Motor Performance vs Motor Learning

In fitness and rehab settings, it’s very common for trainers/practitioners to demonstrate exercises and have their clients repeat the exercise  and give them visual/tactile feedback to “correct” their movements before they give their clients a chance to feel/sense how they are moving. While showing them “correct” form of the exercise first and providing them external feedback would allow them to perform the specific motor task quickly, the motor task may not carry over to other functional tasks.
We often confuse motor performance with motor learning. Motor performance is the ability to perform a motor task. Motor learning is to have a carryover between one movement pattern and other functional movement patterns.

I think many people often use external feedback (visual/tactile/auditory) too much and don’t teach clients how to access their internal senses (proprioceptive-kinesthetic sense) to learn how they’re moving. The problem is that clients often don’t know how they are moving and can’t tell when they are moving “wrong.” When they are “corrected” and learn to copy the exact same movement, they still haven’t recognized the pattern of movement. Therefore, they just learned to perform that specific movement well, but they will probably go back to their old habitual patterns when doing functional tasks. I suggest we start directing clients’ attention to certain body parts and helping them become aware of how they are moving in space by asking them questions, before we jump in to put our hands and “correct” their movements. Let them explore movements and make some mistakes and let them make a choice. If we don’t allow them to make any mistake, how would they know what mistakes are? Learning always involves lots of trials and errors. We can help them recognize their mistakes so they can learn from the mistakes. We can become a movement tour guide for them so they don’t get lost.

© Taro Iwamoto 2015. Please do not reproduce without the express written consent of Taro Iwamoto.