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 uncovers how players can train their brains for better hitting. The concept of how hitting practice affects your brain can be helpful when designing training for hitters.
What is Myelin?
First, let’s discuss a substance found in the brain, which is essential for executing any skill (sports, music, etc.). The scientific name for the substance is myelin.
Myelin is the 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 (click link for how to most efficiently change a hitting habit) takes time, as does strength improvements. Just as our muscles get stronger after the gym, our brains change physical structure.
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. This habit-forming myelination 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.)
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. This automaticity is critical for improved game performance.
Our brain will lose 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 methods can help players intentionally train their brains for better hitting.
Building Rome Series Blog: The Mental Approach to Hitting Series
Here are the videos and articles in The Mental Approach to Hitting Series:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
See Building the High-Level Swing for a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!