It has been proposed that, when learning a motor skill, individuals initially freeze degrees of freedom to simplify control. There is limited empirical evidence to support this proposition. We examined this issue by monitoring the performance of a non-skilled individual learning a soccer chip shot with his non-dominant leg over 9 days of practice (425 trials). Principal component analysis was used to examine dimensional change. The most dramatic change occurred at the hip, with the range of motion decreasing during the first 5 days of practice and then increasing thereafter. A reverse pattern was observed at the knee and ankle. While showing a progression in control from proximal to distal, a further phase was observed where primary control was passed back to the hip. The degree of linear coupling between the joints also increased with practice until day 5, after which independent was observed. The number of controlled dimensions did not change across practice. Radial error decreased over practice and kinematics relating to the hip were most predictive of error, especially early in practice. Freezing degrees of freedom was a strategy implemented across the first half of practice, after which point-independent control was gradually restored enabling successful consistent performance.
- Motor learning
- Principle components analysis