Phase Portraits as a Tool for Analysis of Motor Behaviour

Rosa Angulo Barroso

Albert Busquets Faciabén

Eliane Mauerberg-Decastro

*Corresponding author: Rosa Angulo-Barroso

Original Language

Cite this article

Angulo-Barroso, R., Busquets Faciabén, A., & Mauerberg-deCastro, E. (2010). Phase Portraits as a Tool for Analysis of Motor Behaviour. Apunts. Educación Física y Deportes, 102, 49-61.



A significant amount of research has been done that focuses on the acquisition and improvement of motor skills. This research attempts to explain the source and the processes of change in motor behaviour that enable the individual to acquire or improve a skill. The advantage of the Theory of Dynamic Systems (TDS) as a frame of reference is the inclusion of contextual analysis in the learning process. The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology called phase portraits which facilitates the study of motor behaviour based on the principles of TSD. Biomechanical data treated with an appropriate reduction technique are a good tool for describing and understanding the changes that occur in motor behaviour. Phase portraits using a chart (angular position, angular velocity) are able to capture the complex interplay of forces that influence motor behaviour. In this paper, the shapes of the trajectories in the charts will show: (1) how the body behaves during the performance of analyzed motor skills by showing its general patterns; (2) population (with gaps and without gaps) or individual singularities; (3) behaviours acquired during the learning process (novice and expert); and (4) the changes caused by manipulation of the environment. Nonetheless, although phase portraits are very useful for summarizing motor behaviour, they are not complete representations of it and need to be supplemented by other analytical techniques.

Keywords: biomechanics, Dynamic Systems Theory, Locomotion, Motor Learning, Sports Skills.

ISSN: 1577-4015

Received: October 10, 2009

Accepted: November 10, 2009

Published: October 01, 2010