Principles of Motor Learning and Transfer: Training Coordination & Technique



I heard a made up statistic once that I think has some merit that you remember 33% of things you are told, 66% of things you are asked, and 95% of things you figure out for yourself. If we consider the "pyramid of learning" which is commonly accepted in teaching practices (see below video), the further we head towards problem solving and finding our own solutions the more we will retain. The same is true for human movement. We should intend to design exercises or drills that encourage the athlete to create a "movement solution", not just setting up a drill and barking instruction on how we want the athlete to move.

Constraints led coaching is a great way of achieving this. Human movement always has constraints from the environment, from the individual or from the task itself. Constraints led coaching is the purposeful manipulation of one or multiple of these in order to drive the outcome you are looking for, in order to force a movement solution. That is, we should set up the drill, the task, the environment, the athlete's position etc. in order to force the solution we want the athlete to create.

If we want to increase an athletes stride length, because we have decided that will help them improve their running speed (running speed = stride length multiplied by stride frequency), we have a few options. Do we a) yell at the athlete to take bigger steps or b) set up cones at progressively further distances and encourage them to foot strike beside each cone? Obviously there is some skill and science to the set up of "option b" but it is a nice example of setting up a drill to create the movement efficiency you are trying to encourage. There is also a learning that can be shared with the athlete, "what happened as your stride length increased?" (obviously they run faster).

A gym based example of this would be completing a rear foot slide lunge instead of a regular lunge. By having the back leg on a Valslide or some slippery surface forces the athlete to drive up through their front foot rather than pushing through their back foot. You won't even need to cue them to push through the front foot because they won't be able to get up any other way. Therefore the movement solution will be to drive harder through their front foot through a split squat position.

In summary, we need to consider the specific adaptation we want the athlete to achieve, and then constrain the drill/exercise in order to force the athlete to come up with the appropriate movement solution.

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