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Practice- Honing the Skill of Strength

June 8, 2011 06:00 PM

 Whitely Article
I once read a quote from Houdini that really struck me with its depth: "Magic is practice."
The simple honest elegance is so obvious it is easy to dismiss. Strength is the same. Strength is practice. Strength is a by-product of continual practice. The quest for the perfect rep. And that practice begins with movement.
"Practice makes perfect" is inaccurate and so is "perfect practice makes perfect". While this sounds very good and is a step in the right direction, it is also untrue. It assumes that you can perform a perfect rep with no prior practice. I have also heard that it takes ten good reps to correct 1 bad rep.
Practice makes permanent. Because of this primary concern in practice should be continual improvement, the quest for the perfect rep. It takes thousands of reps of imperfect practice to understand psychologically and physiologically what "perfect" even means. Imperfect practice is necessary when learning the most effective and productive groove. How do we practice and develop the skill of strength? By seeking quality every time we perform a movement.
Greasing the Groove
Pavel has written extensively about the phenomenon called synaptic facilitation. In The Naked Warrior he calls it "greasing the groove". Simply put it is fresh, frequent and flawless practice of the skill of lifting and tension. You have almost certainly heard of it. What you may not have known is that it was a common method amongst performing strongmen of old and today.
In many cases, the performance IS the training. Arthur Saxon did multiple shows daily and had to be fresh and strong for them. Think about that: THOUSANDS of practice reps and adding weight over time.
In the RKC we often refer to our training as practice. Think of this the next time you are training. How can you improve the movement you are doing? How can you dial the next rep in a little more to be better than the last?
I asked Powerlifting Legend Kirk Karwoski to define good technique regardless of the lift in question. He immediately responded "It has to be bio-mechanically correct for the individual and aesthetically pleasing to watch".
I like to include a practical training tip when I write an article. This tip will be a little different. I encourage you to approach your practice mindfully, like you were typing or playing an instrument. Avoiding sloppy reps the same way you would avoid misspellings or wrong notes will make you BETTER at the movement being practiced. Find your optimal groove, the one that is bio-mechanically correct for you. Make that groove look good.
In the RKC manual we have testing standards for technique on each of the drills. This is to ensure uniform technique that allows for individual differences in body type.
Let’s use the Squat as our example. Are you going below parallel? Is your back straight? Do your knees track your toes? Are your toes planted? Do your hips ascend at the same rate as your shoulders? Do you fully extend your hips and knees at the top?
All these things need to be in place before you concern yourself with sets, reps, weight, volume or frequency. Get good first. It makes getting strong EASIER.

Dave Whitley is a Master RKC, CK-FMS, CICS and performing strongman based in Nashville TN. Visit his website for more information, and see him live at the Summit of Strength in July for details.