There Ain’t No Muscle Memory?
Pardon my poor English, but it’s true. “Muscle Memory” is a term that has been used for as many years as I can remember. However, with all that is being learned about biomechanics and mental training, a new understanding of our motor skills needs to be considered.
The reality is that muscles are not capable of storing memory in order to repeat a movement or contraction.
Muscles are merely differently sized motors that are attached to, and pull on, our skeletal system in order to create a desired physical movement. These motors/muscles cannot contract on their own. Coordinated muscle reactions are produced through electrical stimuli that come from many different areas of the brain. Not by muscle memory.
At this point you might be saying, “Thanks for the mini biology lesson on muscle memory, but how does this affect my golf game?” Let me explain it this way. There is no question that the golf swing requires a huge amount of coordinated muscle reactions. These muscle reactions are developed and learned over time through a process of trial and error, learning from the error, correcting the error and trying again.
It’s A Process
This process creates neural pathways in the brain. When the golf swing is practiced precisely and repeatedly, those neural pathways develop into super highways. These highways carry the signals to the muscles much faster which results in a more consistent and repeatable golf swing. Because the golf swing is a learned skill, it is important to know how to grow that skill.
Have you ever seen the “Drive, Chip and Putt” competition the Sunday before the Masters? Many of us would look at those kids and think that they were born with this great talent for golf. The truth is that they were motivated, either by a PGA or LPGA pro on TV, or their father or mother to start swinging a golf club at a very young age. They must have liked it so much, they started swinging a club every chance they got. This skill was being developed through practice and repetition. As they got better at swinging the club, they were able to develop the individual skills like driving, chipping and putting. Not by muscle memory.
The Talent Code
In his book, “The Talent Code”, author Daniel Coyle describes talent as a learned skill rather than a talent we are born with. His tagline is “Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown”.
For me, the most intriguing part of the Talent Code is the fact that when we perform the golf swing in what the author calls “Deep Practice”. Our neural pathways are insulated over and over with a fatty white substance called Myelin. The more deep practice, the more myelin layers surround the axon of nerve cells, resulting in connections that are 200 times faster than when we first started practicing.
The bottom line for me is that the golf swing is a skill to be developed. When we add deep practice to that skill, we gain more confidence and, over time become a much better, more consistent golfer. Isn’t that what we all desire?