Muscles are great. Muscle systems are awesome!
Without the brain & CNS, they’re nothing but useless sacks of protein.
Muscles are like power tools. Good ones look cool, but they’re useless unless you plug them in or power them up!
The elegance, power & complexity of athletic movement are rooted in the brain.
Each of the estimated 100 billion neurons in the average human brain and nervous system fires 200 times per second. Each is connected to about 1,000 other neurons.
That means that every second of brain activity results in 20 million billion bits of information moving through and around the brain.
Your brain. Every second. And many of those are dedicated to activating movement patterns and performing voluntary movement.
When a new movement skill is learned, your brain creates dedicated circuitry to remember the patterns & enable their accurate re-creation.
Neurons, synapses and specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters are all committed to any new movement, thought, activity or even memory you have, experience or attempt.
Amazingly, many of these synapses, or motor neuron junctions, can effectively multi-task. They can be committed to more than one activity.
Your brain will, over time, trim the synapses no longer needed in a process called synaptic pruning. This allows the remaining synaptic circuitry to become more efficient and to receive the required neurotransmitters for the efficient signal processing to complete higher priority functions.
Voluntary movement skills, along with the fundamental conditions like coordination and balance, are among these high priority functions. Some are strung together to create even more complex skills.
While it’s true that we need muscles to move, without the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord,) particularly the brain, our muscles really are just useless sacks of protein.
There is no getting around the brain when it comes to learning & honing movement & athletic skills.
Because of this, the quality of your work matters. When “writing a program” for movement, we apply the same law computer programmers use.
Garbage in, garbage out.
There is no room, nor any excuse for allowing a poorly designed motor program to become the “go to” for the associated movement.
Your brain will entangle & make primary the most repeated variation of a movement program that you install.
Neural entanglement is a necessary function for creating, modifying and executing motor plans, but unfortunately, it isn’t a selective process. Your brain will entangle whatever input you give it.
For example, strong emotions and your thought response to them get entangled very quickly and very deeply. Negative emotions even more so, because of a primal connection to survival-oriented brain function, brain chemistry and evolutionary conditioning. But that is a topic for another day.
When programming movement skills into motor plans, it’s important to execute the movements well and to have the appropriate or optimal muscles and muscle systems available and activated.
In fact, if the optimal muscles and muscles systems are NOT available for use to complete a voluntary movement, your brain will simply find the next best way to accomplish the action. As long as there is no pain, that is.
Take running for example. In theory, when we run, foot strike should initiate a proprioceptive signal loop which initiates muscle action in the calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads and other muscles involved with deceleration of that foot strike and reduction of force associated with managing the momentum and weight of the body.
However, if your hip flexors are tight and are creating a dysfunction in your glutes, the brain will allow the hamstrings, adductors and other muscles not optimally aligned to do the job. The result? You end up with a dysfunctional movement pattern. The brain, however, has done its job.
You wanted to run. You didn’t have the appropriate and optimal muscles and muscle systems available to do that. But you told the brain “let’s run.” So the brain found a solution.
The problem? Until you correct the muscle imbalances, movement dysfunctions and improper movement patterns, the brain will keep using the same dysfunctional pattern it created in response to your demand “let’s run.”
That is, until some part of the body related to the dysfunctional pattern breaks down and starts to hurt. Or worse, you suffer a debilitating injury as a result of overloading poor movement patterns.
So, then, your mission is clear.
Don’t feed garbage to your brain & expect beauty & grace to flow through your body!
Give your brain the quality input it needs & you will perform better, resist injury & play longer!
Keep the faith and keep after it!