Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

How to perform better at sports

Simple trick worth trying.  From The Globe and Mail, September 21, 2012:

Don’t clutch … clench. You’ll per­form so much bet­ter

DAVE MCGINN
The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition)
September 21, 2012

The next time you’re about to shoot a penalty kick with only sec­onds left on the clock, or need to smash a cross-court win­ner to fi­nally beat the ten­nis part­ner who al­ways bests you, con­sider this: Re­searchers may have dis­cov­ered a sim­ple way to help you avoid chok­ing un­der pres­sure.

How? It might be as easy as squeez­ing a ball or clench­ing your left hand be­fore com­pe­ti­tion.

In ex­per­i­ments with soc­cer play­ers, judo ex­perts and bad­minton play­ers, re­searchers in Ger­many dis­cov­ered that the ath­letes were less likely to buckle un­der pres­sure when they squeezed a ball in their left hand com­pared to when they squeezed a ball in their right hand be­fore com­pe­ti­tion.

Although re­searchers aren’t sure why, they the­o­rize it is likely be­cause of the way the brain is struc­tured. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that con­scious ru­mi­na­tion, which is con­trolled by the left side of the brain, can of­ten ham­per ath­letic per­for­mance. The right hemi­sphere is as­so­ci­ated with au­to­mated be­hav­iours and, im­por­tantly, con­trols move­ments on the left side of the body.

In other words, by squeez­ing a ball in your left hand or even just clench­ing your left fist, you may ac­ti­vate the part of your brain re­spon­si­ble for the body’s abil­ity to put aside thought and, as Nike would say, just do it. “Ath­letes usu­ally per­form bet­ter when they trust their bod­ies rather than think­ing too much about their own ac­tions or what their coaches told them dur­ing prac­tice,” lead re­searcher Juer­gen Beck­mann, chair of sport psy­chol­ogy at the Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity of Mu­nich, said in a press re­lease.

Not all ath­letes will ben­e­fit from the tech­nique, re­searchers said. It ap­plies to ac­tions that re­quire ac­cu­racy and com­plex body move­ments, there­fore chances are it’s not go­ing to be much help to run­ners or weightlifters.

Nor is it known how the tech­nique might ben­e­fit left­ies. Every­one in the study was righthanded be­cause the re­la­tion­ships be­tween dif­fer­ent parts of the body and the brain are less clear when it comes to left-handed peo­ple.

Sorry, south­paws.


© Copyright 2012 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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April 3, 2013 - Posted by | brain, neuroscience | ,

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