Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

High Bar Swing Performance in Novice Adults: Effects of Practice and Talent

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

High Bar Swing Performance in Novice Adults: Effects of Practice and Talent

Article excerpt

An individual's a priori talent can affect movement performance during learning. Also, task requirements and motor-perceptual factors are critical to the learning process. This study describes changes in high bar swing performance after a 2-month practice period. Twenty-five novice participants were divided by a priori talent level (spontaneous-talented [ST] and nonspontaneons-talented [NST]) and compared to experienced gymnasts. Additionally, we assessed their perception of their performance level before and after practice. We defined three events independently for hip (H) and shoulder (S) angle joints and for the lag between consecutive events (phases [P]): the smallest angle during downswing (P1H, P1S), the largest angle after P1 (P2H, P2S), and the smaller angle during upswing (P3H, P3S). Movement performance variables were the maximum elevation on the downswing (Pi) and the upswing (Pf), and the total path between both (swing amplitude). Data were collected during pre- and postpractice sessions by two video cameras. At the end of both sessions, participants drew a sketch to represent their perception of their performance level relative to the Pi, Pf, and the hip events. Results showed a similar practice effect in the swing amplitude in both novice groups. However, the ST group's performance and perception variables on the downswing improved more than the NST group due to practice. This study suggests that (a) downswing improvements were easier than in the upswing, possibly due to familiarity of the visual reference in combination with proprioceptive feedback; and (b) being ST may involve a better or faster gain in perception of self-action compared to NST.

Key words: gymnasts, initial conditions, motor-perceptual learning, novel task

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A major concern of motor skill learning theorists is the processes or mechanisms by which individuals refine their movements so that the goal of the activity is eventually achieved with a degree of precision and consistency (Sparrow & Irizarry-Lopez, 1987). Two stages in the learning of motor-perceptual tasks are widely accepted: (a) when the person has to elaborate a novel mode of coordination, and (b) when the goal of the individual is to adjust the parameters of a previously learned coordination (Clark, 1995; Delignieres et al., 1998; Newell, 1991). Similarly, the acquisition of a motor skill is conceived as a property that emerges from the interplay between practice and a set of interrelated constraints (Kugler, Kelso, & Turvey, 1980; Nourrit, Deschamps, Lauriot, Caillou, & Delignieres, 2000). These constraints have been categorized as environmental, task, and organismic (Clark, 1995; Newell, 1986; Nourrit et al., 2000). The relative impact of these three categories of constraints on the pattern of coordination varies according to the specific circumstances. However, practice is generally considered to be the single most important factor responsible for the permanent improvement in the ability to perform a motor skill (Guadagnoli & Lee, 2004; Nourrit et al., 2000).

Improvements in movement performance, or learning, will be highly affected not only by the amount and quality of practice that individuals may accumulate but by their a priori or spontaneous talent (Davids, Lees, & Burwitz, 2000; Elferink-Gemser, Visscher, Lemmink, & Mulder, 2007), For the purpose of this study, spontaneous talent was defined as the individual's initial capacity to successfully perform a skill due to some developmental potential. In fact, the analysis of the initial state of the system constitutes a key point for understanding motor learning. Motor learning does not succeed anew, but rather against the backdrop of pre-existing capacities (Delignieres et al., 1998). Teulier & Delignieres' study (2007) found that participants do not possess the same skill level at the beginning of practice, and changes in performance via further practice differed among them. …

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