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Four disciplines make up the body of
human performance science ...
bio mechanics, kinesiology, motor learning and sports psychology
Biomechanics ... a simple way to understand this field is to compare how the bones
and the muscles act to create a lever system that works in much the same
way as a construction crane. Muscles only shorten or lengthen. When
this happens, bones move. Bones don't go just anywhere. They
are forced to move in the direction of the muscle acting on the bone and on the
direction the joint allows the bone to move.
If we put our bodies in certain positions we can move with more speed,
power and accuracy. If we get into a less favorable position we slow
down, are weaker and less accurate.
The concept of a swing in itself may be the first step in a lot of wrong thinking about golf. The swing is really more of a rotation driven "sling" than a swing. The golf swing operates off the 1st principles of physics regarding force production. A lot of golf biomechanics is related to the laws of levers ... like the teeter totter. The golf swing has both a horizontal and vertical component. When these two planes are combined the swing revolves around an inclined plane. Think of a merry go round being like a baseball swing. When it turns on it's side, it more like a who knows what and when it is tilted only about 45°, it starts to look more like a golf swing. The center axis is the key. In the human body, this axis is your spine. The deck plate of the merry go round is similar to your two collarbones.
The general area of the intersection of the spine and the two collarbones is the center of your swing or sling motion ... if it moves, then the outside edge of the deck plate (the swing path the clubhead follows) also moves. The first lesson in golf is to keep your eye on the ball. This is NOT the same thing as keeping your head still. It seems the human system is not about equal opportunity. It cannot easily handle vertical movement of the swing center, but it can handle horizontal movement.
The human machine works like a construction crane. The crane has a motor to produce force. That force acts on a resistance through a pivot point. The letters F, A and R are used to designate where the force is applied, the axis which controls the direction of the movement. The human body has the same components a motor, a string line and the structural frame. Muscles are the both motor delivering force through a joint which acting on the resistance of your arms and the string line connecting the parts of the system.
There is a huge fraud being perpetuated on golfers.
Kinesiology ... how the human string lines, motors and control box allows the machine to learn and perform. Almost all golfers have zero reason to know any of this bio-tekie stuff. It is sufficient to know movement is a controlled event.
Add the physiology of the human muscular and nervous system to the biomechanical work of the bones and muscles to understand the general idea of kinesiology. Generally, kinesiology is the more complete understanding of biomechanical problems about "how it works". Questions such as "What can I do to get stronger, faster or more skilled?" can be answered.
The force a muscle produces is relative to the muscle's cross sectional area AND the number of muscle fibers recruited for the required task. A muscle fires “all or nothing”. To control the force and direction of movement, muscle bundles recruit the number of fibers needed to control the movement. Other opposing or antagonist muscles are used to slow and refine the movement.
The image on the right shows how a knee jerk reflex works. The word jerk and golf do not typically go in the same sentence. The swing motion needs to be smooth and controlled and an all out, uncontrolled movement won't work . A doctor's hammer striking your patellar tendon is pretty different than what stimulates you to trigger your golf swing ... but wait, there's more. It seems there' more than one kind of jerk or reflex response. Some of these "jerks" happen a lot slower than others. And it seems, this delayed response can be anticipated and partly trained.
All this means is the old idea of not being able to influence the downswing once it has started is not true. How you go about taming this new beast is a completely unknown matter.
Back to the crane model ... a crane also has an operator's control box. So does the human machine. Knowing how the human nervous system works is the beginning of understanding learning and performance
Motor Learning ... this is the science of practice and establishing the necessary conditions for both learning and performance. There are laws that dictate how we should practice. Sometimes practice can be more destructive than constructive. Yes, sometimes it's better to go home and pop a cold one rather than beating more balls on the driving range. Motor learning teaches coaches and instructors how to maximize the learning for "individual athletes". Because all golfers are ultimately their own coach, it only makes sense to "know the rules". A lot of time, effort and frustration can be saved. It has been said that all learning is trial and error. This is obviously true for golf. In fact, mistakes are absolutely necessary for learning. You can't know "right" without also knowing "wrong". Nothing, except ignorance, forces you stay at the same skill level or to constantly make big mistakes. The general benefit of following a few laws of motor learning is that you can systematically reduce both the number and size of your mistakes.
The blue pathway (upper left graphic) shows how a reflex works. Until recently, reflexes were thought to be "dumb", all or none movements that could be neither controlled nor learned. It turns out some reflexes may be beneficial to your game ... if you know how to use them. The purple and green path represents a planned, controlled movement that has been processed by the brain and sent out to a working muscle. The work reflex has always implied an uncontrolled movement ... a jerk (as in knee jerk reflex). But as the TV commercial says ... "but wait, there's more"! Long latency reflexes have a limited ability to be trained and make small adjustments at the last minute before impact. The idea that you cannot control the clubface on the downswing because the movement is faster than the nerve conduction is being challenged. Now it is a matter of learning how to teach this valuable ability.
For controlled "muscle memory " movement, nerves send sensory signals to the brain, that position, direction and speed information is processed in several areas of the brain and then integrated into instructions going to the muscles what will be doing the work. It is critical to understand that for every working muscle, there is an opposite, antagonistic muscle that must be relaxed. Information is transmitted to the brain through Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles. This is how the brain knows where the parts of your body are located, which direction they are moving. Those signals going to the spine and then back out to a muscle are called reflexes.
Learning Precedes Skilled Performance
" A Picture of Muscle Memory and Controlled Movement"
This chart shows many important motor learning concepts related to how controlled movement is developed.
The Science of
Classification and Measurement of motor skills
§ Taxonomy … serial, discrete, continuous etc.
§ Error measurement … relates to which problem to fix first relative to standard performance model
§ Measuring coordination
§ Characteristics of complex skill
¨ Speed v Accuracy … obvious implications for length of the backswing, balance and timing
¨ Bimanual coordination … maxing out power with a two-sided swing
Motor Control Theories
§ Open v closed loop … is proprioception involved or not … Adams v Schmidt
§ How proprioception affects motor control
§ How vision affect motor control
Attention and Memory
§ Focus … relates to pre-swing routine and ability to switch attention from one demand to another
§ Movement and memory … the “muscle memory” thing
Stages of Learning
§ Fitts and Posner
¨ Changes across stages of learning
¨ Performance characteristics that do not change across stages
¨ Error of predicting future achievement from initial learning
§ Adams Closed Loop Theory
Learning Motor Skills
§ Defining and Assessing
¨ Performance v learning
¨ Observational assessment … looking at performance as related to specific points of performance and statistical analysis
¨ Practice performance assessment … mechanical assessment related to variability from standard model
§ Transfer of Learning
¨ What it is and why it is important
¨ Why does positive transfer occur
¨ Bilateral transfer
Instruction and Augmented Feedback
§ Learning styles … verbal/cognitive, kinesthetic and visual
§ Demonstration and verbal instruction
§ Types of feedback, difference between FB and KR
§ Role of AF in skill acquisition
§ Timing issues related to AF
§ KR delay and post KR interval
§ Frequency schedules for AF information …
§ Techniques to reduce the need for AF
§ Blocked v variable practice … when and with whom
§ Interference effect
§ Amount and distribution of practice
¨ Learning, overlearning and mastery
¨ Massed v distributed practice; length of practice
§ Whole/Part Practice
¨ Relates to skill complexity and organization … two part or three part swing motion
¨ How to practice parts of the skill
¨ Attention and part practice
¨ Part practice within whole practice … breaking down and reassembling the swing motion
§ Mental Practice
¨ Two roles of MP
¨ MP as it aids skill acquisition
¨ MP as it aids performance
¨ Basis for MP effectiveness
¨ Imagery … visualization and kinesthetic rehearsal
Sports Psychology ... Platform diving is about the only sport with more destructive consequences for "stinking thinking" than golf . Don't get it, the just jump off a ten meter platform and do a belly buster. Golf is a difficult sport because the first opponent you face is you own self. Every time you draw back the club, you are competing against yourself before you ever compete against a golf course or opponent. Golf brings out some of the best and worst behavior in sports. All experienced golfers have known the frustration of working like a mule on the driving range only to fall apart like a cheap suit during competition.
Each discipline has contributed to what we know about golf and how it can and should be played. Video and computer technology have become standard equipment for many teaching professionals
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Copyright © 2001 [CraftSmith Enterprises]. All rights reserved. Revised: February 15, 2016.