Kinesthetic Learning in Sports & Fitness

Posted by on Monday, October 21, 2013

Kinesthetic Physical Awareness

Wikipedia defines kinesthetic learning as follows; “Kinesthetic learning (also known as tactile learning) is a learning style in which learning takes place by the student carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration. People with a preference for kinesthetic learning are also commonly known as do-ers.”  According to Terry Farwell of the Family Education website, “There are three main types of learning: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, which is also known as sensory learning.”

Howard Gardner wrote the most intense description of kinesthetic learning in his erstwhile book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  In the 1940’s, Margaret H’Doubler was a strong written and oral advocate of kinesthetic learning and the human body’s ability to express itself through movement and dance.

We all respond differently to learning. Some of us exceed at more than one of the accepted types of learning. Visual learners learn easily from charts, demonstrations, images and videos. Auditory learners respond well to lectures and discussions. Kinesthetic learners learn best through performing activities like lab tests, role playing and physical activities.

The North Coastal Consortium for Special Education has extensive experience in working with kinesthetic activities. The organisation says that kinesthetic physical awareness, “Refers to the knowledge of your surroundings that you receive via the sensory receptors in your joints, muscles and skin.” This corresponds to the information you learn without the use of your eyes.

Experts in kinesthetic awareness agree that adults are more skilled at kinesthetic learning than toddlers. Kinesthetic ability does not develop equally in people. We all have different kinesthetic aptitudes.

The Kinetic Chain

The National Sports Academy reports that “All exercises involve the kinetic chain,” which is defined as the relationship between one’s nerves, muscles and bones. The kinetic chain is divided into two classes:

  • Open Kinetic Chain – Exercises in this class are performed in non-weight bearing positions. In these exercises, resistance is applied to the end of a limb. This can but does not necessarily cause movement of a joint.
  • Closed Kinetic Chain – Exercises performed in weight-bearing positions. These exercises are considered more dynamic than open kinetic chain exercises.

For the best results in an exercise routine or in a rehabilitation program, a combination of open and closed kinetic chain exercises is strongly recommended. Even for workouts at a fitness center, the individual should not solely focus on one type of exercise.

Upper Body Exercises

Like most upper body exercises, bicep curls, lateral raises, and tricep extensions and shoulder pendulum exercises are classified as open kinetic chain exercise. These exercises are valuable for sport-specific and weightlifting routines.

An individual’s shoulder or arm are not considered weight bearing. Upper body closed kinetic chain exercises are extremely helpful in all sorts of rehabilitation programs. These include exercise to improve hand strength and coordination.

There are several popular upper body weight bearing exercises. These include the timeless pushup, forward planks and ball stabilisation exercises. Closed chain exercises are especially favored to protect against injury. They are often used to help heal sprained ligaments.

Lower Body

Closed chain kinetic exercises are popular for sport-specific training and for real-life situations. These weight bearing lower body exercises include squats, lunges, stair-climbing, and single-leg balancing.

Lower body open kinetic chain exercises are low impact. Popular exercises in this class include leg curls, leg extensions, hip abduction and hip adduction. These open kinetic chain exercises are popular with those who lift weights and are recommended to increase muscle strength.

Kinesthetics For Improved Balance

Kinesthetics offer many exercises for improving one’s balance. They are extremely popular for dancers and athletes. Linda Capuano is an authority on Kinesthetics, recommending it as a good way to test balance. As a starting point, she recommends that you should “stand up tall and close your eyes. If you wobble doing this exercise, which is not uncommon, repeat it until your ability improves.”

Remember the kinesthetic learning is learning without using your eyes. Once learning to stand on two feet with closed eyes, it is time to improve you balance by closing the eyes and standing on one foot. Alternate feet. The goal should be to sustain your balance for 30 seconds and gradually increase to 60 seconds. Capuano also recommends that that these exercises be practiced in an uncluttered area.

Kinesthetic Exercises For Hands

An excellent way to improve hand and arm movements and mobility is to ask a partner to help. Seat the partner across from you and let them make a number of hand and arm movements. These movements could include pointing a finger, raising an arm or stretching the head. The exercise calls for you to precisely mirror the partner’s movements. However, you must keep your eyes focused on the partner’s eye’s, not on the movements themselves. As you kinesthetic awareness improves, your partner can increase the speed of the motions.

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