You can watch your favorite quarterback throw the ball every Sunday, but that won’t suddenly give you the ability to drop dimes in the endzone; you have to go practice! The best athletes in the world aren’t just studying film. They’re practicing every single day, mastering their skills, and putting their game plan into action. Strong movement is no different. Watching an instructional video that demonstrates how to move in strong positions is great. We can introduce best practices and even show how to apply strong movement to a wide variety of actions but, just like your favorite athlete, watching film alone won’t help you build stronger habits as effectively as going and practicing what you have seen on screen.
The scientific case for practice
While I’ve seen this time and time again over the thousands of hours I’ve spent coaching athletes of all ages and ability, from kids who are just starting out, all the way up to world champions, I don’t want you to just take my word for it. There’s scientific proof that practicing is how humans learn most effectively.
- Passive learning methods are a good way to deliver the message, but only have an average retention rate of 20%-30%
- Participatory learning, through group practice and teaching others, is even more effective, achieving an average retention rate of 75%-90%
Consistent practice, repetition after repetition, especially with your peers, is how you master any skill or movement in life.
The rate of retention, or an individual’s ability to learn, is significantly greater through participatory teaching methods. That means that group discussion, group practice, and teaching one another are the best ways to commit movements to muscle memory. This is how you’ll make the strong position your default position.
How often do you need to practice?
According to NASA, it takes 26-30 days to create a new habit and just as long to lose it. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that improving how you’ve been moving for your entire life isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s important to regularly practice so that you can not only build stronger habits, but make them long-lasting. This is why my mentor in strength and conditioning, Dr. Kelly Starrett always says, “Practice makes permanent!” Dr. Starrett is saying that whatever movement habits or positions you practice on a daily basis will be committed to muscle memory. Therefore, if you practice moving in strong positions, you are going to default into strong positions with anything you do - on the job or at home. On the flip side, if you practice weak positions, you’ll likely default into weak, injury-causing positions when it’s time to move.
As you’ve seen, reading only has a 10% retention rate - so before you forget, I want you to walk away from this article with an understanding that your every-day movement affects how you feel.
Whether you’re participating in an organized group practice session or simply practicing and applying strong movement on your own throughout the day, every day is an opportunity to build stronger habits so that you can enjoy a long career and a pain-free retirement.