I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
Muscle memory is the result of focused repetition of strokes, through deliberate practice, over a concentrated time with appropriate recovery to empower the human body to produce an higher, elevated performance level.
Many coaches might describe this performance level for the typical player as "unconscious competence." Other coaches might also suggest muscle memory is a vital predicate for "elite performance" for anyone at the professional ranks.
The science of muscle memory (and use of mental imagery) to help players at all levels is thoughtfully explored in the provocative and well-researched book, Muscle Memory and Mental Imagery: Better Tennis.
Backed by science, research and even statistical mathematics, author Archie Dan Smith (physician, medical director and tennis aficionado) clarifies the concept of muscle memory, proposes scientific laws to help explain it, and offers practice methods and practical tips to improve it.
Muscle Memory then explores the intriguing topic of mental imagery, or literally self-creating a sensory experience, to supplement and enhance higher-level performance.
The book also presents the tennis reader with an excellent recommendation section for further reading (books, articles and websites), and an extensive bibliography.
Here's a brief excerpt on muscle memory for consideration.
"Muscle memory is what determines your strokes and makes your tennis game what it is - for the good or for the bad.
I propose the following laws of muscle memory. By understanding these laws, you can apply them to your training and your tennis game. You will become a better player.
Laws of Muscle Memory.
1. Your tennis strokes are due to muscle memory.
2. Muscle memory is the result of permanent changes in the brain, nerves and muscles.
3. Permanent changes occur through repetition in a concentrated period of time.
4. Repetition by doing it right in practice is how you hit good strokes in a match.
5. Learning different patterns back to back may cause forgetting of the initial one.
6. Once your muscle memory is in place, it "forgets" slowly, if at all.
7. The temporary improvement that occurs during practice or matches should not be considered learning, but rather a transient performance effect."
Here's another brief excerpt on mental imagery for consideration:
"Imagery [means] 'to create an experience in the mind'. The goal of imagery is using your mind or imagination to see and feel yourself playing the point, as if you are actually there. . . . You are practicing, or better termed, mentally rehearsing, your shots. In fact, some even call it 'visualization'. The two most common [imagery], and relevant to tennis, are visual and kinesthetic. Visual - You see in your mind, as if you are actually there. Kinesthetic imagery is when you feel as if your own body is doing it . . . The reason [imagery] works lies in the fact that when you imagine yourself performing to perfection . . . you are in turn psychologically creating neural patterns in your brain, just as if you had physically performed the action."
For much more reading on these compelling tennis topics, please see and review:
Muscle Memory and Mental Imagery: Better Tennis, by Archie Dan Smith, MD (CreateSpace: 2017)(36 Chapters, 144 Pages)(available on Amazon- Kindle Edition)