By Laurie Sweig, Practical Fitness
Published Oct. 5, 2017
A neuromuscular connection occurs between a muscle fibre and nerve. It’s like a conversation between the two parties. Our brain says: Scratch that itch on the tip of your nose.
All of the muscles required to do this jump into action. Because this is regularly occurring action, everything comes together perfectly. Our hand knows exactly where to go. This is called proprioception. There are clear lines of communication between our brain and the muscles fibres involved. When we don’t do specific movements on a regular basis the connection is lost.
As a kid and teenager I played ping pong/table tennis a lot, and I was good at it. There was no thought involved. I played so much my body knew exactly what to do to put my hand in the right place to hit the ball in a way that it would travel over the net and bounce off the other side of the table – often gaining me a point.
A couple of years ago, after not holding a racquet for decades, I had a chance to play a game (with a teenager who plays often and could smash the ball like I once did). I was shocked and fascinated by the disconnection between my brain and my hand. I’d see the ball coming towards me, my brain would tell my hand to move, but my hand didn’t move until the ball had passed. My neuromuscular connection for playing this game had been lost.
It’s not all bad news. This connection is quick to return when we ask it to. It is the first improvement that is seen in clients who start strength training. I’ve witnessed the improvement in co-ordination first-hand. It’s quickest in those people who were active at some point in their lives (that referred to as “muscle memory”), but it does happen for everyone.
If I had room in my house I would love to get a table and start playing ping pong again. If for no other reason but to prove to myself that the connection isn’t forever lost. For now that challenge will have to wait. What about you? Is there an activity you would like to do again? Try it. And then work at it. Watch how quickly the lines of communication open up.
Something to think about.
Laurie Sweig is a certified personal trainer and spinning instructor. She is one of the founders of The Point for Fitness: www.thepointforfitness.com.