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Thread: Questions about motor learning

  1. #1
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    Default Questions about motor learning

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    While considering the stupidity of being exposed to the basic barbell movements for the first time by participating in a ‘Hero WOD’, I came across a blind spot in my mental model of learning., which I hope you or others on the board can help me address.

    We’ve all realized through experience that people can’t be expected to perform a complex new skill that isn’t natural- playing an instrument for example- after a single exposure to correct technique. But say it’s something simple, like contraction of the lumbar spine during a squat or deadlift. How long until this is no longer a cerebral event, and instead is taken over by unconscious processes? How many repetitions before the nervous system learns the pattern and stores it in the motor areas and basal ganglia? How many repetitions before the motor neurons are firing in an efficient sequence? We can assume a hypothetical average person.

    I’m curious of the physiological effects for neural adaptation in the motor neurons, basal ganglia, cerebellum, motor cortex, and the role of the frontal lobes.

    Also, I’ve realized through experience that sleep has an integral part in learning new movements and skills. So linked are these that in my mind that once myself or a client is fried out on drilling a bar path their first day power cleaning, I’ll often remark that the next step in learning the movement is to get some sleep.

    Where can I explore these exact mechanisms? I realize this question is very broad. Thank you for answering or pointing me in the right direction!

  2. #2
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    These questions are interesting. But The only one I'm prepared to answer is the number of reps question: It varies with the athlete, as you might imagine. Natural athletes learn quickly. Some people never learn, ever.

  3. #3
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    This is slightly off topic, but I, being a college student who works full time, some times am fried out and no matter what I do, cannot grasp a concept fully. I have found that instead of further pushing to try to get that concept down at that time, to put that topic down, move to another more easier one, and then come back to the original topic the next day after sleeping, feeling refreshed and typically pick it up.

  4. #4
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    While I am in no way qualified to answer your question, I was introduced to this concept during training on how to present a firearm from a holster towards a target. I was instructed that 500 to 1000 repetitions would commit the movement to “muscle memory.” After a few weeks of daily practice, I found that I could perform the movement sufficiently without thinking about it, even while moving.

    While I realize that drawing a firearm without pointing it at yourself or unintentionally at others is a more complex movement than contraction of the lumbar spine, it is far less complex than learning to play an instrument. I felt it might be pertinent to your inquiry, as it is a subject that often comes up in firearms training. It has been written about frequently in articles and texts related to civilian, combat, and police training. I have read several articles that refer to anywhere from 250 to 5000 reps, but I do not know if these figures come from actual studies, experience, or wild conjecture.

  5. #5
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    If we were to plot number of reps on one axis and standing vertical jump on the other, what might we see?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Finn View Post
    If we were to plot number of reps on one axis and standing vertical jump on the other, what might we see?
    Exponential at a guess

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayson Ball View Post
    While considering the stupidity of being exposed to the basic barbell movements for the first time by participating in a ‘Hero WOD’, I came across a blind spot in my mental model of learning., which I hope you or others on the board can help me address.

    We’ve all realized through experience that people can’t be expected to perform a complex new skill that isn’t natural- playing an instrument for example- after a single exposure to correct technique. But say it’s something simple, like contraction of the lumbar spine during a squat or deadlift. How long until this is no longer a cerebral event, and instead is taken over by unconscious processes? How many repetitions before the nervous system learns the pattern and stores it in the motor areas and basal ganglia? How many repetitions before the motor neurons are firing in an efficient sequence? We can assume a hypothetical average person.

    I’m curious of the physiological effects for neural adaptation in the motor neurons, basal ganglia, cerebellum, motor cortex, and the role of the frontal lobes.

    Also, I’ve realized through experience that sleep has an integral part in learning new movements and skills. So linked are these that in my mind that once myself or a client is fried out on drilling a bar path their first day power cleaning, I’ll often remark that the next step in learning the movement is to get some sleep.

    Where can I explore these exact mechanisms? I realize this question is very broad. Thank you for answering or pointing me in the right direction!
    So, it's been my job, for a while now, to help people to perform really well on standardized tests and exams. I have done a lot of reading in the area of the best way to get people to learn material. You are certainly right that once you can see someone start to become fried the best thing for them to do is to sleep on it. What you are needing their brain to do is to form the neural connections that link / map the pieces of information to various other cues, items, memories, etc. in the brain to help maps and links form. Sleep is when the maps and connections take place and solidify. Here is an article that talks about a 20% increase in motor speed after a nigh of sleep following a new skill being learned (a finger tapping drill).

    http://walkerlab.berkeley.edu/reprin...euron_2002.pdf

    Long story short: sleep = smarts.

  8. #8
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    I estimate i had to squat 8,000 times before I squatted correctly. This is mostly due to being a stubborn fuck who assumed for years at a time that he had arrived at "correct" form, only to modify it and assume the new version is correct for a year. I can think of no better argument for the existence of coaches than my own boneheaded path to a proper squat.

    What I'm doing now may not be perfection, but it is a good squat. It is also the closest I have ever come to the SS model, but I'm sure that is purely coincidence.

    OP: Your interests seem to lie at the intersection of cognitive science and neurophysiology. If you are only casually interested in this stuff, I suggest checking out some cog sci textbooks. If you think you want to pursue this professionally, you might want to learn some molecular biology first.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowgain View Post
    I estimate i had to squat 8,000 times before I squatted correctly. This is mostly due to being a stubborn fuck who assumed for years at a time that he had arrived at "correct" form, only to modify it and assume the new version is correct for a year. I can think of no better argument for the existence of coaches than my own boneheaded path to a proper squat.

    What I'm doing now may not be perfection, but it is a good squat. It is also the closest I have ever come to the SS model, but I'm sure that is purely coincidence.
    Yep, that's me.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vogstar View Post
    Exponential at a guess
    Uh. Just because someone has explosive potential does not mean they are necessarily a "natural athlete". There's significantly more to being a natural athlete than muscle composition.
    Such as kinesthetic sense, the ability to read the bodies of others and understand what they are doing or going to do, high levels of spatial awareness, strong competitive drive, and so on.

    I am very unexplosive, but learn movement patterns pretty quickly, have good spatial sense, and used to have a good eye for movement (stopping my martial arts practice/teaching really hurt that, and bodies under load are harder for me to read than unloaded movement). I also don't care about most sports, and am pretty noncompetitive about most stuff. I am also very undisciplined and lazy. So while I'm certainly not a natural athlete, you wouldn't necessarily know that by using some of the possible single criteria, and many of them don't seem to be strongly related, in my experience.

    Of course, I could be totally wrong, and it could turn out that there's a strong genetic relationship between all of these components, but I am quite skeptical of that hypothesis.

    Obviously.

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