Understanding Muscle Memory:
Part 2

Archie Dan Smith, MD

How much training does it actually take to make real improvements in muscle memory?

In my first article I said that 3 weeks of muscle memory practice every other day is the optimal period to consolidate new muscle memory.

This means practicing on one stroke or shot, trying to hit several hundred high level repetitions, and not practicing any other shot. (Click Here for Part 1). According to the research, this is the time frame and the practice routine needed for the brain to undergo functional change.

Unless you are doing little else but working on your tennis, however, it may be difficult or impossible for you to practice this intensely every other day for 3 weeks. But I believe that--regardless of what may be optimum--you can make significant improvements with less work.

The intensive 3 week plan described in the first article is a generalization. Generalizations apply to large groups. Individuals vary. So what is needed for each individual may be different.

So here is a less ambitious protocol. Practice 3 to 5 times for one week. Again hitting only one shot and not practicing others. 200 or more high quality repetitions.

If you are just picking up the sport, your gain with this less ambitious plan will probably be the greatest. If you have been playing for years, it may take longer to fully form the preferred pathways. This is because the development of new muscle memory paths will have to compete with established memory paths.

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Archie Dan Smith, MD is a retired physician living in Austin, Texas. Here is how he describes his tennis journey, leading to the creation of his work on muscle memory:

"I played for 2 years at my small town high school. For the next 10 years I played a dozen times a year with friends. Then I did not play for decades. About 10 years ago I began to play again. I was a mid-level 3.5 player but I could tell over time my game was slipping.

During this period I came up with and started implementing my theories on muscle memory. I started getting better. Two years ago I won the 3.5 men’s singles division in the long running main City of Austin tournament. I beat a 26 year old in the finals. Now I am recruited by USTA teams that have won regionals, and I play #1 doubles for a team in the Austin Tennis League. I conclude that there may be something to my theory."

Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis

This book is based on the science of muscle memory. Most practice only reinforces the status quo of the shots we are trying to improve. If you want to win you need techniques to create permanent muscle memory improvements. By practicing differently than you have ever been instructed, you can substantially improve your game. This book tells how.

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