Motor Learning And Fatigue

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy… sorry, wrong story.  A while ago (I don’t remember when) someone (I don’t remember who) told me a story (I don’t remember in relation to what) about the Asian school of motor learning.  The western, or at least English speaking, school is very clear on the subject.  All skill learning should take place early in the training session when the athlete, in particularly the nervous system of the athlete, is fresh.  Only under these conditions, can the required neural pathways be properly activated and created.  There is an old school philosophy that says skill practice should be done while fatigued, but the reasoning for that is to replicate competitive conditions rather than produce learning.

A couple of weeks ago I was working with a player on individual technique.  The session was, as per theory, short, although it was quite intense as I also wanted a specific conditioning effect to occur.  To my surprise right at the end of the session, under fatigue, there appeared five gems.  Five technically perfect repetitions in a row.  For the first time.  For some reason at that moment a link was formed to a long forgotten conversation, the story of the Asian school of motor learning.  The theory goes that the best skill learning takes place under the highest level of fatigue.  At this level of fatigue, while all muscles are screaming, the body (or nervous system, I guess) finds the most mechanically efficient method of completing its task.  The most mechanically efficient method produces the least extra fatigue.  The most mechanically efficient method is, by definition, the best technique.

Now I don’t for a moment think that one should train in that way, or propose for anyone to try it, but logically it makes some sense.  And Asians are typically excellent technicians…

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