In this article, we'll cover: what are motor skills, the difference between open and closed motor skills, how to practice your motor skills, and how to use feedback to improve your motor skills.
What is a motor skill?
A motor skill is an action or task that requires voluntary movement of the body's muscles to achieve a specific goal or outcome. Examples would be running, throwing a ball, or swinging a racket.
Open and closed skills are two categories used to further classify the type of motor skills that is being performed.
What is the difference between open and closed skills?
Closed skills are motor skills that are performed in a predictable and stable environment, where the performer can plan and execute their movement in advance. Closed skills require a high degree of precision and accuracy, and there is minimal variation in the movements performed. Examples of closed skills include shooting a free throw in basketball, hitting a golf ball, or performing a gymnastics routine.
On the other hand, open skills are motor skills that are performed in an unpredictable and constantly changing environment. Open skills require the performer to constantly adapt their movements based on the changing conditions of the environment. Examples of open skills include catching a baseball, dribbling a soccer ball, or driving a car in traffic.
Do you practice open skills differently than closed skills?
Yes, practitioners often practice open and closed skills differently due to the different demands and characteristics of each type of skill.
In closed skill practice, the performer can practice the skill in a stable and predictable environment. This allows the performer to develop and refine the technique and consistency required to perform the skill accurately and precisely. The emphasis in closed skill practice is on repetition and automation of the movement pattern, as well as developing the ability to anticipate and plan the movement in advance. Closed skill practice often involves drills and simulations that allow performers to practice the skill in a controlled and predictable environment.
In contrast, open skill practice involves practicing the skill in a more dynamic and unpredictable environment. This allows the performer to develop the ability to adapt and respond to changes in the environment, as well as to learn to detect and utilize perceptual cues to guide their movements. The emphasis in open skill practice is on developing decision-making and problem-solving abilities, as well as developing the ability to maintain situational awareness and attentional focus. Open skill practice often involves small-sided games, simulations, and other training activities that challenge performers to respond to changing environmental conditions and opponents.
How do you improve motor learning during closed skill environments?
Improving motor learning under closed skill environments requires a different set of approaches and strategies compared to open skill environments. Here are some of the key considerations when it comes to improving motor learning for closed skills:
Break down the skill into smaller parts: Closed skills typically involve a defined and structured movement pattern, so it is important to break down the skill into smaller parts in order to focus on the technical aspects of the movement. This can be done by practicing specific components of the skill in isolation, such as footwork or arm movement, before combining them into a complete movement.
Provide frequent feedback: In closed skill environments, feedback is crucial in helping performers refine their technique and improve their consistency. Therefore, it is important to provide frequent and specific feedback that focuses on the technical aspects of the movement, such as the performer's body position, limb placement, and timing.
Utilize blocked practice: Blocked practice involves practicing a specific skill or movement repeatedly in a predictable and stable environment. This can be useful in closed skill environments as it allows performers to focus on the technical aspects of the skill and develop muscle memory. However, it is important to vary the practice conditions over time to avoid monotony and promote skill transfer.
Incorporate variable practice: Variable practice involves practicing different variations of a skill or movement in order to improve the performer's ability to adapt to changing conditions. This can be done by introducing variations in the practice environment, such as changing the speed or trajectory of the ball in a sport, or by practicing the skill in different contexts.
Practice under pressure: Closed skills are often performed under pressure, so it is important to practice under conditions that replicate the pressure of game situations. This can be done by introducing time constraints, increasing the intensity of the training, or introducing consequences for mistakes.
Improving motor learning under closed skill environments requires a focus on breaking down the skill into smaller parts, providing frequent feedback, utilizing blocked practice, incorporating variable practice, and practicing under pressure. By focusing on these key considerations, performers can develop their technique, consistency, and ability to perform the skill under pressure.
How do you improve motor learning during open skill environments?
Improving motor learning under open skill environments requires a combination of different approaches and strategies. Here are some of the key considerations when it comes to improving motor learning for open skills:
Develop perceptual and cognitive abilities: Open skills require performers to be able to perceive and process information from the environment in order to make decisions and adjust their movements. Therefore, it is important to develop perceptual and cognitive abilities through training that emphasizes the recognition and interpretation of environmental cues. This can be done through small-sided games, decision-making drills, and simulations that challenge performers to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Practice in varied environments: Open skills are performed in dynamic and unpredictable environments, so it is important to practice in environments that replicate the conditions of game situations. This can be done by varying the environmental conditions in training, such as changing the size of the playing area, altering the rules of the game, or introducing opponents.
Encourage exploratory learning: Open skills require performers to be able to explore different movement solutions to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. Therefore, it is important to encourage exploratory learning by providing performers with opportunities to experiment with different movement patterns and strategies. This can be done through guided discovery learning, where performers are encouraged to try out different solutions to a movement problem.
Provide feedback that focuses on decision-making and problem-solving: Feedback is an important aspect of motor learning, and in open skill environments, feedback should be provided that focuses on the performer's decision-making and problem-solving abilities. This can be done by providing feedback that highlights the effectiveness of the performer's decision-making, their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, and their utilization of perceptual cues.
Practice under pressure: Open skills are often performed under pressure, so it is important to practice under conditions that replicate the pressure of game situations. This can be done by introducing time constraints, varying the intensity of the training, or introducing consequences for mistakes.
Improving motor learning under open skill environments requires a combination of perceptual, cognitive, and exploratory learning approaches. Training should replicate the conditions of game situations, encourage exploratory learning, provide feedback that focuses on decision-making and problem-solving, and include practice under pressure.
How does feedback differ in open and closed skills?
Feedback is an essential component of skill practice, as it provides information to performers about the quality of their performance and helps them to make adjustments and improvements. The type of feedback used in open and closed skill practices differs, depending on the characteristics of each type of skill.
In closed skill practice, feedback is often focused on the technical aspects of the skill, such as the performer's body position, limb placement, and timing. This is because closed skills are performed in predictable and stable environments, which allows performers to plan and execute their movements in advance. Feedback in closed skill practice is typically quantitative and objective, such as providing the performer with information about their accuracy or consistency.
For example, in closed skill practice, a basketball coach might provide feedback to a player shooting free throws by measuring their shooting percentage and providing guidance on their technique, such as the angle of their elbow or the position of their feet. The feedback is intended to help the player refine their technique and improve their consistency.
In open skill practice, feedback is focused on the performer's ability to adapt to changes in the environment, anticipate and respond to opponents, and utilize perceptual cues to guide their movements. This is because open skills are performed in dynamic and unpredictable environments, which requires performers to constantly adjust their movements based on the changing conditions of the environment. Feedback in open skill practice is typically qualitative and subjective, such as providing the performer with information about their decision-making or situational awareness.
For example, in open skill practice, a soccer coach might provide feedback to a player by highlighting their ability to anticipate the movements of opponents, adjust their positioning based on the movement of the ball, and use visual cues to guide their movements. The feedback is intended to help the player develop their perceptual and cognitive abilities and improve their decision-making in game situations.
In summary, feedback in open and closed skill practices is tailored to the specific characteristics of each type of skill. Closed skill feedback is focused on the technical aspects of the movement pattern, while open skill feedback is focused on the performer's ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and utilize perceptual cues to guide their movements.
Where does running fall under closed and open skill?
Running in isolation is a closed skill exercise. It is relatively constant, self-paced, and predictable. However, running after the ball in a soccer match or sprinting around a defender in basketball is an open skill as you have to navigate a dynamic environment.
Regardless, running is the foundation of your athletic ability. Your feet are the only part of your body that interacts with the ground. Consistent footwork is fundamental to any athletic activity and that's why we developed the PR1 Footstrike Trainer.
The PR1 is unique in that it allows you to reinforce consistent footwork under both open and closed skill exercises. Unlike a speed ladder or cone drill, the PR1 is integrated into your shoe and provides feedback regardless of context.