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While not the entire point of the article, those of us who develop skills and perform them apparently without thinking about them sometimes talk and think that the muscles themselves have some special power to perform tasks by themselves. “Muscle Memory” is a convenient way of describing the feeling, but far off the mark of what’s really going on:
Muscles Do Not Have a Mind of Their Own
There is no question that to be able to move, we need our muscles, and that stronger muscles provide us with the possibility for stronger, more powerful movement and stamina, making us more fit. However, muscles do not know what to do on their own. It is the brain that “tells” the muscles what to do — when to contract and when to let go — through the signals it sends to the muscles.
And in order for the brain to know what signals to send to our muscles, it has to first “know” that the muscles are there to be used and learn how to coordinate the different muscle groups successfully. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of trying to tone and strengthen certain muscles in your body and no matter how hard you exercised, it didn’t work. This is because your brain never connected fully enough to these muscles. The brain needs a rich variety of experiences from which it creates the necessary connections and patterns of our movements, also known as “mapping” in the brain.