PROGRESSION FOR SKILL MASTERY IN THE SPORT OF FITNESS

PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Sullivan, @TimSullivanphoto

"ORDER AND SIMPLIFICATION ARE THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS MASTERY OF ANY SUBJECT"    

- THOMAS MANN

"My double unders felt great last week. Not sure what's going on today"

It's easy to assume you had an off day but a trained eye may notice something else. It's possible your double unders felt great last week because they were at the start of the workout instead of after running or after box jump overs. That information can mean it's not an issue of skill but of fatigue. Determining the cause is the first step to finding a solution. The purpose of this article is to suggest an order for how best to progress a skill to reach mastery. I define skill mastery as the ability to consistently perform a skill under various forms of fatigue. The suggested progression is as follows:

SKILL DEVELOPMENT → SKILL ENDURANCE → SKILL ENDURANCE UNDER AEROBIC FATIGUE → MIXED MODAL DIFFERENT PATTERN → MIXED MODAL SAME PATTERN

This progression can apply to any skill and fitness level. I use this same order to develop mastery of a double under as well as a ring muscle up. To show this progression functions, I'll take the example of the double under and assume SKILL DEVELOPMENT (athlete can regularly perform 20-30 unbroken double unders). The next step is to develop SKILL ENDURANCE. How much is appropriate for the athlete should be determined by the coach, but let's take the example of 200 double unders in 2:00. There are a variety of ways to reach that level of skill endurance but the following is one progression:

WEEK 1: EMOM for 10:00 perform 20 double unders

WEEK 2: EMOM for 8:00 perform 25 double unders


WEEK 3: EMOM for 7:00 perform 30 double unders

WEEK 4: EMOM for 5:00 perform 40 double unders

WEEK 5: EMOM for 4:00 perform 50 double unders

WEEK 6: Every :90 for 3:00 perform 25 double unders

WEEK 7 or 8: TEST (Week 8 if 1 week needed repeating)

Once 200 in 2:00 is met, I progress to testing SKILL ENDURANCE UNDER AEROBIC FATIGUE.

I create aerobic fatigue using a mono-structural piece; running, rowing, or biking. For double unders I use rowing or biking as running is too similar a pattern. The level of aerobic fatigue should be progressed, which is most easily done using a heart rate monitor and prescribing target beats/minute (BPM). If that isn't an option, you can prescribe a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) on a 1-10 scale. An example progression is the following:

WEEK 1: 5 sets of 2:00 row at 145-155 BPM (6-7/10 RPE) then perform 40 double unders

WEEK 2: 5 sets of 2:00 row at 165-175 BPM (8/10 RPE) then perform 40 double unders

WEEK 3: 5 sets of 2:00 row at 175-185 BPM (9/10 RPE) then perform 40 double unders

WEEK 4: 5 sets of 2:00 row at 185+ BPM (10/10 RPE) then perform 40 double unders

When a skill can consistently be performed with or near maximal heart rate I progress to MIXED MODAL DIFFERENT PATTERN. 

Mixed modal is the use of multiple modalities of fitness in one workout; weightlifting, gymnastic, and aerobic. When developing double unders I avoid anything that requires extension of the ankle; cleans, snatches, push presses, jerks, running, jumping, etc. During this phase of the progression I'm looking to discover which, if any, differing movement patterns affect the athletes ability to perform the skill. Some example workouts would be the following:

WEEK 1: 3 sets of 20 deadlifts (155/105), 40 calories on rower, 60 double unders

WEEK 2: 5 sets of 20 push ups, 20 wall balls, 40 double unders

WEEK 3: 4 sets of 25 toes to bar, 25 front rack reverse lunges (75/55), 50 double unders

WEEK 4: 5 sets of 10 back squats (135/95), 20 pull ups, 30 double unders

The combinations of movements are infinite. I'm simply challenging the skill with all 6 strength patterns; upper body press, upper body pull, hinge, squat, single leg, and core. If the workout that contained an upper body press (week 2) affected the athletes ability to perform double udders, I'd build volume in a mixed modal that included an upper body press. Once resolved, I'd progress to MIXED MODAL SAME PATTERN. 

In this phase of the progression I begin by challenging the skill with a similar pattern (for double udders anything that requires extension of the ankle) while under aerobic fatigue. Some example works are the following:

WEEK 1: 4 sets of 400M run, 20 kettlebell swings, 40 double unders

WEEK 2: 5 sets of 10 burpee box jump overs, 10 pull ups, 20 double unders

WEEK 3: 3 sets of 10 hang power cleans (135/95), 20 toes to bar, 30 double unders

WEEK 4: 4 sets of 8 power snatches (115/75), 16 pull ups, 32 double unders

The goal is to discover similar patterns that affect the athletes ability to perform the movement. If multiple, target one, slowly build volume, then repeat. There are a number of ways to apply this progression and it's not necessary to start at the beginning. You may already be able to perform the skill under aerobic fatigue, and with different movement patterns. I use this progression as a discovery tool. It brings order to the process of elimination. If you need help developing a skill or are interested in truly individualized programming, contact me. I'd love to help.