You’ve probably heard the term “practice makes perfect” hundreds of times over your life and never thought anything of it; but does practice actually make perfect? Well, it all depends on the practice. If you practice everything consistently and hit all the motions correctly, then yes, practice can make perfect. However, if you practice a motion over and over again incorrectly, then practice not only doesn’t make perfect but also develops bad habits that will be more than twice as hard to fix later. The ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement is called muscle memory. Muscle memory for athletes can be great, but it can also be very detrimental to your progression if not used correctly.
In parkour, we build muscle memory through the repetition of certain skills such as a lazy vault, parkour roll, or climb up. Muscle memory helps us to build on top of these skills and allows us to make them more complex. We rely on muscle memory because without it every single movement would require conscious thought each time to make it impossible to build and increase the difficulty of your movements. However, it is important to know when you are performing a move incorrectly because the consistent incorrect practice can cause your body and muscles to learn the wrong form for those movements which could then lead to a greater chance of injury later on.
A good way to know if you are performing a skill incorrectly is to either have a coach present who is knowledgeable about the proper form needed, or you can use online resources such as YouTube or other resources from other companies you trust to give you the information about the proper form. However, this does not solve the issue if you are out by yourself solo training. The solution to this, however, is probably located in your pocket. Your cell phone is a great tool that you can prop up almost anywhere and film yourself moving.
When learning a new skill, you should be paying very close attention to how you’re moving. Film your movement, analyze it, have other people watch you and tell you what you did right or wrong, everything you can. Watch videos of people who have the skill down really well, and compare it to yourself. Do they raise their knee a bit higher? Which direction are their hips facing, or where are they looking? Where is their center of gravity? Where is their power coming from? Once you know everything you can about the skill or move that you are trying to learn, then you should try it, and each time, re-analyze what you are doing, and where you can improve. Then try it again several times, each time re-analyzing. Then, you should probably take a break. When you’re tired, you can’t perform to the best of your ability, and that means your movement will start to break down, meaning what you are trying to commit to muscle memory won’t be as good as it could be. Building muscle memory should be a lengthy process before you get it down perfect, and you shouldn’t try to rush it more than you’re able. You want to make your movement as good as you possibly can. Take frequent breaks, come back to your movement, and only when you’re absolutely certain that you have it perfectly should you start drilling it over and over again.
PPK Philadelphia Desk Team