The Rack Athletic Performance Center

Coaching new movement patterns can be difficult. It’s not always easy for an athlete to understand what’s needed in order to self-organize and complete a specific pattern with a certain form. Ultimately, there is no one exact movement pattern. Each athlete is different and not equally capable of moving the exact same way every single execution. Studies have shown that skilled performance doesn’t involve one correct movement technique, but a slightly different technique with each repetition to create the same desired outcome (Gray, 2021). Skillful movers in the same sport don’t all move the same way, there is a large amount of inter-movement variability between athletes (Gray, 2021).

Studies have shown that athletes respond poorly to explicit instructions when coaching movements (Gray, 2021). A new method for coaching athletes that produces better responses is the Constraints-Led Approach (CLA). The CLA is the process of manipulating one or more constraints in practice in order to: 1. destabilize the existing movement solution/attractor, 2. encourage exploration and self-organization, 3. amplify information and invite affordances, and/or 4. provide transition feedback about the effectiveness of the search (Gray, 2021). Some examples of the CLA are: small sided games, such as playing half court basketball instead of full court, constraint manipulation (ex. an athlete must pass twice before driving toward the goal), or the use of modified equipment. A very effective strategy derived from the CLA is the use of analogies instead of explicit instructions. If you tell an athlete, “grab the bar tight, retract your scaps, stay tight with the lats, and pull”, chances are they won’t understand what you’re talking about. But if you tell them, “pull tight like you’re trying to squeeze lemons between your armpits”, they’ll have a better chance of understanding what the cue is intended to do.

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