Process of Learning New Fitness Skills

Fitness is more than just how much weight you can pick up, or how fast you can run; a big part of it is skill-related. Fitness can be broken up by the following:

Skill-related fitness requires a lot of practice and a methodical approach, based on your current level of fitness in the specific skill. Skills are often associated with sports, for example:

  • Basketball agility: changing direction to escape a defender

  • Gymnastics balance: performing a specific routine on a balance beam

  • Swimming reaction time: start to jump/dive in the pool when the signal starts

  • Track speed: running the 100m event

  • Olympic weightlifting power: performing a heavy power clean 

Skills are often attained through consistency in training and are not typically attained through natural genetics, however some people perform skills with more ease and less practice than others. If you’re looking to build your skills library, here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Identify the skills you’d like to attain and how they relate to goals you actually care about.

  • Assess your current abilities.

  • Address whatever’s holding you back using the most efficient approach.

    • What are your weaknesses?

    • When you attempt the skill(s), what is the part that’s hardest to perform?

  • How can you address these weaknesses? How can you implement practice to your current routine?

  • Then repeat this process as your skills improve and your goals change over time!

You can approach skill practice in several ways, with one of the most effective practices being EMOMs (every minute on the minute). This will allow you to practice the skill for a set period of time and accumulate repetition through unfatigued practice. As you become more fluent in the movement, increase the volume as needed. Below is an example with double-unders (DUs):

  • EMOM, 5 DUs per minute for 10 minutes total:

    • 5 unbroken DUs should take anywhere from 3-10 seconds depending on skill level. Rest for the remainder of the minute and start again at the top of the minute, when you are nice and fresh.

    • Aim to get all DUs unbroken.

    • When you feel confident, increase it the next week to anything above 6 DUs, depending on your skill level. 

Ideally, you want to build your skill in an unfatigued state. When you start feeling comfortable with the skill, you can start adding it into conditioning pieces and practicing it unfatigued. For example, with double unders, you can do the following:

  • 10 sets of:

    • 250m row, sprint

    • 25 double unders

    • 60s rest

If you are completely new to the skill and cannot get one repetition and/or are not fluent in the movement, work on skill progression exercises. You should look at the movement patterns required for the skill and master those movements. This will increase the body awareness and/or strength required for proper execution. For example, if you cannot get one double-under, the EMOM with DUs may not be the best route for you. Instead, work on skill progression work like penguin hops, single under practice, or single-single-double jumps. You can use the EMOM structure to work on these. Another example of skill progression is for handstand push ups; you can work on progressions like wall walks, shoulder taps, handstand holds against the wall, and decline push ups. 

You don’t need to switch up your whole training routine when practicing new skills. Instead, add them in as an extra part of your training a few times a week. Typically, skill practice doesn’t take too much time (15-30 minutes). The best time to add these are during the beginning of your training session, when you are not fatigued or in a rush. 

Lastly, document your progress and journey. Practicing skills requires patience. It can be frustrating, and some days are better than others, but if you write down or record yourself performing the work, you’ll see the progression and improvement. Also, if you record your practice, it will allow you to analyze your movements, identify movement breakdowns, pin-point weaknesses, and formulate progressions that are more applicable to you!