Before we activate our muscle fibers to begin our movement, there is an order of things that should be done inside of our brains. No matter how it sounds, although our brain is a perfect machine that enable us to do impossible things it can inhibit us from doing things as well.
Creating a motor reaction based on the stimulus arising from the constantly dynamic environment has been object of interest for years in the scientific circles. How do we sense and process things that happens around us in the sports environment where we need to react quickly in order to move our bodies.
Firstly, we do create a mental image of an action, which is referred as ideomotor presentation of our movement, before it eventually happens as a muscle involvement and obvious movement. By creating ideomotor representations, we are generating neural connections from our brain to the potential action related muscle fibers that eventually will facilitate proper muscle contraction. Building an effective image of movement depends on how much in details we can mentally represent the movement with as less a variations as possible in order to transfer, the image into the execution. Athletes with higher level of confidence can build an image in more detailed and correct way, visualizing it with more fluidity and without interruptions.
Working on the representation of the movement in its smallest details and with high level of confidence around it is the key of the success in improving not only motor performance but in anticipatory mechanisms too.
Most important part of teaching a skill to our players is to educate them to be very selective in directing their attention on the relevant information from the environment. By disregarding information not relevant to the current action development, our players can use only necessary information needed for the corresponding execution. Importance of relevant information to be taught is so our players can be fully aware of the ways of creating the optimal model of execution, as being able to direct visual attention on the specific features of the human movement or situational characteristics.
If our players create optimal models of execution before the movement happens, they can be aware enough to compare the outgoing movement and eventually correct motor execution, enhancing stroke mechanics and accuracy and awareness of anticipatory cues around them.
Seeing – moving or not moving
Act of perceiving is itself act of muscle activation. When we see movement, even if we do not move, we active the same muscle groups as an individual that we observe (mirror neurons). But the quality of movement depends on the critical features that we see or not and to what we can immediately activate or not.
Cognitive reinforcement relies on the bases of recognition and selection of the stimulus that are around us. Every second we react to the stimuli around us, it is changing the resting potential of our receptors gathering information without even still being much aware of their relevance for our action. Only in perceptional phase, we start to create objects out of the information and give them final value.
This is of huge importance: values are based on our previous experiences, relationships and emotions.
Motor memory, does it exists?
It does but not the way it is said. Motor memory is build out of engrams, specific motor programs that determine the spatial and temporal organization of the movement with a specific anatomical configuration.
Tennis is a reaction sport with goal of intercepting an incoming object with energy that we can not determine in details to which we need to react with our energy generation and direction towards the moving object to intercept it and direct it back to the opponents’ side. Therefore, we can prepare our athletes to have specific reaction to then coming ball but the unpredictable side of it is that we can not program our muscles to respond to those changeable dynamics of the movement. Therefore, muscles as muscle groups, fibers and even the time aspect of their usage is not regulated and not part of the neuromuscular programs but depends on the context and our perception.