Benefits of variable practice conditions for athletes in mixed martial art
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Mixed Martial Art (MMA) is a competitive sport requiring athletes to be versatile in striking and grappling techniques. With growing popularity, more athletes will be seeking to improve their overall performance. Trainers and coaches will be interested in which types of practice conditions are effective for enhancing the transfer of skills to novel situations. Participants (n=20; 6 males, 14 females) in this study engaged in a sequential key pressing task, which required them to learn four motor sequences in a blocked-practice or variable-practice schedule. Participants practiced three times in one week under the condition they were randomly assigned and completed a one day transfer test three days after the last practice session. The transfer of skills was tested using a randomized sequence to determine differences between groups in transfer of skills when the stimulus became unpredictable. At the end of acquisition, both groups demonstrated motor chunking of all four key-pressing sequences. However, the variable-practice group had significantly better transfer of skills during the test condition than the blocked- practice group. The present study provides support for the notion that a variable-practice condition not only improves sequence completion time but also influences how memory of motor actions is structured during practice.