Only perfect practice makes perfect – Whatever you do
Do you play golf and wonder why you aren’t better than you think you should be?
Scientists have shown there is a direct relationship between practice and scores—something most golfers already know. But this means quality practice, not hours of beating balls on the range.
If you stand in your living room and practice swings or putting that is not quality practice!
Science shows that you need to hit balls for 10,000 hours of practice if you want to achieve near scratch scores. However, if you just want to lower your handicap, researchers show that practice times of 5,000 to 10,000 hours can bring handicaps into the low double-digit range.
What are you doing when you hit those balls for all those hours though? Are you creating muscles that know what to do and when to do it, or are you getting stronger, or more co ordinate? Have you ever wondered what is going on in your body?
The answer is that you are training the brain, which controls every movement, each thought, including muscle memory, before during and following each shot.
John Milton, Ph.D. and colleagues from the Brain Research Imaging Center at the University of Chicago, Illinois says you must reach “a level of maximal performance that far exceeds that of non-experts and a degree of privileged focus on motor performance that excludes intrusions.”
Their study demonstrated that brain activation of expert golfers during their pre-shot routine is radically different from that of novices. The difference is practice. The bottom line is: perfect practice makes perfect.
Not just golf
This applies to any movement you make repeatedly. If you want to be the best plasterer or the best child lifter then you need to practice doing it right – over and over again. Only then will you break bad habits that can give you back pain. If you are a nanny and need to lift children all day and you have back pain then you must practice squatting and lifting correctly and you will then train your brain to do it without giving yourself back pain. If you are a plasterer and need to stretch and use your shoulder in the same way day in day out then you need to practice doing so with a stabilized shoulder blade and a strong core to avoid shoulder repetitive strain injury. Just like the golf pro, you are actually training the brain by repeating the action in a certain way over and over again, which patterns the brain so that when you do those actions, you perform them in the best way you can.
Golf like all movements we perform over and over again in our work or hobbies or sports we play is a sensory-motor activity, one highly influenced by repetitive practice sessions that are of high quality. This means you sense the ground, club and your surroundings, including the target; and the brain analyzes this information. Based on where the ball should go, the brain determines the best approach to accomplish it, sending information from the brain’s motor areas, which tells your muscles, ligaments, joints and other bodily areas what to do. All this happens in a very short amount of time.
High-quality practice hours accomplish something in the brain that is powerful for both good and bad reasons. First the bad: Imperfect practice makes for bad habits. Too many people learn improperly from a friend or parent, watching others on the driving range, or develop flaws in their swing all on their own. If any sensory or motor part of the equation is not correct then you will learn a bad habit.
It is better not to practice than to practice poorly. Even if you have never played golf or taken a lesson, the brain will have a fairly good idea about how to hit that little white ball in the direction of the hole—the brain has a natural sense of what needs to be done.
The more you play, good or bad, the more the brain learns. It is called plasticity, a learning process whereby new connections between neurons (brain cells) are made leading to a better functioning brain. It really means you actually can teach old dogs new tricks, now matter how young or old you are. But these should be good, positive lessons for the brain to learn—and replicated over time.
The bad habits are too often what your brain remembers, typically because you have practiced that bad swing more than a good swing. But the brain is forgiving—start all over with good habits, put in your time, and your practice sessions will keep progressing. You will literally override the bad habits with good ones. One of the most important aspects of the process of perfect practice is focus.
Learning to Focus
One of the important results of being successful in practice is that it trains the brain to focus on only the most important issues that result in a great swing. In the study by Milton and colleagues noted earlier, the researchers showed that during the setup of a shot for a novice golfer, a variety of brain areas were active, including those not necessary for a successful swing. But with the expert players, brain activity was limited to only the areas important for making a great shot.
The novice concentrates on how he or she is going to move each body part, thinking about past lessons or maybe an instructional photo in a golf magazine, and incorporates significantly more of the memory and emotion centers of the brain in the process. The novice is really in an active phase of learning, with a lot of thinking about voluntary motor control.
You need to make sure before you start all of this ‘brain training’ that your body is up to it though! Pain detracts from your ability to focus on that perfect practice so if you are about to start playing golf or undertake any new activity or job, and you need to change your body position, come in to see one of the chiropractors for a few treatments so that you know your joints are all moving optimally and will cope with any changes you want to make then you really will be able to practice perfect without hurting yourself!
When you first start to do a new set of movements you will focus internally on your body to execute what you think is the proper movement, consciously thinking about grip, shoulders, hips, hands, arms and other specific body parts involved in the swing or do whatever you want to do. While this is a part of progressing through perfect practice, it will result in too much thinking on the course—a golf swing is not the sum of many mechanical activities, it is one athletic movement. As the great Bobby Jones once said, “You swing your best when you have the fewest things to think about.”
You can program your brain to accomplish all this…. by practice. Once you can lift something or move your body in the way you want it to move without thinking about all this clutter or “noise,” you will become better at whatever you do. The process involves being able to perform a delicate activity without consciously thinking about it, which develops into good experience followed by perfect practice.
You can improve brain function at any age. A healthy brain will help you play better golf, but that is not all. Healthy brains do not get sick, which will help you avoid the many preventable diseases common during aging. If you need help to show you how best to do what you do every day and avoid back pain and you want a simple set of exercises to practice just come in to see one of the chiropractors who will go through these with you.