What is Muscle Memory
Muscle Memory: the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.
When I first started playing StarCraft, reaching a few leagues above me seemed like an impossible task that I would never be able to achieve. For example, when I was in platinum league, masters or even diamond league seemed unobtainable. Similarly when I reached 100 apm, I never thought that one day I would be playing at an average of >300 apm. I eventually achieved these and a big reason I was able to is because of muscle memory and building good habits.
Muscle memory is essentially just a memory stored in our brains that allows us to do a task without using a lot of mental capacity. For example, you could walk down the street while chewing gum without much thought so you could text on your phone at the same time and focus primarily on that. This is doable because walking and chewing are tasks we do so often that we don’t really have to think about them and can just think about the conversation we are having on our phone.
Importance of Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is important in StarCraft because it allows us to multitask more effectively. There was a time when I had to spend mental capacity to egg hotkey my units and it would stop me from doing or thinking about anything else. However I have practiced that enough that it is now muscle memory for me. It now feels like I automatically egg hotkey all of my units and can think about other things in the game. This is a massive part of why it seems so hard to reach a higher league, a diamond player will most likely still be practicing something like egg hotkeying their units while a master player does it automatically. This can be applied to many different things in Starcraft, such as looking at the minimap, setting camera location hotkeys, spreading creep, injecting hatcheries, etc.
How to Practice Muscle Memory
While muscle memory primarily takes time to learn, it can be done more effectively if you understand how it works and the best way to practice these tasks which can become muscle memory. The key is good repetitive action and starting with good habits. To do this, you want to make sure that you are doing as many tasks in the same way every time you do them. For things like injecting hatcheries, don’t use one inject method and then switch halfway through a game to a different inject method. Similarly don’t use control group 1 to control group your main army in a game and then use control group 1 for your hatcheries in the next. It is important to find the best methods to do tasks for you (try out a few inject methods in a custom game for example) and then to stick to that inject method.
Keep in mind that when you start practicing a task, you will have to spend mental capacity to accomplish it, but as you practice it, especially if you are doing the same actions every time it will become muscle memory and easy to accomplish without really thinking about it. It is also important to do your best not to build bad habits, for example if you begin to rely on F2 to control your units, it becomes harder to build a repetitive habit of control grouping your units and using those instead of F2.
To increase your ability to multitask be decisive and choose specific ways of exactly how you want to do everything. Use the same control groups for units in every game, inject in the same way every time, control group your eggs the same way and complete your macro cycle in the same order in the same way every game. While at the start, the game may become harder due to having to focus on doing these tasks in the same way every time, as you practice these tasks will become easier and you will do them faster.