Voluntary Movement Is Movement With A Purpose

Have you ever wondered why repetition makes a difficult task easier? Actions such as riding a bike or skiing down a mountain go from what is called a cortical level (the cortex of the brain or higher centers) to a less conscious level of the nervous system through repetition.1 1 Thank goodness, or it would take hours to get dressed every morning! When we realize that movement experiences shape our body that should be our clue to connect riding a bike, walking, jumping and skipping with bending at the sink to shave, getting out of a car or carrying out the trash: they are reflex and voluntary. Postural response is shaped by experience.

woman harvesting rice in field

Cultivation of rice / Paddy Field/ Bali, Indonesia

Daily movements are important since they require skill much as a great tennis serve or the freestyle performed by an Olympic swimmer requires skill. The trick is to get movement to stick so that it’s a “no brainer.” We do that by writing a motor engram, a template that takes us from frustration to freedom by saving a move in our long-term memory.2  We write the engram by practice, by repetition. Consider this. It takes 5,000 to 6,000 repetitions to retrain the muscles of our body to coordinate as they did when we were a child.3

Before you give up, realize that in one day you probably bend forward hundreds of times. In one day! This is what repetition brings:4  To net a basketball from any angle takes 1 million throws to reach peak skill. It takes 1.5 million stitches to be a fine hand knitter.

A baseball pitcher needs 1.6 million throws to be a Clayton Kershaw.
6Woman in the Garden

So what’s a few thousand bends? It’s all in your perspective. However, if you’re going to take the time to do your thousand repetitions, make sure you are tuned in to how you are bending to get the best results.


1 E. Kandel, J.H. Schwartz, and T.M. Jessell, Principles of Neutral Science, Appleton & Lange, Connecticut, 1991, p. 534

2 Ibid

3 O. Holten, H. P. Faugli, Medisink Treningsterapi, Illniversitetsforlaaet. 0608 Olso, Norway

4 F. J. Kottke, D. Halpern, J. K. M. Easton, A. T. Ozel, C. A. Burrill, The training coordination. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1978, 59: 567-572. M. Trew and T. Everett (eds.), Human Movement, Churchill Livingstone Inc., New York, 1997, p. 43
Image 1 credit to Framepool. Image found at