What I am going to talk about can be related to any age, especially for learning new skills. The video I have is with a baby and talks about head control and balance.
Muscle grading is when we learn how to turn our muscles on and off at the right time and with the right amount of force, to produce coordinated movement.
So for instance, when a little one is first learning how to sit here are the things that can happen:
- You place them in a sitting position
- They start to lose their balance forward
- They realize they are falling forward so they send a message to their muscles in their back saying ‘HELP’
- Muscles in the back turn on (hopefully in time before a face plant occurs)
- Back muscles bring them back to upright (if said face plant didn’t happen because the message arrived too late)
- Back muscles don’t know how much they need to turn on so they overshoot their target and now they lose balance backwards
- They realize they are falling backwards so they send a message to their muscles in their belly saying ‘HELP’
- Muscles in their belly turn on (hopefully before they crash into the pillows strategically placed behind them)
- Belly muscles bring them back to upright (if said crash into pillows didn’t happen)
- Repeat over and over again
This repetition allows the muscles to start to learn how much force they need to find the target (sitting upright) and it also lets them practice recognizing when they are off balance and get the message out faster and more efficiently. After lots of practice they become great sitters and barely have to do anything to stay upright.
This same thing can be applied to head control. In the beginning little ones can’t hold their heads upright so they go too far forward, or too far backwards, or too far to one side or the other. Every time they do this they are learning and refining their technique while at the same time building strength.
Once they have refined it they then are able to add skills in such as reaching in sitting or playing with a toy in sitting.
I will do a follow up post for ways you can help them work on grading their muscles without quite as much hard work!