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How Much Time Should I Spend Practicing Salsa?

Time to practice salsa

Photo credit: Sean Macenteelicense

When you’re learning how to Salsa dance, time plays a big role in the training process. It’s important to understand how it affects your learning process so you can decide on how much to practice, how frequently to practice and how you use all that time to get the results you want.

Let’s take a look at each aspect of training time to see how it can affect your progress and results.

Practice Frequency

The more often you practice something, the more times your brain and body have the opportunity to communicate with each other and harmonize your movement with your intended action. In other words, repetition matters. It is a key factor in training yourself how to do something new, especially the highly nuanced motor skills involved in Salsa.

The first time you try a new move in Salsa, your brain maps out the movement pattern you are requesting it to make. On your first go at it, it’s very likely that your attempt will result in a clumsy or inaccurate movement pattern. Over time, with the drilling of proper technique, your brain will have the chance to re-map the movement pattern and improve its efficiency. As a result, the new move you’re learning will become smoother and easier for you to execute, and, with enough practice, you won’t even have to think about it anymore.

The process where your brain continually improves the process of mapping your body movement is called long term potentiation. It’s hugely responsible for the ‘muscle memory’ you’ve always been told about and is highly influenced by the frequency of your practice. That’s why practicing more frequently is so important in speeding up your learning process.

Recommendation: Focus on improving the frequency of your practices. If your time is limited, opt for more practices with a shorter duration. If this means altering your practice schedule from one time per week with a duration of two hours to three times per week with a duration of 30 minutes, do it. The more often you practice, the more opportunity your brain has to improve its movement patterns.

Practice Duration & Scheduling

How and what you practice is far more important than how long you practice. One common misconception with learning is that longer is better. Here is some advice to get you away from that mentality and on the right track.

Important considerations for setting your practice duration:

Make your practice schedule work for you – Set an arbitrary practice duration like one hour and adjust it from there. If you can’t focus for that long or you find you’re getting too tired, decrease the time. If you’re having no problem staying fresh and focused, go ahead and increase the practice time.
Consider the type of practice you’ll be doing – Will you be practicing alone or with a partner? This is an important consideration when setting your schedule. Make sure the time works for both of you and that you can both agree that the practice duration makes sense for your learning styles.

Commit to a Routine

Set a practice schedule and duration that you can consistently commit to. If you’re worried that your practice schedule is going to be a huge burden to keep up with, than it probably is. Start small and work your way up. The key is that you stick to your schedule and maintain your practice frequency.

Quality over Quantity

Give yourself enough time to focus on learning a few steps. Don’t try to practice everything at once. The longer your practice sessions are, the more likely you’ll be to jump around and work on many different things. The shorter they are, the more efficient you’ll be. By focusing on learning a few moves right, you’ll get better results.

Set a time that allows you to practice more frequently

If reducing your practice duration will allow you to consistently fit in more practices during the week, go for it. Good technique practiced frequently trumps average technique practiced for ages.

Practice does not make perfect!

The more accurate phrase here would be: “Perfect practice makes perfect” or, our favourite, “Practice makes permanent”.

Not all practice is created equal. When you train, have the mindset of “practice makes permanent”. This way you will remind yourself that practicing proper technique is the only way that your practice session will benefit you.

The unfortunate truth is that you can spend ages practicing and not get better. We don’t want that to happen to you, so here’s your friendly kick in the butt to practice smart. Don’t get hasty and try to rush through a move just so you can say, “Oh yeah, I know how to do that one!”

As you move through your training regime, always take the time to review moves. If you can’t remember how to do something, stay grounded and review the foundations to that step or combo. Don’t speed up your learning just to get things done. By being precise and purposeful with your practice, you can greatly reduce the time it takes you to learn Salsa.

Over to you

Do you have any practice methods you swear by? Any practice break through’s worth telling about? Share with us in the comments below.