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What is Muscle Memory?

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In baseball, especially when training pitchers or hitters, the term "muscle memory" is heard all the time.  In order to understand how muscle memory is created, read the Wikipedia on Muscle memory:

"When an active person repeatedly trains movement, often of the same activity, in an effort to stimulate the mind’s adaptation process, the outcome is to induce physiological changes which attain increased levels of accuracy through repetition. Even though the process is really brain-muscle memory or motor memory, the colloquial expression "muscle memory" is commonly used.

Individuals rely upon the mind’s ability to assimilate a given activity and adapt to the training. As the brain and muscle adapts to training, the subsequent changes are a form or representation of its muscle memory.

There are two types of motor skills involved in muscle memory: fine and gross. Fine motor skills are very minute and small skills we perform with our hands such as brushing teeth, combing hair, using a pencil or pen to write, touch typing, playing some musical instruments, or even playing video games. Gross motor skills are those actions that require large body parts and large body movements as in the throwing sports such as bowling, American football, and baseball, sports such as rowing, basketball, golf, martial arts, and tennis, and activities such as driving a car (especially one with a manual transmission), piloting aircraft, playing some musical instruments, and marksmanship.

Muscle memory is fashioned over time through repetition of a given suite of motor skills and the ability through brain activity to inculcate and instill it such that they become automatic. To the beginner, activities such as brushing the teeth, combing the hair, or even driving a vehicle are not as easy as they look. As one reinforces those movements through repetition, the neural system learns those fine and gross motor skills to the degree that one no longer needs to think about them, but merely to react and perform appropriately. In this sense the muscle memory process is an example of automating an OODA Loop insofar as one learns to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

When one picks up a hair brush, one automatically has a certain motion, style, number of strokes, and amount of pressure as the hair is brushed without requiring conscious thought about each movement. Other forms of rather elaborate motions that have become automatic include speech. As one speaks, one usually does not consciously think about the complex tongue movements, synchronisation with vocal cords and various lip movements that are required to produce phonemes, because of muscle memory. In speaking a language that is not one's native language, one typically speaks with an accent, because one's muscle memory is tuned to forming the phonemes of one's native language, rather than those of the language one is speaking. An accent can be eliminated only by carefully retraining the muscle memory."


Double Cut Relay Left Field Line

The Double Cut relay is one of the most beautifully choreagraphed plays in all of baseball.  The Double Cut is the defense's strongest weapon against balls hit down the line or in the alleys.  It requires speed, communication and quick decision making from all players on the field.  The relay's primary goal is to throw out the lead runner trying to score, while the secondary goal is to stop all runners from advancing extra bases.

A Double Cut situation is needed on ALL balls hit to the fence down the line or in the gaps.  In these cases, unless the runners are ridiculously slow, the defense must assume the runner(s) will advance at least two bases, so the defense will set up three (3) bases ahead of the lead runner.  In the flash video on the left, the offense starts with a runner on first base and a ball is hit down the left field line to the fence.

Step 1:  Immediately, the defense assumes a two-base advance, so the relay will be set up to throw to home plate (Runner 1st, three bases away).

Step 2:  Both LF and CF will sprint to the ball.  While the LF will most likely get to the ball first, the CF is there to help back up and help communicate the relay if necessary.  The RF moves down towards the infield to help back up a possible back pick throw to 2B.

Step 3:  The shortstop and second baseman will sprint into relay position, calling to the outfielders for the relay as loudly as possible.  In most cases, the shortstop will handle the lead relay while the second baseman positions himself 5 yards behind the shortstop to protect from any errant throws over the SS's head or short hops.  The relay must be seamless and any missed throws will allow the runners to advance and score, so the second baseman's responsibility is extremely important to this play.  In a perfect relay, you should be able to draw a straight line from the LF, through the relay INFs to the target; in this case, home plate.

Step 4:  While the third baseman covers 3B, the first baseman sprints to second base (trailing the runner) and awaits a possible back pick play to 2B.  This is extremely important, as more often than not, most of the attention is focused on the primary runner and a play at 3B or Home plate.  Many times, the trailing runner can lose focus and round 2B too far and can be back picked at 2B so LOOK FOR THIS PLAY.

Step 5:  The Catcher remains at home and directs the play, lining up the relay Infielders and making the final decision on which option the defense will take.

Option 1: (Primary Play) Relay to HOME
Option 2: Relay/Backpick to 3B
Option 3: Backpick to 2B

Shown at Left:  Option 2

In this video, the defense realizes that although the lead runner (primary play) will score, the batter runner can be easily thrown out at 3B.  The Catcher in this case makes the decision to divert the relay to 3B and nail the batter runner at 3rd.
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