Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mental imagery and performance

Now this is absolutely fascinating. You can improve at a skill through mental visualisation - that has been shown before, but here is a new study. Mental imagery training can make you more flexible.

mental imagery training resulted in selective increased flexibility, independently of stretching ....

Psychological and physiological effects of motor imagery could explain the increase in range of motion, suggesting that imagery enhances joint flexibility during both active and passive stretching.

The mind is so important to the body! We are back to Z again maybe.

Does motor imagery enhance stretching and flexibility?

Although several studies have demonstrated that motor imagery can enhance learning processes and improve motor performance, little is known about its effect on stretching and flexibility. The increased active and passive range of motion reported in preliminary research has not been shown to be elicited by motor imagery training alone. We thus compared flexibility scores in 21 synchronized swimmers before and after a 5-week mental practice programme that included five stretching exercises in active and passive conditions. The imagery training programme resulted in selective increased flexibility, independently of the stretching method. Overall, the improvement in flexibility was greater in the imagery group than in the control group for the front split (F(1,18) = 4.9, P = 0.04), the hamstrings (F(1,18) = 5.2, P = 0.035), and the ankle stretching exercises (F(1,18) = 5.6, P = 0.03). There was no difference in shoulders and side-split flexibility (F(1,18) = 0.1, P = 0.73 and F(1,18) = 3.3, P = 0.08 respectively). Finally, there was no correlation between individual imagery ability and improvement in flexibility. Psychological and physiological effects of motor imagery could explain the increase in range of motion, suggesting that imagery enhances joint flexibility during both active and passive stretching.

3 comments:

toddhargrove said...

Chris,

Great study. ROM is a skill, just like strength. People tend to think of flexibility as a body or hardware issue, but it is a brain or software issue as well. If the CNS is concerned that a large ROM will cause an injury, then it will make you stiff. If you get more coordinated in performing the ROM, this will tend to reduce threat and therefore stiffness. Because visualization practice can make you more coordinated, it can therefore make you less stiff.

Richard Nikoley said...

I have been convinced of this for a long time. When I took up the sport of hang gliding years ago I developed a problem foot launching the glider (from the slope of a hill or mountain). I was able to fix it by going over the proper process, step by step and _feeling_ what my muscles should be doing, in sequence, the mental attitude I need, everything.

It worked wonders and I've never had a problem since.

Richard Nikoley said...

Uh, in case that wasn't clear, I'd go over this in my head for weeks, whenever I had idle time -- not by actual practice of the physical movements.