Are you aware that the more we visualize, the more the brain retains the information that can become a automatism and allow to be trained without playing! Take the time to visualize your best moves to return to power at the end of the Corona…

Isabelle Vannier, the founder of OSS Barcelona returns to the theme of padel training.

The importance of visualization and imitation in the sports world

Do visualization and imitation serve any purpose? If so, how do you use them? If we have been exploring new training techniques ever more and more sophisticated and intended to develop the body and the technique, the neural capacities of the brain remain largely under-exploited in the field of sport. This is changing.

Recent research

Claire Calmels, also from INSEP, was interested in the neural mechanisms involved in learning by imitation. Using the discoveries of these predecessors, she asked injured gymnasts to watch videos of technical gestures and to visualize precise sequences during their sidelining for an average of six months. The gymnasts would have suffered much less from their period of inactivity than they should have through these exercises. All of his research carried out since 1995 and up to today would tend to show that video observation, mental training and the development of imagery in athletes would increase their performance.

In padel just like in tennis

We therefore know that the observation and visualization of a sports gesture activates exactly the same neurons in the same motor areas of the brain as when we execute it, as if the gesture were performed for real. In addition, we know that sports performance can improve when the brain is nourished by observation and imitation sessions that follow a specific protocol and an adapted training plan. How could this knowledge be applied to tennis as well as to padel? Would that mean we could all play like Federer or Bela watching them on video? Obviously not, since we have not benefited from the same training as them since their very young age. On the other hand, it is quite possible to fuel your brain and improve your game through imitation and visualization. Here is a suggested protocol to follow:

  • 1. Observation

The first step is observation. First choose a stroke, any, for example your weakest stroke, usually the backhand. Then watch a super slow motion video of your favorite player running. The exercise consists in dissecting its movement as precisely as possible. Go very slowly, frame by frame if necessary. Start by observing the center of his body, then his legs and last only the arms. What are her hips doing? His lap belt? His legs ? His feet ? Then what do his shoulders, his head do? Their eyes ? Lastly only, what do his arms and forearms do? His hands ? His racket?

  • 2. Imitation

The second step is imitation. Once you have dissected the movement, take your racket and try to reproduce the gesture by proceeding methodically, centimeter by centimeter. Again, go from the center of your body to the periphery. Go part of the body at a time. What should your hips do? Your lap belt? Etc. Use video anytime to refresh your memory. This kinesthetic exercise is extremely useful since there is then perception of the gesture IN our very body.

  • 3. Visualization

The last step is visualization. Sit in an armchair or even lie in your bed. First vacuum for a few seconds. Then try to imagine precisely the different phases of the chosen move. Proceed to start by cutting out his gesture from the center to the periphery, as in the first two steps. Inevitably, gray or imprecise areas will appear. Then go back to the first and then the second step, and start viewing again. Eventually, you will be able to combine our motor and mental capacities to see in your head the gesture of your favorite player, first a section of the body at a time, then in a global way. This exercise will precisely activate the areas of the brain that are involved when your favorite player hits a real hit on a field!

  • 4. On the ground

It is obvious that this protocol must be accompanied by very real and regular training. Ideally, carry out an observation and imitation phase per week, then a visualization phase per day, especially the day before training or a match.

Isabelle VANNIER BE 2 tennis teacher and padel having lived in the USA, and expatriated in Spain for more than 10 years, organizes sports and language courses in Barcelona, ​​through its OuiSportSpirit structure - and more particularly in the world of padel and tennis through the OSSTP department - We look forward to welcoming you soon!