HOW THE BRAIN LEARNS MOTOR SKILLS AND THE GOLF SWING


The short explanation is two paragraphs long. Your brain is helping you to learn all motor skills when you are a teenager and younger but it does not do this for you as an adult. If you play a lot of golf as a kid, your brain will use a muscle assignment synthesizer to make you use the appropriate muscles to swing the club. You can even play 5 different sports as a kid and you can learn them all well. This is your brain helping you to learn and not the result of someone else teaching you. When you are about age 22, the brain will stop helping you to learn these sports movements. At this age, the brain will also switch it's priorities from learning motor skills to THINKING AND REASONING. When this switch takes place, your brain is no longer using the synthesizer to make muscle assignments for you. The lack of this synthesizer is what makes learning anything in the golf swing, difficult to learn as an adult. The older you get, after this synthesizer switch is off, the more difficult it is to learn anything in the golf swing.

If you do not play any sports as a kid, by the time you reach 10-12 years of age, your brain will make this switch to reasoning and thinking as the new priority. As a result of the child NOT playing any sports or learning any gross motor skills, the brain basically turns the child into a geek. When that transition happens, the child that has not been playing any sports, looses the ability to learn motor skills just from playing them. The brain gives you more thinking and reasoning power, but it takes away the use of the muscle assignment synthesizer. There are always exceptions to this rule. This does not mean that it is impossible to learn the golf swing well as an adult. It just means that your brain is not wired to learn it as easily as a teenager would learn it. This is the short explanation. If you want your children to be able to play golf well in their adult years, you need to introduce them to the game no later than in their early teens. The reality is that the full explanation of how your brain learns motor skills is very complicated. If you are interested in the details about this subject, keep reading. If you did not play golf as a teenager, this full explanation will eliminate a lot of the frustration from diligently working on your game and not experiencing much improvement.

Some people have determined, that the swing that you develop from playing a lot of golf as a teenager comes from you being a NATURAL ATHLETE. This is correct, partially. Learning the golf swing is a natural process that happens just from playing. The connotation here is that certain people are born with this talent and others are not born with it. This is wrong on many levels. I call the swing that we learn just from playing, without instruction, the DEFAULT SWING. This notion of natural talent has empowered some athletes and at the same time it has devalued other athletes because they feel that they don't have that natural talent. I will use the British term here just because it seems less crass. "Bollocks". It is time to dispel this and other myths about learning motor skills. My goal here is to eliminate the myth about learning motor skills and the golf swing and replace that with facts.

Most golfers are taught to think that if they hit enough golf balls that their brain will eventually learn what they want it to learn and this movement can be repeated just by swinging the club. This is not an accurate statement. A lot of adult golfers are hitting a lot of balls and still not learning the golf swing like a teenager would. Hitting lots of balls does make your hand eye coordination better, but it does very little for learning motor memory if you are starting to play golf at the age of 40. The brain does not allow you to learn new motor skills, at 40, in the same manner that it did when you were 14.

Gross motor skills are the things that your brain learns to do from repetitive movement using large and small muscles such as learning to run or learning to swing a golf club. Fine motor skills are things that your brain learns to do from using small muscles in the hands like typing, playing a guitar and knitting. If a teenager is trying to learn the golf swing, the brain will use a combination of gross and fine motor skills. If an adult, who is over 40, and did not play much golf as a teenager, is trying to learn the golf swing, this will be seen from the brain's perspective as a gross motor skill. When an adult swings a golf club, they are primarily using large muscles to swing the club. When a teenager is swinging a golf club, the brain is using big and small muscles to swing the club even though these small muscles are larger than the muscles in the hands and fingers. This is one of the reasons that it is more difficult to learn golf as an adult than it is to learn it as a teenager.

When you perform any previously learned motor skill, your brain is retrieving stored information that it has already learned. This information is stored in the brain and not in the muscles. When you start to perform that learned skill, the brain retrieves that information to make all the necessary muscles move without you having to think about all of the muscles that are being used. This learned program also makes specific muscles fire in the order or sequence necessary to perform that motor skill effortlessly, consistently and with power.

Some of our other gross motor skills are walking, throwing a baseball and swinging a baseball bat. Gross and fine motor skills are not learned in the same manner at different ages. The fine motor skills can be learned easier as an adult, than learning how to swing a golf club. You can learn how to play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen when you are 50, easier than taking up golf at the same age and being able to shoot par.

You start to learn motor skills when you start to crawl. By the time you are in your late teens, your learning capacity for motor skills is at it's peak. Whatever you do repetitively at this age will be stored in motor memory so it can be retrieved later. Just because you go out and play golf a few times as a child does not mean that you will learn to play golf well. As a teenager or younger, when you start to swing a golf club regularly and repeat the swing over and over, you must use the thinking part of the brain to do this. This part of the brain is an initiator of movement and it also controls coordination and timing. This thinking part of the brain can not help you duplicate the swing because it has no memory storing capacity.

When you start to swing the club repeatedly, your brain will search in motor memory to see if there is something similar to this movement. If there is nothing resembling this movement of you swinging a golf club in motor memory, then the brain will turn on the synthesizer. When you are a teenager or younger your brain has a synthesizer especially for learning motor skills. The thinking part of the brain has to initiate the primary movements of swinging the club. At this age, you are not thinking of all the dozens of muscles that are used to perform the swing. The thinking and reasoning part of the brain has interpreted your intent because it sees you trying to hit a ball over and over. The organ management part of your brain looks at this repetitive movement as very energy consuming and this causes a muscle assignment synthesizer to be turned on to help you learn the golf swing.

The synthesizer figures out the best muscles to use and the best order that they should be fired in to allow you to have a sequentially powerful swing. This is your brain processing demand information and making muscle assignments for you to have the most powerful swing possible. It will engage the use of small muscles, that you are not even aware of, to make this powerful swing. The synthesizer does not alert the reasoning part of the brain of what it is doing. This is how a natural athlete evolves in all sports as a teenager or younger. Your brain learns to perform the movement for you, but it does not reveal to you exactly what or how it is doing this. If you play a lot of golf as a teenager, it is easy to perform these movements and have a good swing. But, if that golfer has learned to play golf well as a teenager and they grow up, he or she does not have a clue as to how to instruct someone else to learn to play in the same manner unless the student is a teenager.

While the synthesizer is making muscle assignment and creating a specific timing of the firing of these specific muscles, the motor memory part of the brain is storing this information. The thinking and synthesizing parts of the brain use a lot of energy to swing a golf club. Storing and retrieving this information from motor memory is much less energy consuming than using the thinking part of the brain to try and make all the correct muscles function. This is why we are able to learn and retrieve motor skills without thinking about it. The brain sees this as a more energy efficient process and this allows the brain to multitask. This is how the different parts of the brain help you to learn the swing as a teenager. Again, I call the swing learned as a teenager the DEFAULT SWING.

If you are healthy, the default swing is the swing that everyone learns from playing a lot of golf at an early age. If you go to a driving range and watch a group of 14 year old golfers that have been playing golf for once or twice a week since they were 10, even without instruction, you will see that default swing in all those teenagers. This swing is not developed from taking instruction from a particular teacher. Your own brain develops this swing. You can see a lot of this swing in most of the PGA golfers on tour. Other pro golfers have a swing that does not look like this because they have had an outside influence to develop a swing that does not look like this default swing. The good thing is that as a teenager, you can learn any swing you want. The negative thing is that a swing that is manufactured by an instructor is not necessarily the best swing to have when it comes to power and efficiency. No one individual can develop a swing that is as efficient, thoughtless and powerful as your own brain.

When your bones and your growth plates solidify, around the age of 22, this ability to learn motor skills starts to dissipate. At this time the priority of the brain switches from learning motor skills to mental reasoning. Now your brain starts to give you the ability to think and reason more. It is ironic that at about the same time that you get out of college, your ability to reason and absorb information increases dramatically. The ability to reason is one of the worst possible things that could happen to a golfer for swinging a golf club without thinking. But, from the perspective of the brain, it has given you the time to learn how to hunt and kill food. Now it is time to develop other skills. Also at this age, the boy's brain flips another switch and the body secretes an extremely high level of testosterone so that you will be motivated to procreate. When your bones solidify, a switch comes on that says that you need to develop other tools to survive and take care of your offspring. The brain stops synthesizing muscle assignment and you start to develop a higher level of the thinking and reasoning. Now your brain stops helping you to learn motor skills and it starts to increase your reasoning and thinking capacity.

When the bones start to solidify, the synthesizer process that was used to help you learn new motor skills starts to go away quickly. The loss of this synthesizer, more than anything else, makes the learning of new motor skills progressively more difficult. The older you get after your bones solidify, the more time it will take you to learn any golf swing. As an adult, you have to go back to using the thinking part of the brain to initiate the muscles to make the swing. Most adults that have taken the game up later in life, are using the thinking part of the brain to swing the golf club the majority of the time.

The initiator, or thinking part of the brain does not have the ability to repeat the swing consistently from one swing to another. This is why most golfers who take up the game later in life can not get their brain to learn the golf swing as easily as someone who started to play in their teens. If you continue to play sports from the time you are young, until you are about 22, it can be easier for you to learn any motor skill at a later age but this is not guaranteed. Just because you were good at learning many other sports as a teenager, does not mean that you will be able to learn golf with the same proficiency and speed.

As an adult, your brain is very efficient at using old stored information about motor skills. If you have learned to play another sport as a teenager that is similar to the golf swing such as baseball, as soon as you grip the golf club and start to take it back, your brain will retrieve the baseball motor skill and use as much of this as it can to help you to swing the golf club. This is your brain being efficient. This is why adult golfers that have played a lot of baseball as teens, have a lot of baseball in their golf swing.

For the average person at the age of 30, if you have not played any sports as a teenager, it will take you 6 times longer to learn to play golf as it did when you were 14. So for every large bucket of balls a teenager hits, you will have to hit about 6 buckets of balls just to get the brain to turn on the learning switch at the same level as a teenager. On top of that, all the balls that you hit before that learning switch comes on, does not help you to store any motor memory of hitting those balls. Hitting all those balls does help you develop hand eye coordination but that is not the same as motor memory storage. At age 40 it will take you at least 10 times longer to learn to play golf as it does a teenager. The older you get the more time you will have to spend hitting balls just to get your brain to turn on the motor memory switch. No one has the time or energy to learn to play golf like this. There are always some exceptions to the rule.

Every once in a while, an adult golfer will hit a drive that goes about 40-50 yards farther than their average drives. This is you letting go of your concepts of what you should do and allowing the brain to show you a piece of the DEFAULT SWING that you would have developed if you had played a lot of golf as a teen. This spike in distance is only a glimpse of the default swing. For 99% of us adult golfers, we don't have a clue as to what we did to create that long drive.

If you started to play golf after the age of 40 and older, your swing is not going to look like golfers who started to play golf when they were young, even if you own a golf swing emulator. There are many things that influence what your swing looks like as an adult. The teens had extra help from the synthesizer in the brain to learn the new swing easily. Lack of flexibility plays a roll in how well you can swing a golf club. If you use the thinking part of the brain to try and learn to swing the club as an adult, you cannot repeat that swing. The small muscles used in a good golf swing, make up about half of the muscles that a teenager uses to hit the ball. It is very difficult as an adult, to get most of the small muscles to work in order to hit a ball, in the same manner as a teenager would. The adult can't use these muscles because they have not developed the neural connections in the brain to make those muscles work that would have been obtained by learning this as a teenager.

Even as an adult, the wiring is still in your brain to make these small muscles work. But without having this wiring connected, you do not have access to all the necessary muscles that create that smooth and fluid golf swing. As an adult, if you spend a lot of time in a gym lifting heavy weights, this also makes your swing look very disjointed because the gym equipment only develops large muscles.

Is there hope to be a better player if you are not a teenager? Yes but to have the best swing available to you that is consistent and powerful, you must be able to do several things. You must be able to get the motor memory learning switch to come back on. You must be able to get the brain to use small muscles while that switch is still on and you must be able to retrieve information that is stored in motor memory and not rely on thinking about swing mechanics.

When you use the LONG BALL TRAINER, your learning switch starts to come on in less than 60 seconds. The TRAINER also forces you to use 100% of the muscles that are used in the DEFAULT SWING and that includes the all of the small muscles. This means that your brain is creating new synapse to those small muscles. The brain will also learn this new swing and store it into motor memory so you can retrieve it without thinking about it. This is how you can develop a consistent, powerful and thoughtless swing as an adult.

The best game of golf you will ever play will come from not having too many swing thoughts. If you are an older golfer, you are going to have to learn the swing from a different perspective. You would have to be a little crazy to believe all the things that you have just read. You would have to be even crazier to NOT investigate this yourself. If you can come to me, I will give you a free demonstration on the LONG BALL TRAINER and you can see and FEEL for yourself what this trainer can do for you. This is for golfers that know they can play better golf consistently with a little of the right help. Everyone that does 15 repetitions on the emulator will feel an immediate improvement in their swing, even a pro golfer. No two golfers will have the same experience or feeling after they have used the emulator because everyone has a different physical history. This works much better with the more aggressive guys that have a bit of the "I need to check this out myself in case it is true!" kind of stuff going on.

For more information about what the trainer can do for your swing, go to the TRAINER DETAILS page and read the information on how the LONG BALL TAINER can help you with learning this DEFAULT SWING even if you are 60. In September of 2012, one of my clients shot a 69 and had a hole in one in the same round. Normally, this is not that big of a deal. But, this client is 79 years old and he uses the emulator twice a week. If you have any questions about the golf swing emulator or the learning process feel free to send Kenn an e-mail.