Swinging a Bat Affects the Brain
Train Brain for Better Hitting
The Mental Approach to Hitting Series
Baseball and Fast Pitch Softball
How we swing a bat affects our brain!
In this article, Building Rome Series discovers how players can train their brain during practice for better hitting.
While the discussion is scientific, stay with it. The concept of how hitting practice affects your brain can be very helpful when designing training plans.
What is Myelin?
First, let’s discuss a substance found in the brain which is very important for the execution of any skill (sports, music, etc). The scientific name for the substance is myelin.
Myelin is insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals.
Deliberate Practice Increases Myelin
As our circuits in our brain become more myelinated, movements become easier to produce with less thought.
“The human brain has evolved for governing motor activity with the basic function to transform sensory patterns into patterns of motor coordination.” (Wikopedia, 2017)
“Swinging a bat involves a circuit made up of hundreds of thousands of fibers and synapses. Nerve firings grow myelin, myelin controls impulse speed, and impulse speed is skill. Each time we deeply practice swinging a bat we are slowly installing broadband in our circuitry. We’re built to make skills automatic, to stash them in our unconscious mind. This process, which is called automaticity, exists for powerful evolutionary reasons.” (The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How, by Daniel Coyle.)
Just as strength improves with repetition, hitting skills also improve with repetition. Moreover, skill change takes time, as does strength improvements. Just as our muscles get stronger after the gym, our brains change physical structure.
Crucially, more successful movements provide pleasurable emotions, which strengthen the neural pathways of that movement. In fact, our brain will actually re-wire itself.
This rewiring improves connection speed. And importantly for hitters, insulates itself to ingrain the new neuron firing patterns, thus forming habit.
Lastly, this habit forming myellnation process, just like fitness training, takes rest and recovery.
Increased Myelin Improves Game Performance
“Myelin is similar to muscles. If you fire your circuits the right way — by trying hard to do things you can barely do, in deep practice — then your skill circuits will respond by getting faster and more fluent.” (The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How, by Daniel Coyle.)
For this reason, deliberate and focused training improves the efficiency and speed to which myelinated motor programs are accessed. As we practice more, responses become reflexive.
The reason why game performance gets better with practice is hitters’ subconscious minds can recall previous situations. For example, when the ball has been pitched with a similar flight path the hitter can react with an appropriate movement. Their response is based on previous successes and failures. In short, automaticity is critical for improved game performance.
Furthermore, our brain will lose the neural connections over time if they are not fired. Myelin decreases when we do not practice. So, not swinging a bat affects the brain as well.
Understanding the implications of practice can help players intentionally train their brain for better hitting.
Building Rome Series Blog: The Mental Approach to Hitting Series
Here are other videos and articles in The Mental Approach to Hitting Series:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing
Building the High-Level Swing, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 contains a detailed and comprehensive examination of over 100 hitting fundamentals, techniques, and options.
In the Building Rome Series of books, fundamentals are built step by step. Construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fast pitch softball players can “climb the steps of the Roman Coliseum” to becoming a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!