16 Sep Why Understanding Motor Control In Strength Training Will Accelerate Your Progress.

Motor NeuronOne of the great benefits of kettlebell training, barbells, and appropriate bodyweight training is the constant improvement in motor control.

Motor control is one of the keys to improving your performance, preventing injury, and ultimately helping you achieve the health and fitness goals you want.

And, when you understand this, your progress will accelerate.

I will apologize for some of the “geek speak” in this article, however, this is an extremely important topic, in my opinion.

So, what is motor control and why should you care?

This is something I learned a lot about when I was a Physical Therapist because it helped patients improve movement patterns and restore function, among other things.

Think of it this way, motor control will help you move better, safer, and more efficiently to get a desired result.

Motor control is a set of neurologic and mechanical processes that are responsible for our posture and movement patterns.

And, motor control is built by engraining movement patterns within the central nervous system (CNS).

What’s really cool is that patterns can be built with practice so that movements become “automatic” as new movements and patterns are being established (more on this below).

We all have this amazing capability.

Take the kettlebell swing, for example.

Typically, when I teach someone how to perform a swing correctly, it takes lots of instruction and practice to effectively learn how to swing properly for the greatest benefits.

What is happening as someone is learning to swing is that they are building an efficient “motor program.”

This is, without question, one of the the greatest benefits of movement based training (MBT), with kettlebells, barbells, and bodyweight exercises.

  • MOTOR PROGRAM:  a set of commands that results in the production of a coordinated movement sequence.

Building a motor program through improving motor control is one of the most important things we do in strength training because it helps us with so many of the things we want.

Improving my “motor program” has always been the big attraction for me to kettlebells and MBT, in general, because it helps us truly become better in almost every way.

Let me put it to you this way, if we move better and move stronger, we can get all the things we want and we can greatly reduce our chance for injury.

Common sense tells you that moving more efficiently will help you reach your goals faster and safer than moving inefficiently.

Going back to the swing example, which person is going to get better results, the person performing a swing with precision, a proper hip hinge, and explosive hip drive or the person performing a swing with a bad hip hinge pattern lacking proper explosiveness?

You know the answer.

The person performing the kettlebell swing with precision.

The kettlebell swing (and other kettlebell and barbell exercises) are supposed to be done with properly acquired motor control that is developed with proper instruction and practice over time to build a safe, efficient motor program.

At a point, your “motor program” will become very strong and will require less thinking to perform the skill.

This is the Holy Grail of movement based training, when you have what is called unconscious competence, meaning you are at a level where your techniques and skills are safe and effective without requiring over-thinking your way through an exercise or heavy lift.

How do you build that program?


Lots of practice.

As a matter of fact, practicing is now considered a scientific method to skill acquisition and for the development of talent.

Let me explain this through the work of Daniel Coyle, where he discusses the role of myelin.

Myelin is an insulator of our nerve tissue (appropriately called the myelin sheath).

Your myelin sheath thickness can actually increase with practice.

What does this do?

It allows the nerve signal pathway to move faster and move more efficiently, thereby improving our skill and performance.

This is absolutely amazing research.

The bottom line is that as we practice, we make myelin, and as we make myelin, we improve our skill and performance to deliver an even better result.

Again, we are constructing a better “motor program” for movement safety and efficiency.

The entire point of this article is this.

Instead of thinking about “getting in a good workout” as so many people do, think about building your motor program and “training” to get better.

Kettlebells, barbells, and bodyweight training are premier training methods that truly make us better.

One of the ways all of these methods makes us better is by improving our motor control and developing an optimal motor program so that we move closer to our physical potential.

Whether your goals are strength, fat loss, muscle building, or improving athletic performance, work on building a better motor program for benefits beyond belief.

Motor programming is the secret to strength, muscular development, improvement in body composition, and achieving a high level of performance.

I can promise you that understanding this concept will accelerate your gains.

This is why I always say “I’m still working on my kettlebell swing.

When I say this I mean I’m working to improve my motor program for an even better result.

We can ALWAYS get better.

This is one of the reasons that strength is a skill.


  • Marc Scanlan
    Posted at 17:38h, 16 September Reply

    Scott: Id like to you this as a reference source for a workshop im doing for newly certified trainers in my area. I’m speaking and training on this topic as part of my curriculum. Great article.
    Thanks, Marc Scanlan roguextrainingLLC

    • Scott
      Posted at 09:50h, 17 September Reply

      Hey, that’s great Marc! Thank you for sharing it.
      Best, Scott

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