3 Phases Of Learning New Technique

I was doing some Snatch technique work today with an athlete and started teaching her about the 3 phases of learning, and thought it might interest you all. I’ll keep it brief and to the point.

Phase 1 – Knowing
Phase 2 – Doing
Phase 3 – Being

Phase 1 – Knowing (Mind In Control)

Phase 1 begins when you first become aware of the new ‘thing’ or idea. It is when the Neocortex (conscious mind) portion of the brain gets lit up and starts to comprehend what it is sensing (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting). Let’s use the Snatch for example, you become aware of what you need to do to improve your technique and your brain starts to put all the new bits of information together until you can fully comprehend what you have to ‘DO’.

Phase 2 – Doing (Mind Teaching Body)

Phase 2 begins when you start to DO what you KNOW. This is your mind trying to get your body to follow the instructions and this is where new neural pathways begin to form (literally rewiring your brain). This phase takes lots of energy and can be very frustrating, because you need to concentrate so much on every small portion of the movement. This is the phase where we are building the habit, and it takes hundreds of perfect repetitions to successfully rewire the brain to coordinate the body.

Phase 3 – Being (Body In Control)

Phase 3 is the best, this is when the new movement feels 100% natural. You LITERALLY don’t have to think about it anymore because the motor pattern is now literally hardwired into the unconscious mind. It is at this point that things become effortless and you use very little energy performing the task perfectly.

The Three Phases & Periodisation

I wanted to write this post because NOW is the time of season for most people to be getting into Phase 1 & Phase 2. They are the frustrating, unnatural and potentially unenjoyable parts of the training season when you go right back to learning piece by piece instead of doing metcons and maxing out (you can still max out your foundational movements and energy systems (push/pull/squat/assault bike etc…). As a coach I know how vital this stage of training is, and sometimes this phase can take as long as six months for a CrossFit athlete, but it is the time when CHANGE happens!!

The goal is to find inefficiencies with technique and address them properly over a three to six month period, so that when you hit Phase 3, you are moving better and it is 100% natural! You will lift more and lift for longer without even ‘trying’ because it will just be who you are and how you lift, effortless and perfect.

Doing this is the difference between a true professional and someone that just wants to go hard all year, the second route will not win in the long run. The goal is to be FULLY Phase 3 when it comes into the competitive end of the season so that the mind is silent and the athletes energy and focus is 100% in the present moment, not off worrying about technique.

The Three Phases & Life

If you know me then you know that I am big on life as well as training and I believe it is critical to keep growing in all areas of life. The thing is that the first two phases can be extremely frustrating because nothing seems to ‘come easy’. It is is very unnatural and a lot of people feel like they aren’t being themselves… The truth is that you AREN’T being yourself, if you continue to be yourself you will never grow and change. If you never grow and change then you can’t expect to have a more fulfilling and rewarding life (unless your life is already perfect) because you will be stuck with all the programming that got you into the life you are currently living.

The point is that there will be periods of time when you are confused about what you are doing in life, THAT’S A GOOD THING!!! It means you are growing and changing, and then once you hit Phase 3 you will be an upgraded version of yourself.

So if you want something you’ve never had, then you need to become someone you’ve never been. It starts with conscious awareness and then conscious practice for many repetitions until it becomes natural, and that my friends is how we change behaviour in order to achieve anything we want in life.