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Swing timing is concerned with the inter-relationships between ball sports hitting implements and the related anatomical parts of players, in the motor skill of striking sports balls as used in various games.
More specifically, swing timing commonly refers to the efficiency of ball hitting or kicking skills by achieving optimum power at instant of ball impact. Furthermore, swing timing also refers to the inter-relationship between optimum power as generated and the intended point of ball contact.
Perfect swing timing is therefore achieved when ball is struck with optimum power, with least energy expenditure, and at contact point that achieves the desired direction and velocity of ball after impact.
Of all the motor skill components essential for expert ball play, swing timing is the most difficult to acquire, and teach, because of the essential millisecond co-ordination of major and minor muscle groups to impart optimal progressive acceleration to the hitting implement until it has reached greatest velocity and optimum angle at moment of ball impact.
Arguably the best ball players have superior swing timing to achieve greatest ball impact velocities for greatest speed and/or distance, and a highly tuned muscle memory, or ‘feel’, to more consistently repeat or adjust swing as determined by the changing success requirements which vary from one ‘shot’ to another, and the ability to fine-tune swing velocity and impact point and angle.
The answer still eluding even top teaching professionals; be it in golf, tennis, baseball, racketball, squash, cricket and even ball-kicking sports including European, American and Australian football, and rugby; is how to more effectively teach correct swing timing, the essence of the ‘perfect swing technique’.
Some common and fairly accurate perceptions of correct Swing Timing include a relaxed posture and muscle groups, which are only called into action in precisely timed intervals, and which relax instantly after ball contact is made; and an apparent ‘80% Only’ effort, which appears to promote the desired relaxed state during the whole swing.
But the inability to more accurately observe these split-second, highly complex correlations and co-ordination; therefore, more often than not, encourages the teaching of specific and isolated swing components only, which tends to disrupt ‘natural’ swing mechanics and timing rather than enhancing these.
For this reason, correct swing timing, still remains confined to trial and error techniques, where the naturally gifted player eliminates errors more quickly, and acquires accurate muscle memory faster.
As visual feedback of actual swing remains elusive, an increasingly popular technique is to focus on correct swing rhythm, which can be more easily internalized, thereby accelerating essential muscle memory. Therefore one of the most effective teaching and practice tools is music, where the rhythm of music and ‘perfect swing’ are identical for a given player. In this method there is a more identifiable correlation of actual swing versus ideal by the degree of synchronization achieved.
Other audio and tactile swing timing feedback devices have already been developed. These devices have proven to be highly effective in teaching ‘near perfect swing timing’ even to youngsters in a natural play learning experience.
Swing timing versus swing rhythm
In the existing related literature, these two terms are freely interchanged. Yet it appears that failure to recognize the key difference is another reason for the difficulty in their understanding, and thereby the difficulty in achieving correct swing mechanics, timing and rhythm.
Whereas swing timing is pertinent to the sequence of vital swing components coming into effect for optimum ball contact, Swing rhythm is the tempo of the complete swing, which traditionally includes the backswing, and a vital pause between backswing and final swing towards ball impact.
In swing timing the emphasis is therefore on the correct sequence of the various elements of the total swing. Whereas in swing rhythm the focus is on the tempo, and relative 'weight' of each component within that tempo of the ideal personal swing.
Focus on swing rhythm, either in teaching or personal practice, is considered preferable. Correct swing rhythm results in faster 'feel' of correct timing mechanics, and reduces interference with that vital process by eliminating risk of undue emphasis on individual components of the total swing. To achieve perfect swing timing in this approach, it only remains to fine-tune this rhythm to ensure that the 'down beat' coincides perfectly with ball impact.
Professive segmental acceleration
It is more important to understand this rhythm aspect of swing timing, then to focus on its individual components. And regardless of which sports specific skill, this concept remains constant. First, movement occurs in the most distal of the total swing lever system and progressively moves to each component one increment closer to the final impact point. And this movement sequence is common for tennis, golf, baseball and similar hitting skills. First the knees, which initiate rotation and forward movement of hips, which in turn initiate upper trunk and shoulder rotation, before progressively bringing upper and lower arms into play, followed by wrist and fingers which impart the final control and speed to the club, racket or stick. For ultimate success it is equally important that perfect swing timing occurs in the correct Swing Plane as determined by anticipated ball contact point, intended direction of ball flight, and the desired spin effect to be imparted to ball.
Mathematical models can easily demonstrated the effect on racket or clubhead velocity, for each swing component which is subject to exponential acceleration caused by the cumulative effect of all prior components in the total acceleration chain. In simple terminology and concept, this complex action and its effect is comparable to cracking a whip. It is therefore self-evident that if any one component is out of ideal swing synchronization, the resultant detrimental impact will be a similarly exponential increase in loss of power and direction at ball impact.
While this is an appropriate model for better understanding of the biomechanics and kinesiology involved in perfect swing timing; it is not an ideal basis for teaching same. It is simply too complex for anyone to consciously synchronize all the component in this chain, especially in only the fraction of a second available to complete this final swing sequence; or indeed observe it or feel each individual component coming into play sequentially. Thus tempo and rhythm, still remain as the key variables in the achievement of correct swing timing.
Therefore any theory of correct swing timing, in practice and teaching, must rely on correct swing rhythm emphasis, including learning, teaching and practice devices that provide instant feedback of correct swing rhythm for every swing.
The importance of the pause of the hitting implement at the end of the backswing, that is, before the actual swing aimed at perfect swing timing is commenced; is generally agreed upon, regardless of sport. This Pause is the moment of final deliberation as to when to commence a hitchless and optimum swing. Many swing timing problems can thus be traced back to miscalculations during this critical split-second pause. The continuing 'traditional' emphasis on correct backswing check points, arcs and planes, therefore appears to be seriously misplaced, and simply adds to the overall complexity of Swing Timing.
It would therefore also appear that only two things are important in any backswing instructions, First, that the racket or clubhead pauses in the correct place on the desired swing arc and plane as determined by the intended 'shot', and secondly, that the racket or club face has assumed the optimal angle relative to swing arc and plane, so as to require minimal further adjustment in the Final Swing Sequence, and thereby eliminating another adjustment variable and potential cause of error.
The achievement of correct swing timing therefore remains over-complicated by breaking down a swing that needs to be continuous and rhythmic, into its sub-components. Instead it can and should be 'discovered' much more easily through an emphasis on correct swing rhythm in ways already described.