If You Want to Get Better at Golf or Tennis Fast, Do This When You Practice

We've got the inside line on how you can become a better golfer or tennis player, thanks to science.

StefanoT/ShutterstockGolf and tennis aren’t just super fun; they’re really good for you. In fact, tennis is one of the 15 workouts proven to burn the most calories. Now, science has come up with a way for you to excel good at these sports in record time, and it’s all in a new study published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

The research was led by Ian Howard, PhD, of the Computational Neuroscience Department within the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, whose previous research demonstrated the importance of follow-through after you make contact with a ball. That study, which found that learning a movement is dependent upon the movement that will be made in the near future (i.e., follow-through), was critically important in inspiring the more recent study because it suggested not only a way that elite athletes can improve their performance, but also a way for stroke victims to re-learn motor skills. Intent on determining whether the movement immediately before a main movement (i.e., the back swing) would have a similar effect on learning, Dr. Howard assembled a research team consisting of himself, two colleagues from Plymouth and a scientist from the Technical University of Munich.

Dr. Howard’s team of researchers had volunteers try two different strategies:

  • First, the volunteers did a backswing and then a forward one while grasping the handle of a robotic device. The researchers could mess with their backswing, or let them work on a repeatable motion.
  • Group two was asked to watch a computer-generated backswing before doing a forward swing.

What the researchers found was that the more they varied backswings, the slower volunteers learned. However, changing the backswing visuals for the second group did not interfere with learning. In other words, physically developing a repeatable backswing through practice led to much faster learning, reports Dr. Howard. As with his previous research, these findings could help instruct the rehabilitation of stroke victims who need to relearn how to walk, for example—in addition to being key to teaching golf- and tennis-swing mechanics.

Nailing the perfect backswing will take time and effort, but don’t worry. If you ever get discouraged, let these motivational quotes from professional athletes and fitness coaches inspire you to get back out there and keep swinging.

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