Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2016) 15, 268 - 276

Research article
Differing Roles of Functional Movement Variability as Experience Increases in Gymnastics
Albert Busquets1, , Michel Marina1, Keith Davids2, Rosa Angulo-Barroso1,3
Author Information
1 Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
2 Centre for Sports Engineering Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
3 Kinesiology, California State University, Northridge, Northridge, CA, USA

Albert Busquets
✉Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. de l’Estadi 12-22, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Publish Date
Received: 06-11-2015
Accepted: 04-03-2016
Published (online): 23-05-2016

Current theories, like Ecological Dynamics, propose that inter-trial movement variability is functional when acquiring or refining movement coordination. Here, we examined how age-based experience levels of gymnasts constrained differences in emergent movement pattern variability during task performance. Specifically, we investigated different roles of movement pattern variability when gymnasts in different age groups performed longswings on a high bar, capturing the range of experience from beginner to advanced status. We also investigated the functionality of the relationships between levels of inter-trial variability and longswing amplitude during performance. One-hundred and thirteen male gymnasts in five age groups were observed performing longswings (with three different experience levels: beginners, intermediates and advanced performers). Performance was evaluated by analysis of key events in coordination of longswing focused on the arm-trunk and trunk-thigh segmental relations. Results revealed that 10 of 18 inter-trial variability measures changed significantly as a function of increasing task experience. Four of ten variability measures conformed to a U-shaped function with age implying exploratory strategies amongst beginners and functional adaptive variability amongst advanced performers. Inter-trial variability of arm-trunk coordination variables (6 of 10) conformed to a \-shaped curve, as values were reduced to complete the longswings. Changes in coordination variability from beginner to intermediate status were largely restrictive, with only one variability measure related to exploration. Data revealed how inter-trial movement variability in gymnastics, relative to performance outcomes, needs careful interpretation, implying different roles as task experience changes.

Key words: Task experience, inter-trial variability, performance, inter-segmental coordination, gymnastics

           Key Points
  • Inter-trial variability while performing longswings on a high bar was assessed in a large sample (113 participants) divided into five age groups (form beginners to advanced gymnasts). Longswing assessment allowed us to evaluate inter-trial variability in representative performance context.
  • Coordination variability presented two different configurations across experience levels depending on the variable of interest: either a U-shaped or a L- or \-shaped graph.
  • Increased inter-trial variability of the functional phase events offered flexibility to adapt the longswing performance in the advanced gymnasts, while decreasing variability in arm-trunk coordination modes was critical to improve longswing and to achieve the most advanced level.
  • In addition, the relationship between variability measures and the global performance outcome (i.e. the swing amplitude) revealed different functional roles of movement variability (exploratory or restrictive) as a function of changes in experience levels.
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