Blocked vs. arbitrary practice: too much of one, not enough of the other

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The way you practice has a lot of influence on how well you perform on the golf course. You want to be efficient and productive with the limited time you have. In this article, I will explore one of the basic concepts of productive practice – blocked versus random.

In my opinion, most golfers have spent way too much time on blocked (repetitive) exercises. While repetition has its merits, I want to explore why introducing variation in your training can take you to a higher level in your game.

You can also listen to a podcast episode that I, Adam Young and Cordie Walker did on the subject, to give you a little more perspective below:

The difference between blocked and arbitrary practice

Most of you are very familiar with blocked practices; that is what most golfers do. A simple definition would be to practice the same skill over and over, repeatedly. An example would be if you were around and hit your 7 iron on the same target without making any changes.

Random practice introduces a number of changes in each shot. Say you had a lob wedge in your hands and you hit targets that were 75 yards, 25 yards, 50 yards, and then 40 yards. Every time you had a new goal, and it would force your mind and body to go through a calibration process. Another example is changing the club with every shot – you could hit a sand wedge, a 7 iron and a driver.

In my experience, the vast majority of players spend far too much time on blocked exercises. Many golfers don't even know what random practice is and what benefits it can bring.

Why blocked practices are under attack

In recent decades, much research has emerged in sports and numerous other disciplines that question the effectiveness of blocked practice. One of the main arguments is that repetitive practice can lead to better results during training sessions, but does not transfer long-term skills that are in & # 39; game situations & # 39; can be used. Many of you probably know the frustration of making great shots on the driving range and then being completely demoralized when you can't recreate that success on the golf course. I think a lot of that has to do with the way you exercise.

In addition, the blocked practice can work against many golfers, as they only anchor bad technical habits. If you're struggling with a slab and hitting balls over and over without making changes, how can you ever expect to fix it?

Perhaps the problem could be solved by taking a lesson and trying new exercises or experimenting with hooking the ball. But you would never know until you made a change.

Without going too deeply into the subject, it is believed that randomized practice helps transfer skills more effectively because it challenges you to solve more problems.

When you hit a driver 30 times in a row, you probably don't pay too much attention. It takes a lot of mental discipline to focus while doing something repeatedly. However, if you have to change club and goal every time, your mind will have to adjust to the new challenge. Many believe that variation trains your brain to perform better under pressure.

Involvement is the most important factor

It is impossible to know just the right amount of blocked exercises and randomized exercises that will lead to your best results. I believe both have their merits when it comes to improving your golf game.

Whatever you do, I think involvement and concentration are the most critical factor. Having a plan and focus for each shot throughout the process will give yourself a better chance of improving your skills. I believe introducing random exercises into your routine can help with that process. But that doesn't mean you should throw repetitive exercises out the window!

What does productive, blocked practice look like?

Let's say you hit your 8 iron on the same target 20 times in a row. Here is a list of things you could do to increase your engagement:

Before each shot, go through the same pre-shot routine you would use on the golf course.
Every time you step on the ball, you watch your line-up. Is your attitude the same? Do you handle the club differently? Where is the ball in your position? What are your eyes on?
Is there a specific technique you are working on? Maybe it's a rehearsal exercise your instructor has given you to deal with a swing error.
You are fully focused on your target before taking the picture. Then you pay attention to the result. Which direction did you miss? Are you thinking about why that happened and what you can do to adjust the next shot?

These are just a few examples, and there are probably hundreds of different ways you could come to give meaning to a blocked practice session. I don't want to flood you with too many ideas, because it's probably best to focus on one thing at a time. For many golfers, improving their performance could only be improved by focusing only on the goal and noticing where the ball landed.

Two types of practice that I love are impact and tempo training, which can be done repeatedly and provide great results for your golf swing.

In general, repetitive practice has its merits if you are involved correctly. My biggest hope for you is to avoid those "zombie range sessions" where you hit mindless balls without thinking much about what you are doing. You reduce your chances of increasing your skills.

What does productive random practice look like?

I don't want to give the impression that random practice is the solution to all your golfing problems. Because it is not. Even if you change your target every time you hit a golf ball during practice, there is still a chance that your mind and body are not sufficiently involved in the process. However, I believe that variation gives you a much better chance to simulate golf course conditions and prepare you more effectively.

After all, golf is a random game. How often do you always get the same photo on the track? Every round you play you are always faced with arbitrariness. You get different lies in the rough, uneven positions, the wind keeps rotating or maybe there is a tree in the way and you have to find a way around it. Your preparation should take this into account and introduce some variability.

Here are some examples of arbitrary practices:

Play performance games that simulate the pressure and variation of a real round
Choose a target and try to hit four different clubs at the correct distance
Experiment with different shot shapes and trajectories
Try to consciously touch different parts of the face
Cycle through different distances and targets with your wedges within 100 meters

The best of all these methods is that they are usually more fun for golfers. If you try a few out, you will probably start looking out for the exercise range, rather than being an obligation.

In general, I think there should be a healthy mix of repetitive and variable exercise methods. Whatever you do, you want to have a plan and be engaged.

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