Ok, so we’ve taken the time to warm up. Super. What’s next?
This week we’re going to take a look at methods to refine and improve some of your existing skills. This will not only give you immediate results, but help set you up for better, quicker and easier success in the future.
Existing Skill Refinement
First, I want to talk about a concept called ‘Technical Debt’:
Technical debt is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost ofadditional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.
In short, taking the easy way out now, but screwing yourself later. This concept obviously applies to learning new skills and movements. By taking the time to learn them correctly from the beginning you will save yourself time later on when trying to build new skills upon those foundations as you’ll be burdened with less ‘technical debt’.
By refining our existing skills we’re able to pay back some of our ‘technical debt’. We can hone in on skills we already do with a laser-like focus, pick them apart and work on improving individual sections or elements of the skill.
You will eventually hit a roadblock in your training where what’s holding you back is not your inability to perform the skill, but the problems that exist and have always existed in your foundational skills & elements.
Make the choice to fix them now, rather than have that choice be made for you later on through either injury or lack of progression.
We need to dedicate a little time to ‘existing skill refinement’ in our trainings
‘But Nathan! How do we do that?’I hear you ask, yelling at your phone screen.
Well, we’re going to take that phone screen and put it to better use than looking at cat videos. We’re going to employ video review and channel our inner perfectionists.
Here’s how it’s going to work:
- Pick one skill you can already do.
- Do the skill while recording it.
- Come down and watch it on camera.
- Pick one or two things about the skill that aren’t perfect.
- On the next attempt, try and polish those imperfections.
- Watch that attempt.
- Rinse. Repeat.
- Do this five times for that one skill.
I’d suggest doing this process for 3 skills per practice. So you’ve got 3 skills, 5 videos each – with talking, analysing, watching and re-watching, you’ve already spent the first 30 minutes of your practice very wisely.
A word of warning: if you overload yourself with 13 things to change after watching your first video, you will probably overwhelm yourself and wind up not changing anything at all. Start with focusing on the ‘big’ things, get those down, then move to the smaller things, like perfecting your toe point, for example.
This will make you so much better, so much faster it’s not even funny. Your body is a sponge, and it will retain what it’s exposed to. If you constantly expose it to faulty shapes or movement patterns during one trick, when you come to do a trick with a similar shape or pattern you will make the same mistake there too.
This will unquestionably slow down the rate at which you can learn new skills and will affect the quality of your existing skills.
It’s up to you what exactly you pick to try and improve. It will depend on what you see in the videos. Some common things to look out for:
- Correct body shape / position
- Consistency and quality of timing / tempo
- Erratic limb bending
- Lack of strength in a particular shape or movement
- Unnecessary steps
- Things your body did that you didn’t know it did
Let’s say you have nailed jumping to star, and you want to work on jumping to hand to hand. If in your star you are constantly a little bit piked and your ass sticks out, when you come to do your hand to hand you will make the same mistake.
The shapes and demands of those two tricks are so similar that your body will default to what it knows.
If you show your body that when we go upside down, we pike and stick our ass out, every subsequent time you go upside down it will think
‘well, the last time we did this we did that, and it worked out ok. So that seems like a solid plan. Imma do that’
Your body is simultaneously incredibly stupid and also incredibly smart.
Taking the time to refine existing skills is so, so important. You will reinforce correct motor patterns and shapes, you will become stronger within those patterns and shapes and most importantly, you will set the correct groundwork for any learning in the future.
Religiously using this approach in our training is what let us improve the quality of our technique quickly, and make new skills easier to obtain.
Thanks to the miracles of old videos, we can see the improvements that this methodology had on our own training.
In 2012 I was having back and knee pain because of the way I was moving and performing our tricks. So we took it upon ourselves to clean it up. Every day I focused on performing those movements better. I would try to keep my spine tight & neutral, and to make sure I was squatting correctly by having my hips move back before my knees bent. Fixing those issues fixed my pain.
The next thing we saw is that our tempo would step, or I would not resist the catch enough. So that got added to the list of things to fix.
I started focusing on the correct catch technique, trying my best to absorb with my arms first and then my legs before stopping in a solid position at the bottom of the catch.
Every training session we would film all our inlocate, immediate, tempo attempts and then watch them back and try to fix the problems we saw in the next attempt. In 2012 I watched us do over 600 Inlocates.
In the video below, you can really see what that evolution looked like over time. The first video is from 2012, the second video is 3 months after that, the next is 18 months after that in late 2013 and the last is around the same time.
You can see how I go from stepping a fair bit early on in the Inlocate and the tempo, and my spine being a little all over the place, to being rock solid on my feet and in my spinal position later on.
In the beginning we weren’t even looking at the quality of our tempo, we just cared about the inlocate. As the inlocate got better, we were able to shift attention to the tempo.
By the time we get to 2013 you can see that not only is the inlocate super high, the catch of the inlocate is very stable, the tempo is very stable, and then the catch of the tempo is stable too.
These deliberate changes made it easy for us to perform the trick you see last. We nailed the last skill in the video in 1 day, all because we had taken the time and energy to improve and refine all the things that skill is built upon.
I remember being so surprised that we caught it so easy, and that the whole thing felt so smooth. But looking back it makes sense, because I obsessed over the details of the foundational skills.
And I recommend you do the same! At some point you will have to start paying back the technical debt you’ve accrued if you want to continue doing more complicated skills.