How Much Time Does Learning Take

Last time we looked at what’s happening in the brain when we acquire new skills.  But, how much time, or how may reps does that take?

You’ll Be Shocked to Know

That I like numbers. In all reality, does it really matter if we define how long it takes to learn something new? If we’re determined to learn it, won’t we just stick with it until it happens?

Maybe, but I’ve found that if I define processes, my success rate goes up. Lets make this specific to CPM and the movements we do in here. How long does it take before we get “good”?

Different Levels

The first thing to make note of is that there are different levels of proficiency.  Lets assume the breakdown to be something like this:

  1. Novice — zero to very little experience
  2. Intermediate — can perform movements, still needs work
  3. Advanced — proficient with all movements, fine tuning technique
  4. Master — spent a LOT of time practicing……A LOT

Target Performance Level

For the vast majority of us, an intermediate-ish performance level will satisfy our needs.  We don’t plan on competing in Olympic Weightlifting or at a Kettlebell Challenge, we just want to get a good workout in.

One author I’ve read, Josh Kaufman, suggests that we can pick up new skills in around 20 hours time.  Another, Dr. Richard Schmidt suggests in his book Motor Learning that we must perform about 300 – 500 repetitions to learn a new motor pattern.  If we’ve got some bad habits, he suggests it takes 3,000 – 5,000 repetitions to correct it.

Lets assume that we’re a novice and we don’t have any bad habits.  We’ve never picked up a kettlebell before.  Do the 20 hours concept and the 300-500 repetitions match up?

Assume that in a 60 minute class involving kettlebell swings, on average, we perform around 30 swings that class.  To get to 500 swings we’d have to attend 17 such classes.  The 20 hour marker appears to have some validity.

What’s This Mean

The 17 class mark makes sense to me. If you’re a 3 times per week person, you see a kettlebell swing a little more than 1 time on average a week. This means you’d be OK at kettlebell swings by the end of the first 3 months.

For movements we don’t see as much you’ll have to wait a little longer or practice a little on the side to reach the same level of achievement.

What About Being Advanced

Remember, this would be to get to intermediate. Intermediate means you’re comfortable performing the movement and can do it safely and correctly. How many reps does it take to get to advanced? It varies person to person, but here’s something to think about.

Catalyst Athletics has a great blog. I recall an article they wrote last year that suggests the following. Once a person has the basic mechanics and can perform the movement correctly, they achieve what they call the “1,000 rep problem.”

Once we’ve done it right, we’ve got to do it another 1,000 times to memorize that correct movement. Incorrect reps don’t count.

It Takes Lots Of Practice

To get great at anything. It appears that we can achieve an intermediate level of proficiency in around 20 hours. To get great takes significant time and energy.

Decide what this means for you. I work out to maintain my health, and to practice being a good human. I’m not so interested in mastering olympic lifting or gymnastics or any discipline. I may accumulate 1,000 good reps some day, and that’d be awesome.

I’m always happy to spend 60 minutes of my day sweating with everybody here at CPM. Mainly because I know you’re all trying to rack up some more good reps……like me :)

The O-Board Says…

50 – 40 – 30 – 20 – 10
Double Unders
KB Swings
Russian Twist w/ Bumper Plate

Run 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, 100m
Between Rounds

Posted by: Stets