Practice Makes Perfect: Tips to Learn a New Skill in Less Time

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They say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

But we know that old, glass-half-empty saying isn’t always true. In life, at work, or in the gym, we all have the potential to learn and master new skills. Have you ever wanted to learn how to do a pull up, climb a rope, perform an Olympic lift, or nail 20 push-ups in a row? It’s possible. It just takes a committed mind set and a little practice.

Is there a “right way” to practice when you are learning something new?

Actually, yes – according to a research study performed by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The study followed three groups of volunteers asked to learn a new computer-based motor skill. According to the senior study author & professor at the University, Dr. Celnik, “what we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

By breaking down the skill into phases or movement modifications, your brain uses a process called reconsolidation to recall existing memories and modify them with new knowledge to strengthen the motor skills involved.

You don’t have to devote the entire length of your training session to mastering the skill. Simply inject a few minutes of focused training time into your current workout routine. Try practicing the desired skill or modifications of that skill at different times during your workout. On some days, practice your new skills training as a part of your warm up routine.  Other days switch it up and practice for a few minutes at the middle or end of your workout when fatigue is more of a factor.

When it comes to mastering that skill on your fitness bucket list, take a more glass-is-half-full approach. As another old saying suggests, “You can do anything, if you put your mind to it.”

We asked our Master Coaches to give us a few pro-tips on how to break down and master a fitness skill or exercise of their choice. Check out these videos for a few focused training tips for mastering an Atlas Carry or Toes to Bar.

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About Elisabeth Fouts

Elisabeth is the Education & Content Manager for Power Systems. She has served the fitness industry for over 15 years has a wide variety of experience from personal training and group fitness instruction to health club membership sales and fitness management. She joined Team Power Systems as Education Coordinator in 2015 and has since produced and co-authored educational content for live and virtual training sessions both internally for staff training and externally for industry educational organizations across the United States. Elisabeth holds a B.S. in Education & Exercise Science and is a certified fitness instructor with ACE and Les Mills.