Slow is Beautiful

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One question that pops up often: why does super-slow practice work so well?  After all, we see it over and over in the talent hotbeds, where it’s used to learn everything from algebra to tennis to writing. And yet slow practice grates against our instincts. Speed is good, right? Shouldn’t we always push ourselves to go faster, faster, faster?

Here’s the deal: super-slow practice works because practice is about construction.  We are literally building a neural circuit — connection by connection. Slowing down lets us pay deeper attention to those connections; it lets us fire the circuit more accurately. Super-slow practice allows us to not only perform the action, but to also simultaneously observe that performance; to coach ourselves. When we go fast, on the other hand, we are only performing.

I just came across a interesting new book: Slow Practice Will Get You There Faster, by Ernest Dras.  Dras points to the above video, where we can watch all-time-great Ben Hogan perform his super-slow golf swing (check out the incredible fluidity and control Hogan displays at 1:45 and beyond; it looks like the film is slowed down, but as the waves in the background prove, it’s pure Hogan). Dras points out that Mozart and his father did essentially the same thing.

The elder Mozart would place ten dried peas in his son’s left coat pocket, and for each successful attempt at a difficult passage, Mozart would move a single pea to his right pocket. When he failed on any piece, even if it was the tenth repetition, all the peas had to be placed back in his left pocket — Wolfgang had to begin anew. What usually happens when using this method is that the student slows down his tempo in order to play the passage perfectly.

Naturally, I’m writing this as I race out to catch a plane. Imagine how much better this post would have been if I’d only gone slower!


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6 Responses to “Slow is Beautiful”

  1. Tom says:

    try riding a motorcycle or bike real slow…real real slow…the truth is revealed….if you can do it slow… you’ve got it..thanks for the reminder

  2. Ryan Hockman says:

    My college coach, legendary Jerry Claiborne, used to say, “Walk it, jog it, run it; then demonstrate it in slow motion and you’ve got it.”

    Besides slow speed, full range of motion training, I make my QBs perform movements in reverse and with their weakside. This is both for stronger neural learning and to build muscle symmetry, improve proprioception, and to prevent overuse injuries.

  3. Brad Brewer says:

    Daniel,

    I am grateful for you and your book, Talent Code. It was a gift from my PGA client, Ted Purdy. He said, “you must read this book, because you are doing it.” Well, I didnt know what “doing it” even meant. But certainly, thanks to you, I do now and am so excited to be learning how to better “do it”. For me personally, Talent Code has taken the lid off high performance player development.

    Brad Brewer
    Brad Brewer Golf Academy
    Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Instructor
    The Golf Channel’s Daily Brew

  4. Garnet says:

    Interesting, and something I used a little when trying to master things, but was never sure if they’d work or not. But also interesting is a quote listed in the review by G Mangum on Amazon stating that (roughly) different circuits are used for slow and fast signals???

  5. Rakesh Shukla says:

    I am not sure I agree with this super slow approach to practice.

    Why?

    A: Specificity. I am a big believer that the most important rule for learning a skill is specificity. Be as specific as possible when mastering a new skill. At the beginning, you will naturally be slower (e.g. basketball dribbling skills) but as you progress you will only improve if you make mistakes by pushing yourself to go harder and faster.

  6. Dave STU says:

    Super Slow practice is very important, but it is also important to practice speed. after all, how can one do something quickly if they have never done it quickly! The coordination for quick playing simply will not be there.

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