With excerpts from Michael’s book: Code Name Indestructible
Now seems as good a time as any to discuss the difference between practicing and working out. Some people do one exclusively and some do the other – what I’d like to suggest is that you do both. You’ll hopefully agree in a minute.
Practice entails mindful, meticulous attention to detail, execution, and safety (three things that sometimes go out the window during workouts). When practicing, you are intentionally executing a technique as perfectly as possible, working on transitions, range of motion, tension, etc. There’s no time requirement during a practice session – similar to Dan John’s concepts behind “punching the clock” workouts; you show up, get the work done, and go home. In a practice session you create the foundation for the technique (and other techniques as well). You’re trying to make that foundation deep and wide. Practice is important and while it’s not especially glamorous or exciting – it’s necessary.
Working out means you have a plan and a will to attack today’s objective. Less attention (and sometimes none at all) is spent on perfect movement or technique – you just hit it as hard as you can. Doing a workout is an opportunity to test your technique while under stress – sweat, snot, blood, and pain are all considered stressors in the gym, on the field, and in a fight. You are using the broad technique and strength base that you established during practice and seeing how it holds up under fire. Sometimes you’ll do really well, while other times you’ll realize it’s time to practice more.
The RKC School of Strength, spends a lot of time progressively loading and practicing perfect technique. This is a great method for developing strength in a traditional manner and works very, very well. CrossFit, “The Sport of Fitness,” relies less on practicing and more on testing the technique under stress. This allows for tremendous adaptation as well as amazing physical transformations in a relatively short period of time.
I suggest making both the ideas of practicing and working out an active part of your workout planning. Why turn your low intensity days into practice sessions instead of workouts? Take one or two workouts a week to broaden and strengthen your technique-base, as well as your strength-base, so that when you decide to apply yourself during a tough workout you’ll have the skills to match the intensity.
Invariably, someone will ask, “Excuse me Brainiac, but can’t I practice the technique before the workout as opposed to wasting a whole workout?” My reply has been and always will be that a workout is never wasted when you practice the basics – NEVER. You’ll be a better athlete in the long run if you focus on the basic skills and basic strength techniques of your sport. This type of attention will allow you to make a difference when your moment in the spotlight comes.
Remember the old adage that “practice makes perfect”? Well it’s wrong – PERFECT practice makes PERFECT. You’ll never be able to work on perfecting a movement skill if you are doing it under stress – you’ll make bad accommodations and you’ll cheat. Practice will give you the ability to deeply ingrain good movements into your skill set with the ability to use them when necessary.
When you’re planning workouts, place a practice “workout” on your low intensity day and make sure it includes something you really need to work on. This will give you a chance to slow down, focus on technique, while still “punching the clock” and getting some work done.
Michael A. Krivka, Sr., RKC Team Leader is a Washington, DC native who has been involved in Kettlebell training for over a decade and is currently an RKC Team Leader and member of the RKC Board of Advisors under Dragon Door (where he has been listed as one of the top reviewed RKC’s in the world for the last five years… Read more here.