Just a note upfront, this is all based on my opinion and experiences, I’m interested to hear if people have different views and ideas.
1. Only practice when you want to.
Most, if not all cubers, solve cubes entirely for fun and enjoyment. Even the fastest guys in the world only practice because it’s fun, or alternatively, they enjoy being really competitive and the corresponding amount of practice that is required to do so.
Cubing should never be a chore, and I think that forcing yourself to practice isn’t a good mindset. You need to be self-motivated, and enjoy what you’re doing, and if you’re reading a cubing blog, then that’s probably a good sign that you like cubing. Practicing when you don’t really want to will only lead to frustration at bad solves, and sucks all the enjoyment out of speedcubing.
Personally, I find that the amount I practice can really vary – some days I’ll be too busy with other things to practice cubing, and on others, I’ll sit down and cube for several hours. Practicing heaps and heaps is fine as well, if you have enough free time and interest, I don’t think it’s possible to practice too much, assuming you don’t burn out.
2. “Breaks make you better” – Stefan Huber
Never be afraid to take some time off cubing. More often than not, I hear stories of people actually getting a PB average after not touching a cube for a week. I don’t really know how or why this happens, but it can definitely be beneficial to not cube for a short period of time.
For the most part, cubing is a cumulative activity, in that it’s very hard to regress and actually get slower, as you have already built up a certain level of skill. It doesn’t take too much effort to return to your former speed after taking a long break – not that I’ve taken many long breaks from cubing.
3. Conscious vs Subconscious practice
Noah Arthurs made a great video about this a year ago, where he divided cubing practice into two main categories. For simplicity, I’m going to call them conscious and subconscious practice.
Conscious practice is anything you do to improve your overall knowledge base and skill. Examples of this are:
I see subconscious practice as simply doing timed solves and averages, in which your only aim is to solve as fast as you can. Obviously in doing so you’ll be implementing things that you consciously learned, and over time they will be stored in your muscle memory.
I think it’s pretty important to get the ratio of conscious to subconscious practice right. If you’re satisfied and comfortable with your techniques and overall method, then you should probably be spending 90% of your time just subconsciously practicing. I definitely lean towards the view that the majority of your improvement comes from subconscious practice, as that is mainly how I improved. That being said, there are probably many people who would disagree.
Alternatively, if you’re wanting to fundamentally improve your solves and solve more efficiently, then you should spend a lot more time consciously practicing.
I would say that over 95% of my practice is subconscious practice, but don’t emulate that unless you’re really confident in your solving techniques and algorithms. As you get faster, more and more of your practice should be subconscious.
4. Practice schedules?
Never heard of them. This ties into the first point, you may not want to practice at certain times. Or, you may only want to practice 3x3 at a time you scheduled 5x5 practice.
Unless you really like routines and actually enjoy planning practice, then probably avoid this.
The closest thing I do to scheduling practice is planning which events I should practice over a certain timeframe, so I don’t neglect anything. If you do lots of events, something like this can be useful when preparing for a big competition. For smaller competitions, I’d recommend solely practicing the events being held in the 2 week period beforehand.
5. Don’t be discouraged by slow progress
As long as you’re practicing the right things, then all practice is good practice. If your times have been the same for several months, don’t worry at all. On the whole, improvement in cubing is very gradual, but is often characterised by relatively large jumps in your times. Obviously at the beginning, your improvement rate is quick, but the faster you get, the harder it becomes to improve.
Often you’ll have a long period where your times are stagnant, and it is easy to become discouraged. Just remember that the practice you’re doing eventually pays off, and it’s very common for your times to decrease by 1-2 seconds in a matter of days. I remember I was stuck at around 17-18 seconds for a while, and then over the course of a weekend, I was magically averaging 16 seconds.
Hope you enjoyed the read.