Blocked vs. Random Practice
December 18, 2023
In our research, we have begun to understand that there are different kinds of practice. While there are many different phases of practice, we want to deal with two of them here- “blocked’ and “random.”
When a shooter goes out and shoots the same target over and over again in the same breakpoint, that would be blocked practice. While there are some times when blocked practice is necessary, the benefits derived from blocked practice are much less than random practice. We would use blocked practice with someone who is dealing with a particular target’s perception of speed or line, like when a chandelle coming out of the arch is more like a crosser than a dropper, but the illusion is that it is dropping. We would shoot the same chandelle over and over and then go to a similar chandelle and reinforce the same sight picture until the shooter had a complete understanding of the target’s line, and the illusion was erased in his or her mind.
Another instance when blocked practice is applied is when we take a shooter whose gun is shooting high so they have to float the target. We reshape the shooter’s comb so their gun is shooting flat, and then take them to similar targets, emphasizing that the new sight picture is level and on the line. While blocked practice gives the shooter that good feeling of breaking a lot of targets, after the fourth or fifth target little is gained by shooting another 15-20 of the same ones.
Random practice is where the shooter shoots single targets with only one look bird, visualizing how and where the shot will come together and then executes the prediction to see if it was correct. It requires the brain to put the correct circuit together and execute the shot.
This process is called recall and is the most underused part of practice. Shooters practice the same course over and over and the brain gets lazy and does not recall different circuits as described in the paragraph above. Then they go to a tournament on an unfamiliar course where the brain is forced to recall different circuits to hit the targets, but because the brain had not been practicing recalling new circuits the shooter did not perform as well as they did when they are practicing.
Our research shows that this is the most frequent reason for shooters practicing well but not shooting tournaments well. Shooters do blocked practice on familiar targets without prediction in familiar backgrounds. While they hit lots of targets, they were not predicted prior to execution, so they never made it to the shooters’ long-term memories.
Shooters should shoot more single targets forcing their brains to recall new circuits with prediction and constantly push themselves out of their comfort zones, learning new things that will benefit them in the future.