The old adage that “practice makes perfect” needs revision. This statement makes it seem as if putting in the requisite time will eventually allow anyone to become an expert at any given task or discipline to which they apply themselves. This point of view offers an enticing idea: that simply putting in time and effort will eventually lead to success. And while this holds true to an extent, nothing in life is that simple. So, I am suggesting that we replace “practice makes perfect” with the more accurate “practice makes permanent.”
What are you practicing?
Each time we practice a given movement or activity, we are merely giving ourselves an opportunity to improve. Let us take the back squat as an example. You walk in on a Friday, and you see 5×5 back squat on Wodify. That gives you the opportunity to improve or reinforce a good squat 25 times in that strength session (not to mention the warm-up reps), insuring that you are reaching back with your hips engaging your hamstrings and glutes with your knees tracking over your toes without your knees or ankles caving while maintaining a good upright torso. If all of these elements are indeed present, then you will have successfully practiced and ingrained a good movement pattern that your body can replicate and apply to other scenarios like the Olympic lifts, thrusters, wall balls, and life in general.
However, if you are squatting incorrectly with knees and ankles caving inward while your butt tucks under your torso and your back rounds, none of the aforementioned practice will be useful. Not only will you have put yourself at a much higher risk of injury in this case, but you will also have ingrained this incorrect and dangerous movement pattern in your subconscious, making it more likely that your body will revert to these incorrect positions during other movements like the Olympic lifts, thrusters, wall balls, and life in general. In this sense, you would have been better off lowering the weight so that you are capable of finding a better position rather than practicing incorrect movement patterns.
A note on scaling
You are now sitting there thinking, “But I always struggle with getting in the correct position for [insert wall balls, snatch, thrusters, jerk, or whatever your goat movement is] and the coaches keep making me do it anyway.” If there is a movement you are incapable of performing because of mobility or strength issues, scaling is your friend. The coaches are going to help you find a version of the movement that you can perform. That being said “scaling” does not mean “easy” as most of you have probably realized. Our goal is to challenge your particular strength and range of motion when we scale your movements. Otherwise, you will never get to improve the desired movement and will only get really good at performing scaled movements, which is why we do push-ups on boxes of varying heights rather than push-ups on our knees.
Are you working on the things that will allow you to practice more effectively?
But aside from scaling, what are you doing to help yourself practice more effectively? Are you mobilizing before and after class? Are you getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night? Are you eating well (see the recent blog post on nutrition basics)? Each of these things can affect your energy level, focus, and ability to find good positions when you are in the gym practicing various movements. If you are omitting one or all of these things, you might be hindering your long term success. The coaches are a fountain of ideas for mobility, food recipes, and other lifestyle strategies. All you need to do is ask; in fact, we want you to ask.
In conclusion, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Make sure you are approaching each rep and effort in the gym with the understanding that practice is only as good as the thought, focus, and effort that goes into it. Take advantage of each opportunity to practice excellent movement.
The way we do one thing is the way we do everything,