Why You Need Deliberate Practice

Woman doing split leg handstand

To learn to perform a new move for the first time, you typically need a combination of things:

  • enough strength
  • enough flexibility
  • knowledge & understanding of the technique
  • balance (which could be considered a combination of calmness, right mental state, and strength)
  • sometimes, overcoming fear (usually of falling or hurting yourself, for example in a handstand)

To perfom the new move reliably and without a lot of preparation, you need one main thing: practice.

How much?

In my experience, to make significant progress in a skill that has been eluding me, I have to train it at least 3 times a week for several months. The consistency is what actually brings change.

It’s best if the form of practice is kept very similar too. For example, don’t change your splits routine every week. In strength training, increase the resistance, but don’t switch up the whole program too often.

With strength and flexibility, training too often and ignoring pain and soreness can lead to problems. However, for balance and overcoming fear, I find that practice frequency is more important than duration. If you’re working on inversions, try one every single day. Eventually you will get used to the feeling. It will start to feel normal rather than nerve-wracking.

Theory vs Practice

It’s easy to spend too much time on technique and theory. Of course it’s important to understand the foundation, but at some point, more tips and tricks won’t make a big difference. There is a relevant saying in yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: “Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory.”

Another of his quotes about practice and patience I like even better is, “Practice and all is coming”.

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