110217 The process of learning a skilled movement

110217 The process of learning a skilled movement


Before getting into some basic information about learning a skilled movement, let’s dispense with two training myths.

Myths abound in the world of sports and this is especially so in the strength game. Two major ones have caused no end of problems for trainees and coaches alike for years and years now. These two myths will, if followed, set your training back. This is a steadfast guarantee.

Myth #1 Practice makes perfect

  • Everyone has heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” and sad to say, many still believe this to be true. Well, it’s not, for as Dr. Stuart McGill says, “practice makes permanent,” therefore, if your practice technique is poor, it continues to make these poor patterns even more difficult to change into correct ones later on.

Myth #2 “No pain, no gain”

  • Following this outdated advice will eventually lead to an injury. An injury is a signal from your body that something is wrong…continuing with what is wrong, only increases the potential for greater damage. This sets your progress back while you recuperate.

Now that these two erroneous myths have been somewhat debunked, we’ll move onto the main topic of learning a new skill.

Learning a new skill takes time, expert guidance, patience, and a willingness to practice the skill correctly each time…repeatedly correct over and over. In the early stages of learning a skilled movement, reliance falls mostly on the voluntary nervous system (VNS) and its ability to make the movement somewhat reasonably correct. However, continuing to rely on the VNS will eventually leave you behind if speed and quickness are involved. The same is true when depending on the VNS when during a heavy lift will.

There cannot be any extraneous thought going on when doing these types of movements. It simply takes too long for the body to recognize the thought cues while responding when developing the speed, quickness, and coordination to move the body or heavy weight. Thus, the automatic, reflexive processes come into play, or let us say should come into play if the training has been appropriate.

Scientists have long known that the unskilled athlete, during the early learning phases:

  • produces and relies on inefficient neuromuscular patterns of force development,
  • varying degrees of intensity which may or may not contribute to the ultimate goal, and
  • timing during the movement that is oft times inefficient and ineffective
  • muscle recruitment that serves no useful purpose when trying to control the movement

It is commonplace to see a new lifter flop around, strain, twist, and contort their body in an effort to use brute force to complete the lift. Had they learned the correct way in the beginning, their exertions would have been less strenuous and more productive.

Additionally, these nonproductive extra actions cause unwanted tension between varying muscle groups, which in and of themselves may be a contributing factor to an injury.

Neglecting the basic rule of doing the movement correctly predisposes the athlete to an unnecessary injury.