or a knowledgeable friend to give immediate feedback to refine your efforts.
-Requires repetition –a LOT of repetition –but it cannot be mindless repetition –it must be focused, deliberate repetition (thus called Deliberate Practice).
Muscle Memory Practice . . .
-Requires deliberate practice.
-Requires singular focused practice of one type on only one specific skill (for example, a cross-court forehand).
-Requires that the repetition is in a concentrated period of time (daily, or at least every other day, practice extending at least 3 weeks).
-Requires that no other types of practice occupy your practice session (as back-to-back practice of different strokes will likely cause forgetting of the initial one). It is especially important to avoid practicing any other type of stroke at the end of your practice session, even a casual “hitting around”.
Additionally, slow it down as you are leaning new technique - Tai Chi strokes.
Important! 3 weeks is optimal but you will see results after 6-7 sessions of ‘pure’ MMP (if you are going to try it for a week, go all in. Otherwise, it is like trying a new diet but only going for it on half the meals - meaning it just will not work as intended)
More to address but I have to go to work. Later .....
Traditional approach to marital arts training was built empirically. MMP along with learning a technique, kata or waza using a progressive learning approach is quite effective. I taught that way for a quarter of century. My students were generally faster, stronger and executed movements more efficiently than contemporaries that started in the same time frame at other schools. To benefit from MMP your group would have to be willing to change their approach to training. Instead of focusing on training 10-15 techniques, focus on just two, may be three techniques per session. Once those movements were executed at an acceptable level, then add/replace it with another. For example: After spending 4-6 weeks (twice a week) learning the mechanics and execution of front leg side kick, a student would then learn a sliding front leg side kick. After reaching an acceptable level of proficiency, they would start practicing the back leg round kick and later, the spinning back side kick. After that jumping versions of the side kick to which there are four variations in my system. The foundation in this example is the side kick. The spinning, jumping and sliding variations come only after the student can execute the basic side kick.
I think this is more true for changing or improving habits and that is why we work so hard to help folks get a better start in the beginning.
Are you on CTC of FB?
Hitting cross-court forehands for a whole session is by definition blocked practice. If not, please tell me how they differ.
You seem to be advocating some type of variable practice once a general movement is established which I would agree with however, you cannot run away from the fact that random-variable practice has been shown to be the most efficient schedule for learning and more importantly transfer for most motor skills once you get past the beginner stage.
Furthermore, I seem to recall that several learning studies found that learning a multi-component movement at a low speed had very poor (~30%) transfer to a faster speed condition (mostly pursuit tracking tasks). Given that, I would question the scientific evidence behind your assertion that you should start with slow movements. Instead I would advocate changing the challenge of the task to allow the player to achieve a reasonable level of success and 'live' speed in order to facilitate further attempts. Its never been rocket science but keep them engaged in meaningful and effortful practice and they should improve on the task that has been set. The question becomes whether the task set transfers to the game situation.
Please note that I do not question whether learning could take place within your laws, I merely question the efficiency with which it might take place. Unfortunately efficiency seems to be the premise of your system. Finally I wouldn't normally go this hard but you've published in a peer reviewed (?) journal so all's fair as far as I'm concerned. I'm also fasting and grumpy
Very interesting and good job, thanks for sharing here as well. Maybe asked before, haven't read all the posts, what do you think about the likelihood of getting results from shadow swings with a similar schedule to yours?
The dismal results you cited may well be true with pursuit-tracking, which is a totally different skill set. IMHO, while very modestly applicable to learning bio-mechanical tasks in most sports movement (as well as in dance, and in some instances music), I posit the exact opposite would be true for acquiring or perfecting a physical movement that requires exact transitions from one position to another via deliberate slow motion rehearsal for optimal motor learning.
'The dismal results you cited may well be true with pursuit-tracking, which is a totally different skill set.'
Not withstanding the obvious differences in tasks largely brought about by the need for experimental control in lab conditions (although I bemoan the lack of more ecologically friendly research in the area), both require multi-segmental movement coordination and perceptual-action integration to an externally controlled stimulus (motor control component) whilst probably under some sort of meaningful evaluation (psychological component). The two tasks require timing and force control of the body segments in relation to an external object, both elements that the research suggests have limited transfer between speed conditions. I therefore see worth in the findings.
'IMHO, while very modestly applicable to learning bio-mechanical tasks in most sports movement (as well as in dance, and in some instances music),'
So we agree.
'I posit the exact opposite would be true for acquiring or perfecting a physical movement that requires exact transitions from one position to another via deliberate slow motion rehearsal for optimal motor learning.'
So slow motion rehearsal is not optimal for tennis as the movement is a response to an external cue not some prescribed form.
Incidentally, the fact that tennis requires the player to produce variable movements to coincide with an external stimulus is one of the reasons why I would not recommend shadow swings as a proficient activity. Research has shown that practicing an isolated movement (e.g. no incoming ball to hit) outside of the perceptual-action landscape in which it needs to be performed (e.g. positioning to hit a moving tennis ball at different speeds/spin) leads to a different attentional task (different dorsal/ventral stream interaction) and therefore it is likely to provide poor movement transfer-they're different tasks.
Once again, I am not saying that type of activity will not lead to some learning effect but rather it will not be an efficient use of anyone's time given the perception-action demands of tennis.
Has the OP got anything to say regarding the scheduling of practice presented in their laws?
Yes I am on CTC - any particular reason to ask other than it is a great site and I follow daily?
Out for a few days, so sorry for the delay. This is a good comment! Blocked practice is usually different skills ‘blocked’ within the same training period, say 50 FH, 50 BH, 50 volleys, etc. MMP is only one or small variations of the primary skill you are trying to acquire. Blocked practice says do ”X” number of repetitions. A core concept of MMP is that you keep repeating it until you improve “acquisition”, then this is when practice really starts. Now the repetitions are practicing and incorporating (consolidation) the desired improved stroke into muscle memory that you want. Another key concept is that consolidation (muscle memory) takes several days (minimum) of the same thing to actually create changes related to the neuromuscular connections. Muscle Memory Practice must include all of these (see Laws) for it to work. This is beyond any type of blocked practice that I have seen published. It is also based on what science suggests, rather than “x” number of this or that.
Then, yes I do add variable practice at that time, but only with variations related to the core stroke. Such as, once you have done at least one week of medium CC FH, then add variations of CC FH - short with approach, high, sharply angled etc
Please send link on negative low speed to higher speed reference. I do not have an academic reference but high level coaches really believe low sped to high speed is great. I would like to learn more!
I have not published in a peer reviewed journal (Researchgate is not that - I placed a “working paper” there, hope to get helpful comments, then publish in a peer review journal). I have contacted also contacted some universities to try to get a research project going. Time will tell.
Agree, Efficiency is key related to what I believe MMP can accomplish. I am convinced. How to persuade young beyond a controlled study? Give pure MMP a go for a week (to partially do will not work, like trying a diet half the time). Let me know please
Related to the “scheduling of practice presented in the Laws”, an abbreviated reply is:
Acquisition is short-term memory. This fades completely and relatively quickly. But acquisition is not totally lost if it is reinforced (other training sessions) close to the previous session (within 1-2 days) and repeated. The base for the improvement starts going away quickly, actually beginning in the 24 to 48 hour period after your practice. Brain chemistry is a very dynamic process, essentially building and deconstructing all the time. Short term memory (acquisition) erodes quickly. It becomes long term memory (muscle memory) by frequent repetition in a concentrated period of time. After a single practice session, there is little muscle memory to build on 3 to 4 days later. Brain chemistry is constantly building and deconstructing all the time. Short-term memory (acquisition) erodes quickly. Per Vaswani & Shadmehr, 2013, p. 7707), muscle memory “that was acquired during training decays immediately and automatically”. It only becomes long-term memory (muscle memory) by frequent repetition in a concentrated period of time.
Related to my comment: “How to persuade you beyond a controlled study? Give pure MMP a go for a week (to partially do will not work, like trying a diet half the time). Let me know please”.
I’ll find someway to buy ya a beer if you are not at least ‘more impressed than I thought I would be’
What do you think of the following analogy? Are you familiar with those marble games where you have to get each marble in a hole? Almost no one tries to get all x marbles in holes simultaneously; instead, you do one at a time and make sure you don't tilt the game too much to dislodge a marble already in a hole as you're working on the next one.
This method of compartmentalizing step 1 from step 2 from step 3, etc. works very well. But how well would it work in learning a tennis skill? In the marble game, you're assuming that what you do in step n won't affect what you've done in step n-1 if you're careful enough. But in learning, is it that clean and compartmentalized? Is it possible that learning things simultaneously, which one would never do in the marble game, would have a synergistic effect and increase progression?
Really a focus on one thing at a time is about all my poor old brain and body can manage, but I think this is true for most. A tennis skill is so complex. One has to generalize. Perhaps think of progressive drills. You are unlikely to be hit a really good FH at 75 mph FH if you can’t first get good at a 40 mph FH.
However I do think you can partially work on same components of the same stoke that are somewhat separate in time, such as “Get Set” and a good follow thru. Maybe even one can combine the same time if simple, such as in the Get Set, the position of your feet and shoulders (but you would really need to focus on this). Bottom line, I do not know any research that has studied this. So hopefully although my opinion may or may not be true, or even make sense, no one knows for sure.
Which leads me to my favorite gripe since I started getting interested in all this: All sports in all over the world talks about the importance of muscle memory, but there is very very very little out there on how to Best go about achieving it, except ‘do it a lot’, or ‘lots of reps’ ......... Really!?! I do not understand how this important topic is so understudied (pardon my editorial). I at least have proposed a hypothesis (with reasonable scientific research backing it up - but admittedly there are flaws) that can be tested to see if right or wrong. Ain’t much but at least something
ADS, once a skill has been fully consolidated, how to you keep it dusted off and prevent myelin degeneration without interfering with consolidation of other skills? Say I spend 3 weeks on a forehand, then switch to 3 weeks of backhand, how do you recommend I maintain the forehand?
What are your thoughts on two-a-day training sessions? One session being a acquisition/consolidation session, the other being a dusting/maintenance session.
Fully consolidated - how long does it last? Maybe forever (but no one really knows). That is what I think is so attractive about this approach to practice. 3 weeks of maybe a little over an hour of practice maybe 4 times per spweek and your shower stroke is significantly better forever. Here is some supporting data:
Law 6: Once your muscle memory is in place it “forgets” slowly, if at all.
This is why someone who played tennis in high school or college still plays well the first time out in 20 years, even if they have not picked up a racket during that time. Muscle memory is permanent. That path does not go away. Therefore, what you have to do is make the new path, and have it be the preferred path. You do this by repeated use. The frequent use turns the new path into the preferred path. This is especially important in matches. You will initially have a tendency to return to the old memory path instead of the new one, until you train yourself to utilize the new path. Here is some of the academic evidence supporting Law 6: “The memory of the consolidated skill lasts for at least 5 months after training” (Shadmehr, & Brashers-Krug, 1997, p. 409). I should note this is the minimum duration of persistence of the new learned motor behavior –they did not test after this. I could not find anything that noted performance loss occurring at a later point in time. Karni and Sagi, 1998, reported “Improvements in performance continued to develop over the course of 5–10 daily practice sessions, spaced 1 to 3 days apart, before nearing asymptotic performance. The skill then was retained for months and years” (as cited in Karni, Meyer, Jezzard, Adams, Turner, & Ungerleider, 1995, p. 862). “These changes persisted for several months”. Note, this is the minimal. They do not know how long the changes persisted. (Karni, Meyer, Jezzard, Adams, Turner, & Ungerleider, 1995, p. 155). “Finally, there was almost no forgetting” (Karni & Sagi, 1993, p. 250).
So how long does it take to establish your muscle memory so that it is in place, and so that it “forgets” slowly, if at all? Most everything I read indicates a 3-week period of at least every other day of practice is required. However, you can achieve definite benefit by training for a shorter period of time (say 3 times per week for 2 weeks, or perhaps 5 times in one week) of Muscle Memory Practice. But to permanently improve the odds to elevate your game, it takes concentrated practice on one shot in a concentrated period of time for probably around 3 weeks. (Again –Try really hard for every at least other day). But consider this –3 weeks of Muscle Memory Practice to improve your cross-court forehand for the rest of your life –is it worth the time? Decide yourself if this is worth the concentrated effort.
Real data this time:
An Australian PhD research scientist read my book “Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis”. He put it to the test:
Results! He used something called Courtmatics Smart Dampener. For his cross court forehand:
• Power increased 27%
• Top spin execution increased 68%
• Follow through also increased, sweet spot increased, etc (he ‘may’ publish so no more detail than this)
He only worked on FH CC and hit no BHs, volleys or serves. He did not report accuracy and other aspects, although he did use targets. This was after 3 weeks of MMP. I could maybe understand this huge amount of improvement for a 3.0 or 3.5 level player, but he had played for 30 years and had received very high level specialized coaching on several occasions. He is equivalent to a NTRP 4.5-5.0 level player. The next week (after his 3 weeks of MMP) he played possibly the best he had ever played in his life.
He then did how BH for three weeks and played in a tournament (won again). Although FH not practiced, no fall off noted.
Also, for me, a year ago June I did a little over a week of ‘pure’ (pretty much daily) MMP for FH CC (including no matches or hitting around, and no BH, serves, etc. The next week people (ok, it was only two) I hardly knew asked how I got so much better so fast, and lots of compliments from my usual group and again asked how I improved so quickly. Now, more than a year later, the FH is still much better, albeit only maybe 75% of what it was (I should have done the full 3 weeks but work, etc. interferred)
If you are really interested, just buy the book. I priced cheaply and only make $2.20 pre paperback copy so I obviously am not doing this to get rich. This post has info, but it is all a bit disjointed now, and incomplete. The book also has other info you may find interesting, useful, and that will probably help your game
On the two a day sessions, I have no data. My guess is it would help esp if separated by more than 6 hours and a nap (sounds weird but read the book related to consolidation)
just thought we might catch up on there sometime
Sure. Anybody can swing a racquet and hit the ball over the net, and with enough repetitions do it consistently. My contention is that their form, in terms swing path, contact point and weight transfer, in general, would not be the most efficient and more difficult to refine as they progress in the sport. Yes, the subject most likely would develop timing his/her swing sooner. However, from my recent experience and that as a former martial arts coach, building muscle memory through deliberate slow reps with proper feedback, builds optimal and efficient movement for better control and power while expending less energy. Sure an incoming ball varies in speed, angle, and altitude. However, once the proper form has been repeated to a sufficient level the player only has to make minute adjustments to compensate for the variances by incoming ball.
Hence, the phrase, "Just like riding a bicycle"
I will agree with the statement that muscle memory is permanent, at least once learned to the point that is reflexive or subconscious routine - like eating soup with a spoon or cutting a steak with a knife and fork. I haven't practiced judo or aikido in more than two-plus decades, yet when I accidentally trip, lose my balance for some reason or slip on ice/wet surface my body unconsciously does what it was trained to do to avoid injury when falling (or thrown). That's muscle memory.
The author seems familiar.
how do you use this techknowlege to get good and improve for USTA playoffs ? and you only have 1 week to prepare for it.
Shadow swings, esp slow motion (Tai Chi strokes), help perfect technique. You have to slow it down to change your usual stroke that is already established as muscle memory too many great coaches believe in this although I do not know of any proven studies to verify. But it all comes down to doing it for real. It also helps to video yourself with your phone. Then do the shadow swings to fix what’s needed
You are not referring to me, but Henin is an all time favorite. Hard work, great technique, unbelievable mental game, etc - she is AWESOME!
It's well known that what works in front of the mirror goes out the window once the ball is in play, so I have a lot of doubts about the efficacy of shadow swinging as well.
It does not help that. Go to Law #7 - The temporary improvement that occurs during practice or matches should not be considered learning, but rather a transient performance effect.
Temporary performance improvement is an excellent thing to do 2-3 days before a match. Temporary performance improvement is a transient effect –a brief reinforcement on the current pathways. It is acquisition, not consolidation. It does not establish new improved pathways. Instead it reinforces your usual game, or your previous practice session, so do not expect much more, but that ain’t bad!
OK., so how do you establish permanent improvement shot making pathways..... like Federer shot making pathways.
Appreciate your interest. The long story is read my book (“Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis” Amazon Books). A short summary is read the ITF article (which means they liked the book):
More details earlier in this long post, but I am honored by all the interest!
Contact me anytime! Would love to arrange more trials of Muscle Memory Practice (MMP) but you would need to read more of the book. Getting some reports in, but need more. I have had a few anecdotal reports of much improvement from serious tennis players who have improved using MMP when the usual thing of lessons, pros, practice, clinics etc did not help. One was an Australian PhD related to agriculture/environment - therefore he was very analytical in his approach. On the cross court forehand his power increased 27% and top spin increased 68%. Other parameters also increased. This was after 3 weeks of MMP . I could maybe understand this degree of improvement (maybe) for a 3.0 or 3.5, but this was a person that had played 30 years and had received very high level specialized coaching several times. He was a high level player ( USA equivalent to a NTRP 4.5-5.0 level player. The next week he played possibly the best he ever played in his life. However he also used other techniques I recommend in my book - Tai Chi strokes, Imagery, etc (but had used these before to some extent - I think).
Yeah, you're right. Doing slow swings in front of the mirror won't help diddly. Optimally, the exercise should be done on a court where one can see the target areas they want to hit towards.
Ideally, the slow swing exercise should be done in concert with a visualization process of "seeing" an incoming ball and responding appropriately. During the visualization process, the athlete can vary the height, angles and contact point in their head. Generally, when I'm doing this type of practice, I do the swings from different positions on the court, aiming for different targets. IMHO, MMP without visualizing the ball and a hitting path isn't as effective.
I would feel too embarrassed to do that on the courts!
If you are trying to change an established motor movement, in front of a mirror should help (although admittedly I have not done that as I do not like what I see in the mirror, but that is another subject). But one need to see what one actually does. I was really slow to come around to self video. I am very self conscious and do not want to stick out, but to balance my iPhone against a couple of tennis balls or a water bottle has without question, changed my practice for the better, when I am trying to improve my technique. A simple request - if you are trying to change your stroke, please give it a 1-2 minute self record. If the courts are half empty, no one will notice.
I really do love be the Tai Chi (slow shadow swings with MMP. I so agree!!! You know, the “Title of the Book was “Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis”. It all goes together.
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