Alan Muckle – Sport Injury Therapist
Alan has been interested in vision coaching since 1998 when he worked with World Rally Champion Colin McRae [link]. He says that to this day sports coaches like England Rugby’s Clive Woodward and Gary Neville of Manchester United Football Club use vision coaches, so there’s definitely something in it.
“Vision is a skill” Alan says.” Why do World Champions become World Champions? Because the best of them all have something in common - they can all see better and regularly practice vision drills (to keep their neural pathways on fire!)”.
Improve vision to improve performance
He also talks about ‘Performance Neurology’, so what’s that and what’s that got to with it all?
“Performance Neurology is the study and practice of improving brain function to achieve a higher level of physical performance. When it comes to high performance you have to have a high performing brain in order to get a high performing body. It really is ‘poor brain, poor body output’.
“Vision contributes around 80% of the input the brain requires to create a movement output. Think about all the different types of movement Jason puts you through when you're training. This is all heavily dependent on your vision - you just didn’t know it!
“When training your visual system you will make gains in balance, speed, strength, decision-making, sport specific skills, agility and your overall performance. This is because the messages from the brain to the vital movement areas of your brain that send out the messages to your body are clearer, faster and more accurate. This is the reason why you see great athletes like Roger Federer move so effortlessly, they work at it and so can you!
“Performance Neurology is the next frontier in physical conditioning, it is also at present the missing link in performance/ sports conditioning and rehabilitation.
So what are Alan’s top 3 tips:
Well they are more the actual drills, so give them a go. But first a few tips on getting started:
- SAFETY: Perform the drills in this order. Seated, standing, balancing and in the sports specific positions you play or work in.
- RELAXED EYES: Relaxed eyes are also one of the big keys to improve visual function.
- EYE MOVEMENTS: Your eyes function better when they are strong, flexible/mobile and co-ordinated. It helps if they are working together to create a single image!
So to the exercise drills:
1. PENCIL PUSH UPS: This drill practices eye teaming required to track objects near to you:
- Hold a pencil with the tip pointed upwards at arms-length in front of your nose.
- Focus on the tip and slowly bring pencil towards your nose.
- Stop once the tip doubles or reaches your nose.
- Maintain focus follow pencil back out towards start position.
- Perform 3-5 reps each hand.
Note how far the pencil is when it doubles, you should be able to touch your nose without the pencil doubling or blurring.
2. THE BIG H: This drill helps improve eye strength and flexibility.
- Hold a pencil or other visual target at arms-length in front of your nose.
- Keep your HEAD STILL and follow the target out to the right and then move it up and down drawing a vertical line of the H.
- Return to the centre swap to other hand and repeat the up and down motion to repeat the H.
- Perform 3-5 reps.
For added challenge try to draw the H with your eyes without following a target, you can progress to using your eyes to draw all the letters of the alphabet, also without a target.
3. RESET DRILL – RAPID BLINKING: This drill is designed to energise your eyes when feeling fatigued:
- Consciously blink your eyes as rapidly as you can whist keeping the rest of your body relaxed.
- Aim to do this for 10 seconds.
- Once you stop allow any blurriness to clear, then notice if your eyes feel more relaxed or if there is a sharpening of your visual clarity.
To Alan, vision training is as important as full-body exercise and nutrition. We hope you take away some inspiration from this article, and I’m sure you’ll join me in thanking Alan for his advice.
You might also like to know that Alan also runs vision improvement sessions in Bristol, so please check his website for the next dates and availability.
And if you need any proof of the results or benefits, a golfer on his recent course shot six under her handicap the day after attending one of his course.