Even well-practiced movements benefit from repetition

J Neurophysiol. 2022 May 1;127(5):1407-1416. doi: 10.1152/jn.00003.2022. Epub 2022 Apr 20.


Professional golfers spend years practicing, but will still perform one or two practice swings without a ball before executing the actual swing. Why do they do this? In this study, we tested the hypothesis that repeating a well-practiced movement leads to a reduction of movement variability. To operationalize this hypothesis, participants were tested in a center-out reaching task with four different targets, on four different days. To probe the effect of repetition they performed random sequences from one to six movements to the same target. Our findings show that, with repetition, movements are not only initiated earlier but their variability is reduced across the entire movement trajectory. Furthermore, this effect is present within and across the four sessions. Together, our results suggest that movement repetition changes the tradeoff between movement initiation and movement precision.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Professional athletes practice movements that they have performed thousands of times in training just before it is their turn in a game. Why do they do this? Our results indicate that both initial and endpoint variability reduce with repetition in a short sequence of reaching movements. This means that even well-practiced movements benefit from practice.

Keywords: movement planning; movement repetition; movement variability; reaction time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Movement*
  • Psychomotor Performance