Muscle Memory - How many reps?

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  • cosermann

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    Having been involved this year with the firearms training of my 2 oldest kids, and a friend new to firearms this question has come up. The conventional wisdom that is often heard is 3,000 to 5,000 repetitions.

    However, this article ==>> Reps and Body Muscle Memory

    goes back to the original research on the subject which suggests an average of as little as 300-500 repetitions to develop a new motor pattern, with 3,000 to 5,000 repetitions required to erase and correct a poor/bad/incorrect motor pattern. It makes you wonder if the 3k to 5k conventional wisdom developed, because trainers have to correct so many bad habits!

    Regardless of the actual numbers, there's a clear principle here - it's much more efficient to learn and practice something properly and correctly from the beginning. Otherwise, it could take 10 times as long to correct.

    Kind underscores the value of good training/coaching from the beginning, and careful deliberate practice.
     

    Indy_Guy_77

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    In before rhino and Coach disagree with your terminology. :D

    But yes - changing a bad habit IS more difficult than learning a habit initially.

    -J-
     

    Dragon

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    Since muscles have no memory, it's just not a good term to explain what's going on, but it will suffice. Building motor units to perform an action isn't the important part of technique work, IMO, but rather maintaining them is.

    A martial arts instructor of mine once told me "1,000 reps and you'll learn a technique, 3,000 and you can use it, 10,000 and you've mastered it." and while that is a very old way of thinking, it could very well be true. Who knows? We all learn and adapt at different rates so it could be 1/10th of that for you on one technique and 2 times that on another.

    Oh and something to add after reading the article. A question that wasn't answered for me was how did they quantify what is a learned technique? After performing 300-500 reps of a new technique could a person put said technique away for a month and then reliably be able to reproduce it again? I just feel like there is a difference between learning a technique, knowing a technique, and being able to perform a technique under stress.
     

    cosermann

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    Terms schmerms. ;)

    Repetition matters; whether we want to call it muscle memory, motor learning, procedural memory, building neural pathways, sensory-motor learning, ...

    Agreed that some terms are better than others, and some are outright misnomers.
     

    Coach

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    There is a difference between repition and repition at speed as well. The more reps the better. But the technique or mechanics need to be right from the start. 50 reps per night gets results faster than 10 reps per night. Building a habit from scratch is much easier than changing a habit that has been established. How many I think varys from person to person. Some people are slow learners and I could name some names but I don't want to hurt anyones feelings during the holiday season. I might be on the bubble with Santa.
     

    jdhaines

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    Two colloquialisms I've come across. 10,000 reps to master something, and (in the BJJ realm) you have to get tapped 10,000 times to earn a black belt.

    My problem with this is also the very difficult question of being sure what you are doing is the most efficient or effective way. I've seen some very high level instructors teach things that I've spent lots of time perfecting. Then another person comes along and shows something that, in my mind, blows it away. Now I'm trying to unlearn the first one and relearn the second one. I'm reminded of this every time I see "more seasoned gentlemen" working on modern technique rather than the newer techniques which have been proven more effective. There is probably a point of diminishing returns. It's more effective for them to continue honing what they've already been taught than it would be to attempt to completely change and relearn. I think that's a choice many of us must make.

    This is one of the reasons why I've taken such a strong stance, for myself and my own personal training, of wanting to see everything fully pressure tested before I commit to really drilling it for retention (muscle memory). I want to see it work on a fully resisting opponent, and I want to see it work 25%+time right out of the gate. With a small amount of drilling I want that number well over 50% by the time I leave that session, or it's trashed. Training principals over techniques has helped me greatly in achieving these goals.

    I haven't told the story on this forum, and this thread isn't the place for it...but the short version helps illustrate my point. One day at our training group a pretty scary guy with a pretty scary background was in a position to pretty much pound my face in. I was really scared and ended up using our striking system which was touted as a very defensive system. I had learned the basics but hadn't had a chance to really see if they would work against someone not "in the know." The guy went nuts and just went all out balls to the wall punching me in the head. I used my defensive system to mitigate all of those attacks and ended up knocking him down and giving him a bloody nose. To me...it was the highest form of pressure test. I'm now confident that those techniques and principals will be effective and am confident that I'm not wasting my time drilling them.

    Regardless of the actual numbers, there's a clear principle here - it's much more efficient to learn and practice something properly and correctly from the beginning. Otherwise, it could take 10 times as long to correct.

    Kind underscores the value of good training/coaching from the beginning, and careful deliberate practice.

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I'm just not sure that training/coaching is the only part that matters. One way or another we have to do enough research/pressure testing/etc that what we are being fed is not just the system the great instructor teaches, but also one that is good enough it will withstand scrutiny from other great instructors.

    I feel like I've experienced both with well known instructors and it has made the entire process more difficult.
     

    Jackson

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    I'm just not sure that training/coaching is the only part that matters. One way or another we have to do enough research/pressure testing/etc that what we are being fed is not just the system the great instructor teaches, but also one that is good enough it will withstand scrutiny from other great instructors.

    I feel like I've experienced both with well known instructors and it has made the entire process more difficult.

    Has it made it more difficult? Or was it a complex topic to begin with, and the added viewpoints and added scrutiny have made your knowledge richer and broader? Eventually you take all the pieces and make them your own. There is no one way. Nothing will apply to all situations. I think you may underestimate the beneift of having those experiences.
     

    jdhaines

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    Has it made it more difficult? Or was it a complex topic to begin with, and the added viewpoints and added scrutiny have made your knowledge richer and broader? Eventually you take all the pieces and make them your own. There is no one way. Nothing will apply to all situations. I think you may underestimate the benefit of having those experiences.

    You might be right...I hadn't thought about it like that. I can certainly say I've seen and learned things that I've now moved past and thrown away because I don't trust them. That probably is worth the price of admission. I've only scratched the surface as far as the knowledge and training out there so it all seems a bit overwhelming when you think about it.

    I don't want to thread drift too far, but I like the idea of not only thinking about how long it takes to learn something, but also what methods should we use, and how do we know what we should learn. These are huge topics but also powerful vehicles for getting better at the things we want to improve.



    As an aside, I like seeing these types of topics on here. Normally you only find these types of deep topics on specialized forums. I think its time INGO took some of these things more seriously.
     
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    David Rose

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    In before rhino and Coach disagree with your terminology. :D

    But yes - changing a bad habit IS more difficult than learning a habit initially.

    -J-

    This is why I always encourage people who are excited about dry fire to make sure they understand the technique, and can do it correctly first.

    It also explains for the people who think they just need to shoot more and they will get better that 10,000 reps of bad technique does not make good technique.
     

    szorn

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    You will get a different answer depending on who you ask.

    As was already mentioned, we are all different and we all learn and retain things at a different pace. Most of the research shows that there are several learning styles and each person may learn, retain, and master skills faster or slower depending on their dominate learning style. The speed at which we learn and retain skills also depends on whether the teaching methods are geared toward our dominate learning style. However, with all of that being said I have come to realize that the more natural and instinctive a skill is, the easier it is for most people to learn and retain. The more complex or unnatural the skill is, the longer it takes. Although, those with more natural athletic ability seem to learn more complex skills faster than those with less athletic ability.

    Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration...when the skill is trained under similar conditions in which it's intended to be applied, it appears to be learned faster and retained longer. Some trainers claim that when physical self-defense skills are trained while under an adrenal response, it tends to hardwire the skills into the nervous system fairly quickly. That is assuming that the skills are not overly complex. I have experienced this phenomenon myself.

    So, I wouldn't get caught up in numbers because there are just too many variables. As most have already pointed out, the key is to learn the skills properly right from the beginning and then spend the necessary amount of time working and mastering those skills. After learning the basics, the next step is to move into scenario and simulation training in order to transfer the basic skills over to practical application.

    Steve
     
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