Sunday, 30 April 2017

Consistency, volume and frequency

This post is about getting better at something. Maybe you suck at it and want to get better, maybe you hate it, but it’s something you should do anyway, or maybe you’re just struggling to make progress.

For a great many things once a week isn’t enough. Trying to learn a skill, once a week practice won’t get you very far very fast. Trying to make a change (in your body or life) working on it once a week and ignoring it the other 6 days isn’t going to do much in the way of change. You’re basically wasting your time.

To make progress you (often) need at least twice a week, three times a week is possibly even better, four or more could be too often depending on what you are doing. Two examples of this that I have found is my shoulder mobility, and my wrist prep.

I had been working the wrist prep series from the gymnastic bodies’ handstand course once a week for a long time. There are four different exercises with multiple progressions. For three of the exercises I was able to make good progress, but one of them I was getting nowhere.  Every week was the same with very little observable progress. So I stepped it up to twice a week. Progress has still been slow, but it is there. I get observably better week to week. The element in question was more about gaining greater flexibly in my palm and fingers, stretching what must be quite tough muscle and connective tissue in the hand. Once a week was not enough to activate, and maintain a positive change in these tissues, but twice a week seems to be working. Three times a week might be better, and maybe I will try, but for now slow progress is still progress.

An example of slow but viable progress

I’ve written about my struggle gaining shoulder mobility before and some things that have helped in my post on the mobility stick. Another major help for increasing my shoulder mobility has been working in 2-3 times per week with multiple modalities. Previously I had been working shoulder mobility only once a week, with dislocates and another behind the back movement. I was getting better slowly, but not effectively. By adding in the shoulder and thoracic stretch routine weekly, and adding an additional day with the mobility stick I’ve been able to make slightly faster and more effective progress. I’m still far from perfect but I’m able to gain more mobility, and use the new range of motion more frequently during the week. 

In both cases it was not just consistently training these elements, but more frequency and more volume by adding a second training session. Often move volume is needed for better results, but be careful, stay withing recoverable limits or you'll do more harm than good.

If you want to make true change, once a week is not enough. If you care about something, focus on it, spend time on it. Start with one element you want to get better at, but are only working on once a week, and add a second day. Then re-evaluate, maybe add another day, or maybe pick another element which could use a twice a week scheduling. This way you are more likely to make these changes routine, trying to add too much all at once will burn you out physically and mentally and won’t create the change you’re after.

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