When I see a person perform an impressive skill with grace and obvious strength, I want to know how they got there! And more importantly how can I get there myself?
Looking at athletes and performers execute their masterful abilities is inspirational and, at best, spurs us on to harder and more productive training. At its worst, though, it can lead to frustration and giving up if we feel our training isn’t getting us closer to our goals.
Hard work, perseverance, and determination are a given, but there’s more to it than that. Some methods are better than others and there are ways to tell if one training scheme is more effective and will lead to better results in less time.
In this article, I’ll share with you the three main features that have to be included in any skill development program. Without these factors, you won’t be able to develop the skills you want.
I’m not going to be talking about creating a perfectly balanced scheme that tells you exactly what to do, how much, and at what time. That’s silly.
Instead, we’ll be discussing the concepts that apply to excellent practices across the board. By analyzing the best practices, and understanding their commonalities as opposed to their differences, we can see the mutual principles for success.
You want to make the most of your training time and progress toward your goals as steadily as possible, and you want your training program to fit your particular needs.
This may sound like a tall order, but it’s quite realistic if your program is set up with these three key factors:
- Prioritization and Cycling
- Mindful Practice
Let’s take a look at each of these factors, and see how you can evaluate how your program stacks up.
1. Keep Your Routine Adaptable to Maintain Steady Progress
Adaptability at its simplest means that the program can be adjusted on the fly without losing its efficacy.
If a program requires 100% adherence to a preordained plan, then it fails the real world test. There will always be something that interferes with a schedule, be it illness, fatigue, accidents, or other such random occurrences, and your program should be prepared for that.
A good plan has contingencies and higher margins of error. While 100% compliance would be great, it should not be necessary. Room to make mistakes means room to grow.
Another key feature of adaptability is autoregulation, which is something we talk about quite a bit.
Autoregulation is a process of changing the structure of today’s program based on today’s performance. Notice that I didn’t say “feeling” but performance. This is an important distinction because there are some days when you feel just fine, but tank it in your workout, and other days where you feel like crap but hit personal bests in every exercise. This happens.
Here’s how autoregulation works: Start your workout as you normally do, no matter how you feel, and then use the first few sets of exercise as a gauge. Did you hit the same performance level or better? If so, keep going! If not, then take it easy.
This is different than just taking a day off because you feel bad. It’s reducing the load and intensity if you are not performing well.
How To Bring Adaptability Into Your Training
Adaptability is an attribute we’ve adopted from the beginning. In our programs we don’t prescribe exercises with sets and reps/holds that ABSOLUTELY need to be performed at each session.
Instead, we advise a method in which you rate your performance on each set, in terms of effort and how well you maintained form. This gives you an idea of how your performance in today’s workout compares to previous training sessions, and helps you to figure out if today is a “good” or “bad” day and adjust accordingly.
Also, we don’t assign strict standards and benchmarks that HAVE to be achieved before moving on. That type of programming can lead to being stuck and a sense of being stranded on a false plateau.
If you’ve been honestly putting in consistent good effort over an appropriate amount of time, then we encourage simply trying the next level and seeing how it goes. Often you will do better than anticipated and it spurs you on to further growth.
A self-regulating approach such as this improves consistency by reducing burnout and arms us with knowledge for appropriately adjusting efforts as needed.
With this type of adaptability built in, a good program is recovery-oriented instead of fatigue-oriented. The goal is not to get beaten down and tired at every training session; rather, the goal is focused on an overall performance improvement.
We can’t necessarily get better at every workout, but if we do as well as we can, we can get better over the period of the current training cycle, and with each one after that – which brings us to the next factor of an effective skill development program.
2. Prioritize and Cycle Your Goals for Quicker Results
Next up is the concept of prioritizing a certain goal in a training cycle.
For instance, if your number one goal is to achieve a planche, then you need to do what needs to be done for the planche at the beginning of the session before moving on to different things for the rest of the workout.
This doesn’t mean you are neglecting everything to work on the planche, as you will still schedule different exercises into your programming; however, the planche is prioritized over everything else, and other exercises should be cut down as needed.
Focused training gives faster results. This is a fact that trainers and coaches have known about for many years. Rather than spreading your efforts out too thin, it’s more effective to apply your energies toward a singular lead.
Random training gives random results, such as injury and overall wasted time.
One of the concerns among new trainees regarding focused training is the fear of losing “gains” when switching from one program to another. This is a common and natural concern, but it just doesn’t play out that way when you actually spend the time training in this focused manner.
The improvements from one cycle to the next don’t degrade significantly for short training cycles.
And yes, three months is short.
Sure, if you only work your bench presses for a year and never do rows, you’ll likely lose the progress you made on your rows. This is an extreme example, but it does fit the issue.
As you move from one movement focus to another, you’ll naturally balance over time. One cycle may favor pushing and the next might favor pulling, but if you work on skills that generally involve the whole body, you will maintain the strength in the parts of less focus. The difficulty in returning is generally a “rustiness” which will improve quickly with a bit of practice.
How To Bring Prioritization and Cycling into Your Routine
Cycling is an integral part of the GMB philosophy.
Cycling training programs and priorities is more than just fighting off boredom, and it’s definitely not a simple randomizing of your workout schemes. Instead, it’s like progressively building steps leading upward toward your goals every time you finish a program.
You aren’t just heading on to another destination – you’re using your new capabilities to give you a running start into the next level of your training.
A well-designed program that incorporates this cyclic style of training can help you develop a variety of skills and attributes without compromise. These types of plans divide your regimen over time with changing emphases, all leading up to your chosen goal.
3. Emphasize Mindful Practice For Greater Skill Improvement
The last of the three requirements for a great plan involves taking the time to be mindful in your training.
I’m not talking about anything too esoteric here. By mindful practice, I mean that rather than going through the motions, you should aim to be thoughtful and purposeful in every repetition of every exercise in your program.
This mindful practice encourages faster improvements in learning a skill, and an improved understanding of all the little details within a movement pattern or exercise.
For example, in a pistol squat the knee positioning in relation to the foot is a key part of the movement. The middle of the knee should be right in line with the middle of the foot. This is usually measured by mentally drawing a straight line from the knee cap to the space between the second and third toes.
Continuing with this example, a lack of mindfulness, with more concern about how many reps you can do and less about the proper technique, can lead not only to slower progress but also potentially to strain and injury.
A good mind/body connection seeks to explore movement in various ways, not just for the sake of improving these movements but also as a way to better understand your body’s abilities and weaknesses.
Your training program should include an element of mindful practice, ensuring that you’re not just training to improve your numbers but instead, paying attention to all the details so you can make real and lasting improvements.
How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Workouts
Bodyweight skill learning, when approached correctly, is inherently a mindful practice, and we’ve always emphasized internal awareness in our programs.
The act of moving our bodies through space takes concentration on the details of leverage, balance, body placement, and movement. If you’ve ever seen a high level dancer perform, you know that person has developed their movement skills to a significant degree – even if you have no background whatsoever in dance. Frankly, it just looks good.
This level of quality is rarely achieved without an incredible amount of consistent, hard practice, and a mindful, critical, and thoughtful approach.
How GMB Programs Leverage Adaptability, Cycling, and Mindful Practice for Effective Skill Development
A major feature of our programming method is the 4-Phase Approach, with which we structure our teaching to help you hit progressive improvements toward your goals.
Phase 1 – Fundamental Strength Movements
In Phase 1, you are taught individual moves to build a strong foundation of strength, flexibility, and motor control for the next steps ahead.
These basic movements lay the base upon which everything else is built on, so plan to allot ample time in this phase.
Some people may progress faster in this phase and move on sooner than the specified time, and that’s just fine – we aren’t here to hold you back. But others may need to add an extra week or two here before moving on to Phase 2, and that’s perfectly okay as well. This is part of the adaptability in our method.
Phase 2 – Skill Building Combinations
In Phase 2, we teach movement combinations based on the exercises and skills taught in the first phase, along with new movements which build upon the strength you gained previously.
We term these combinations “skill-sets.” They are the beginning of the further linking of movement patterns. The ability to smoothly transition from one skill to the next is an important part of developing athleticism and we integrate this early into the programs.
Phase 3 – Flow Acquisition Components
Phase 3 moves beyond simple exercise drilling and takes the prior skill-sets to the next step.
In the merging of skill-sets with one another and further smoothing out the transitions as much as possible, graceful movement is the goal in this phase. There may also be new movement patterns to continue these progressive additions to your skill repertoire.
Phase 4 – Flow Mastery Routine
And, lastly, Phase 4 is the culmination of our efforts.
Strength has been built, mobility has been gained, and body control has been refined.
The final step is to combine all the learned skills for the chosen flow routine. The routines were developed to showcase the fundamental movements and patterns for each program and are a representation of your improved level of strength and skill.
Is Your Training Program Giving You Everything You Need to Improve Your Skills?
There are so many different methods and programs out there for learning bodyweight skills and maneuvers. Whether it’s a general way of training such as yoga, dance, and gymnastics or a trademarked system with its own dedicated followers, all of these approaches seek the best way to teach and enable their students to get better.
While there’s no perfect program, your chances of getting consistent results in a skill development program will increase dramatically if it involves adaptability, prioritization and cycling, and mindful practice.
Without these factors you’ll run the risk of ongoing frustration and hopping from program to program searching for what will finally work for you, or you may end up quitting altogether.
I don’t want that to happen.
If your program is designed with the right attributes, your practice should result in some key elements. Click here to see what those elements are, and you’ll be able to fully evaluate the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your training program.
Over years of personal practice and teaching, we’ve designed a method for skill development that works.
Our Floor One program is dedicated to developing skills in a logical manner, through our four-phase approach. If you’re looking to build body control with hand balancing skills, tumbling exercises, jumps, and more, F1 is designed to help you do just that.
Quit wasting your time with rigid programs that keep you doing the same thing over and over again for as many reps as possible.
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