Develop Muscle Memory for Pool Success

Chances are you have probably heard of the term ‘muscle memory,” but have you ever stopped to think what that really means?  

Rather than go deep into the science behind muscle memory in this short column, for purposes of pool players I think it is easiest to understand muscle memory as learning a specific task through repetition that, over time, becomes “automatic.”  For example, when you first learned to write your name as a child you likely thought through each letter until completing your name, but today because you have signed your name thousands of times in your life you simply write your name without any thought – this is muscle memory.

Applying muscle memory to pool

To reach your full potential as a pool player it is important to develop confidence, while at the same time minimizing anxiety.  Put another way, the less you worry about shots and the more confident you are in making shots, the more games you will win.  One way to accomplish this feat is by practicing important shots repeatedly over time, as this allows the brain to create long-term muscle memory for those specific shots, allowing players to shoot future shots more consistently like the ones practiced with little to no conscious effort.

Applying this to specific pool examples the best way to use this approach is to set up a practice schedule where you identify specific shots you need to master, and then focus on drilling that one shot for 20+ times in a row.  For example:

  • Practice spot shots
  • Practice ball position by creating drills for stop, draw, and follow shots
  • Practice caroms and combinations that regularly come up in games
  • Practice unique shots like long rail shots
  • In the examples above the idea is to eventually approach these shots in real games with immediate confidence and reduced anxiety, allowing for smooth pool shots to be executed.

Final thoughts

Practice, practice, practice – but do so in ways that allow you to improve your games in the most efficient ways.  Developing muscle memory through repetition with specific shots will help you along this pursuit, but you will still need to put in the time as there are no shortcuts to doing the work.  Still, the idea of “working smarter, not harder” applies here when considering whether to have a specific practice to get better, or just knocking balls around to kill time.