When Michael Jackson did his gravity-defying lean in "Smooth Criminal", most of us were quite amused and may have also uttered, "How the F*** even?" But that was Michael Jackson, and we lived with the idea that he can do EVERYTHING, even stuff that's not humanly possible.
The King of Pop is seen tilting to a seemingly impossible 45-degree angle while keeping his body straight as a stick and his feet flat on the ground.
Fascinated by this move, three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh (PGI Chandigarh) took it upon themselves to crack the 30-year-old mystery.
Image credits: Michael Jackson / YouTube
While it is believed that Jackson relied on supporting cables and had a harness around his waist to create the illusion in the video, the study-- Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine focuses on how Jackson could recreate the "impossible" tilt during live concerts.
The scientists explained that most trained dancers can achieve no more than 25 to 30 degrees of forward tilt. So if you were to attempt the "Smooth Criminal" lean, the strain from erector spine muscles which support the spinal column would shift to the Achilles tendon in each ankle, making it impossible to exceed those extra degrees and imitate the legend.
"Most trained dancers with strong core strength will reach a maximum of 25° to 30° of forward bending while performing this action. MJ pulled off a gravity-defying 45° move that seems unearthly to any witness," the scientists wrote in the journal.
Thankfully, Nishant S Yagnick, Manjul Tripathi, and Sandeep Mohindra have the answer to this.
"As much as we would like to believe that MJ broke the relationship between physiology and physics, a patent registered under his name shows that the move was accomplished with a clever invention," the surgeons further added.
The study reveals that Jackson, in fact, used specially designed footwear that helped him achieve the impossible.
"The triangular slot could engage a hitch member (a metallic peg, which emerged from the stage floor at just the right time), allowing the dancer to obtain the right amount of extra support to be able to lean forward beyond physiological limits," the docs explained.
Michael Jackson during a live concert in Munich (1997). Image credits: LiveMJHighDefinition / YouTube
Of course, this wasn't possible without Jackson's core strength, the doctors noted. In fact, even with the assistance of the "clever invention", the move is incredibly hard to pull off, requiring athletic core strength from strengthened spinal and lower-limb muscles, say the doctors.
They also warn that MJ's move shouldn't be replicated as they would end up injuring themselves.