Powerlifting 16. The 10 year/10,000 hour rule!


I am currently reading the book Bounce by Matthew Syed. In it he describes how the concept of natural talent, gifted individuals or child prodigies is largely mythical. It turns out that if you examine the background history of any elite achiever throughout history (the likes of Mozart, chess Grandmasters and various sporting figures are detailed as examples, as are examples from nursing and fire-fighting), all of them had actually accrued an incredible amount of purposeful practice (see later), in many cases by a very early age. Hence, their great performances and achievements were the result of sustained hard work rather than some divine intervention. Syed refers to the ten-year rule, which proposes that ten years of dedication is required to achieve excellence in any given field. Given that most elite performers practice for around four hours per day or 1,000 hours per year, this has also been referred to as the 10,000 hour rule.

So, based on a rough calculation of spending 10 hours in the gym every week, that would be around 500 hours each year (allowing for the odd day that was missed ... but only for really important reasons!). Hence, after 10 years I will have accrued 5000 hours of training and would hit the 10,000 hour mark after 20 years at which point I will be 68-years-old. Boom! I have absolutely no problem being in a highly advanced stage of athletic training at this age. I wonder what my friends are planning for their retirement years? There is presumably no reason why they could not be competing alongside me! However, putting in the hours is not enough. What separates elite performers from the rest is not just how much they train, but how they train. They employ the principle of purposeful practice (also referred to as deliberate or deep practice), also discussed in Syed's book.

In simple terms it can be explained as highly targeted error-focused practice. By definition, purposeful practice takes you out of your comfort zone. It only happens when you: 1. get really clear on very specific areas that need to be improved; 2. step outside your comfort zone and make attempts that challenge you to get better in those specific areas; 3. gather data/feedback on how well you are doing at improving in those specific areas.

One example of a video analysis I performed to monitor my squat depth prior to my first competition

Just Google "purposeful practice in powerlifting" and you will find plenty of advice on this. I will be considering how to incorporate this principle somewhat more into my training in due course. I am pushing my limits with a progressive overload-type program, I am fully aware that I need to perfect the correct technique for each lift and I am recording my progress on paper. You will also see from my weekly update blog posts that I am critically assessing many elements of my performance. I am also photo/video documenting some of it. However, my personal analysis of my form would benefit from more videos which is easy enough to do and also from feedback from those who are more experienced than me and I will make a point to start asking for a bit more of this in due course.

Thanks for reading!