Principles of Motor Learning and Transfer: Training Coordination & Technique



I never stop being amazed at how incredible the human brain and body is and how something as complex as human movement can appear so simple. Put simply, human movement is sensory input, followed by a motor output based on a decision/reaction, that is often made unconsciously in a split second.

Take something as simple as standing on 2 feet. Your central nervous system is receiving information from the peripheral nervous system including, length of different tissues, pressure through your feet, visual input, vestibular input and all of this is combined to rapidly make a decision about what motor units need to be activated and to what degree in order to keep you standing upright and balanced. Because of the amount of time you have practiced this skill, the subconscious brain is able to deal with all of this on it's own, allowing you to focus your attention elsewhere (e.g. on the conversation you are having).

Now consider something like playing a game of footy. Up in front of you you have the ball coming towards you, bouncing unpredictably, with other players about to impact the contest. Now while running towards the contest you are required to rapidly go from sprinting forwards to changing directions to sprint in a different direction. Your brain needs to rapidly decide where the play will go, what motor units to turn on and to what degree based on the position you are in/going to be in, all unconsciously at an unconscious level. So in this context when we talk about change of direction mechanics, and training the athlete in an attempt to minimise valgus forces through the knee for example, does our sub-maximal, step through drills, where we internally cue something like "keep your knee pushed out" actually transfer to this type of situation? We will explore this more later but I want you to consider this type of example as we move through the module.

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