GAINcast Episode 236: Learning to move (with Rob Gray)

The world of motor learning is often populated by complex jargon and impenetrable concepts. But at its root it is about something simple: learning to move. Professor Rob Gray is one of the world’s best in translating these concepts into terms we all can use. On this week’s podcast he joins us to help coaches understand non-linear pedagogy, constraints-led approach, repetition in training, feedback, and more.

Listen Now

Notes and quotes

Rob Gray is an associate professor and undergraduate program chair in human systems engineering in the Polytechnic School at Arizona State University. He has been conducting research on and teaching courses related to perceptual-motor skill for over 25 years. Through his podcast and recent book How We Learn to Move he has helped translate complex motor learning concepts for the masses.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 3:00 – Background, influences, and about How We Learn to Move: “There is a lot of good material out there, but there are a lot of complex concepts with jargon.”
  • 9:30 – Non-linear pedagogy: “The fundamental idea is that we learn by going to someone who knows how to do it. They know the answer and they give it to us. And we repeat it over and over until we learn it. It’s just assumed that is the way we learn, but non-linear pedagogy is the movement that this doesn’t seem to fit how we actually learn.”
  • 13:15 – Why do coaches still default to the repetition method? “One of the things I do most as a consultant is just ask why. I find a lot of times people just stop thinking about that. Purposeful coaching is the key. You don’t have to do it this way, but think about the why.”
  • 16:45 – Constraints led approach explained and good and bad examples: “With a constraints-led approach we’re taking something away to amplify and encourage you to do something else. It takes one solution or option away. That is the constraint.”
  • 20:00 – Learning in closed vs open skills.
  • 22:00 – Do we need to teach the foundation of the skill? “We assume you have to dribble before you can play. But if you design a good practice, those things will come out naturally. We learn what works and what doesn’t and don’t need to be given everything first hand.”
  • 28:00 – Repetition without repetition: “We want to repeat the performance outcome: score a goal. We all agree on that, but we don’t agree on how to achieve that. The traditional approach is that to repeat the outcome you repeat the movement. We drill in the same movement and that will result in the same outcome.”
  • 31:00 – Fine tuning technique and technique optimization: “Variability and constraints can help learn the basic movement patterns. But more focused variability is required to optimize technique.”
  • 34:00 – Feedback: “There needs to be a coach between the athlete and data. They can help distill it down rather than bombarding athletes with information.”
  • 36:45 – Donor skills: “If you give athletes more capacity it helps them learn later on. But rather than teaching specific movements, create movement problems for them to solve.”
  • 40:45 – Vision training: “I’m not a believer in out of context generalized training of vision and decision making. There is no evidence to show that it transfer to sports performance. Sports skills are highly specific, which explains how Jenny Finch can strike out Albert Pujols. How much can generalized things help you if such a small change threw off one of the best players in the sport?”
  • 46:00 – Common fallacies in motor learning.
  • 48:15 – The future of sports research.

To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic: