Dave Whitley: The Art of Perfect Practice

Strongman Dave Whitley takes on some of the famous aphorisms about practice, discusses the wrong way to practice and leads you to the right way.

I want to talk about practice and mastering the skill of strength.

We talked about Vaudeville. We talked about magicians. Houdini said, “Magic is practice.”

Strength is the same thing. To get stronger, you have to practice.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” Right?

It’s not true. It’s just simply not true. Practice does not make perfect. Not in the context that it sounds like. So then we hear, “No, perfect practice makes perfect.”

Really? The implication there is that I can do it perfectly already before I practice. Circular logic.

I believe that practice should entail something that I call The Quest for the Perfect Rep.

If I say, “I’m going to go do 50 swings with the kettlebell,” I’m just focused on getting 50 swings done. If I have, mentally, the idea that, ‘I’m going to go swing a kettlebell . . . I’m going to shoot for around 50 reps. If I get it, great. If I don’t the rep police aren’t going to come arrest me.’

But each rep, I’m going to try to make it a little more quality than the one that preceded it. The only way you can go from there is up. Because you are constantly seeking to refine that skill and practice that skill and get better at that skill.

We lose that in strength, or in conditioning, because strength and conditioning, in our minds, are these things where we put in this effort and the muscles burn and we’re sore and achy . . . but if you were learning how to type, would you practice a few minutes until you started to get sloppy and then go away and come back later? Or would you type until you couldn’t move your fingers, your fingernails fell off, you were bleeding all over the place and could barely move . . . and then come back to practice a week later?

Yeah. Sloppy, then leave, then come back.

So, practice doesn’t make perfect and perfect practice doesn’t make perfect.

Practice makes permanent.

And if you practice poorly, you get better at doing it poorly.

If you incorporate mindfulness into your movement, then you’ll get better at the movement. If you get better at moving, then you can start adding load. Then you can start adding repetition, then you start adding intensity . . .

Then you can start adding strength.

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