One defining characteristic of skilled motor performance is the ability to complete the task with minimum energy expenditure. This experiment was designed to examine practice effects on coordination and control, metabolic energy expenditure, and muscle activation. Participants rowed an ergometer at 100 W for ten 16-min sessions. Oxygen consumption and perceived exertion (central and peripheral) declined significantly with practice and movement economy improved (reliably) by 9%. There was an associated but non-significant reduction in heart rate. Stroke rate decreased significantly. Peak forces applied to the ergometer handle were significantly less variable following practice and increased stability of the post-practice movement pattern was also revealed in more tightly clustered plots of hip velocity against horizontal displacement. Over practice trials muscle activation decreased, as revealed in integrated EMG data from the vastus lateralis and biceps brachii, and coherence analysis revealed the muscle activation patterns became more tightly coordinated. The results showed that practice reduced the metabolic energy cost of performance and practice-related refinements to coordination and control were also associated with significant reductions in muscle activation. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.