Skill reinforcement. That’s the name of the game for real, sustainable training.
Whether your goal is general fitness, weight/fat loss or high-level athletic performance like Jose (a starting pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization,) reinforcing movement and athletic skills makes all the difference, and delivers results.
Every. Single. Time.
Too often we blindly pursue the “new,” cutting-edge, state of the art or “cool” fitness program, modality or tool/toy. As a result, we fail to master the basics or fully appreciate their huge impact on health, fitness and performance.
One risk of this approach is that clients don’t benefit from the metabolic and performance boosts that come with movement mastery.
Another risk is the higher risk of injury associated with never really creating foundational levels of stability, strength and durability.
Your clients and athletes will develop better metabolic response, higher performance levels and body shape improvements via fuller movement mastery. Better yet, they’ll be able to repeat and sustain those benefits over the long haul.
Now, those are benefits you can believe in!
A few tips to help you recognize when your athlete or client is mastering a movement or exercise:
1. Form – Duh. If it looks like a train wreck, it’s unlikely to be going well in your client’s neuromuscular system. Cue adjustments according to what your client can handle and in ways that match their learning/communication style (more to come on this.)
2. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) – If your athlete looks good doing the activity and isn’t breathing like a pneumonia patient, mastery is likely present. Even with higher intensity, the brains ability to create efficient movement reduces output stress on the body as a whole, making the exercise seem more physically manageable. You’ll notice more comfortable conversation during execution from clients who are mastering an exercise or movement.
3. Questions – When your athlete wants to know stuff besides those essential to not screwing up, you’re making mastery progress. If your athlete or client is asking “why does that happen,” chances are they haven’t mastered the movement in question. When your athlete’s questions change from execution-oriented to outcome-oriented or even to progression-related, you’ll have a good idea that they’re mastering the movement being performed.
Execution-oriented: “How do I do this?” “How do I make ‘X’ happen?”
Outcome-oriented: “What does this do?” “If I do ‘X,’ what will that do for me?”
Progression-related: “Can we try it like this?” “Can this be done (single-leg, one arm, on an unstable surface, with a higher load)?”
4. Crossover effect – Other stuff gets better, too. You begin to notice improvement in other, similar movements. You notice mastery at a quicker pace in activities with similar challenges (balance, deceleration, multi-directional movement, etc.) You notice quicker acceptance and application of new skill patterns and pieces of patterns.
The crossover effect extends beyond the gym, too. Your client may tell you they are doing “X” better. Whether that’s throwing a 95 MPH fastball to a 2 square inch spot on a catchers glove 60 feet away or shoveling snow like a champ, you’ll know it (or hear about it) when it happens!
Skill reinforcement. Such a simple concept that can deliver huge results and major improvements for you clients.
So stop chasing the latest “ooh, shiny” program, modality or toy and get back to the basics – then layer them up and reinforce them!