How Practice Actually Changes Your Body
Muscle memory isn't quite what its name suggests, but practice does make perfect.
By David Grossman Feb 28, 2017
The hardest skills can be the ones you do for the first time, but repetition often makes things easier. Why is that? In large part, it's thanks to "muscle memory," though that's probably not the best name for it.
Muscles don't physically have memory, but practice does change the body in small, but crucial ways. The biggest of these is how it effects myelin, a white, fatty substance that wraps itself around nerve fibers. Myelin's purpose is to prevent electrical loss as the nerve fibers transfer pulses up and down the body. As you practice, TED-Ed explains, myelin strengthens and helps prevent that loss.
It's hard to exactly quantify that growth, or to give a precise amount of time needed to master any given task. While putting in the hours on any given skills is crucial, what's just as important is making sure that time is effectively spent. If improvement is the goal, practice is just as much about focusing on your weaknesses as it is about focusing on your strengths.