Volleyball, a sport synonymous with explosive power and aerial prowess, demands athletes to defy gravity consistently. Players often focus on physical strength and conditioning to enhance their vertical jump. However, the unsung heroes behind the powerful leaps are the brain and nervous system, orchestrating what many refer to as 'muscle memory.'
Understanding 'Muscle Memory'
Muscle memory is a common term used in sports training, but it might be a misnomer. It's not the muscles that 'remember' but the brain and nervous system that create efficient neural pathways through repetitive training. Every time you practice jumping, subtle calibrations occur within your nervous system, making the movement more familiar and efficient.
What are Neural Pathways?
Neural pathways, also known as neural circuits or neural networks, refer to the series of connected neurons that transmit messages between different parts of the brain or between the brain and the rest of the body.
When you perform a movement repeatedly, such as jumping, these pathways become stronger and more efficient, enabling the action to be performed more automatically and effectively. This strengthening and optimization of neural pathways through repetition is a crucial aspect of learning and mastering various skills, including physical activities like jumping higher in sports such as volleyball.
The Brain’s Involvement
Our brain is a marvelous architect of movements. It coordinates muscles and joints to execute a jump with precision. Training consistently helps in fine-tuning this coordination, enabling a volleyball player to jump higher over time. It optimizes the sequence of muscular contractions required for a powerful and effective vertical leap.
The Nervous System: The Conductor of the Symphony
Think of the nervous system as a grand conductor of an orchestra, ensuring that each muscle fires at the right time for a harmonious performance. When athletes train, they enhance the nervous system's ability to transmit signals to the muscles swiftly and effectively. This improved signaling leads to more potent and higher jumps, crucial for spiking and blocking in volleyball.
What is myelin?
When you repeatedly perform the same jumping movements, such as in volleyball, it helps build myelin around the neurons involved in the action.
Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates neural pathways, allowing electrical impulses to travel faster along the neurons. As myelin increases around the neural pathways due to consistent practice and repetition, the speed and efficiency of the neural transmissions improve, leading to better performance and a higher vertical jump over time.
This process also enhances muscle memory, making the movement more automatic and refined.
Myelin - in Simple Terms for a Youth Athlete
Okay! Imagine you’re playing a video game, and every time you go through a level, the game makes a shortcut to help you finish it faster next time. Your brain does something similar when you practice jumping or any movement over and over.
Every time you practice, your brain builds a sort of "shortcut" to help you do the move better. It wraps something called myelin around the parts of your brain and nerves used in jumping. Myelin is like the game’s shortcut, it helps your brain send messages faster and makes you jump better and higher as you practice more! 🧠💨
Myelin is really what people are referring to when they say that you need to Build Muscle Memory.
Technically, you need to train in a very specific way so the brain & nerves can speed the building or wrapping of myelin around the nerves that make you jump!
1. Consistent Practice: Regular jumping exercises enhance the neural pathways, making the brain more adept at executing jumps.
2. Mindful Practice: Being mentally present (training with intent & focus) during training helps in embedding the neural patterns effectively.
4. Rest: Adequate rest is essential for the nervous system to recover and assimilate the new learned patterns (jumping movements).
While powerful leg muscles are the pillars of a formidable vertical jump, the brain and nervous system are the unsung maestros conducting this powerful performance. Incorporating strategies to train these essential components is the key to unlocking your full jumping potential in volleyball. So, elevate your game by focusing not just on your muscles but more importantly on the mighty commanders—the brain and nervous system.