What makes a good training program great?

What makes a good training program great?

Not all training is created equal…

After many years of studying different training methods from the armed forces, security & rescue professionals, and law enforcement, we have confirmed that the constant repetition of a situation generates in the individual a “biomechanical” memory that will allow the muscles to react automatically in the event of a crisis. 

However, just repetition is not enough; repeating a flawed technique will make you efficiently develop a faulty skill that will become a liability under a stressful situation.

Deliberate practice

and not all practice makes perfect, just as living in a cave does not make you a geologist. When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different; it focuses on what you cannot do or the areas where you make mistakes.

People’s natural thing is to practice what they already do well because it means less work and is more fun. Therefore, sometimes positive feedback from a student after training does not necessarily mean good training, in many cases, it can mean that the practice was based on things that the student already mastered and that it took place within his/her comfort zone, this is a lousy investment of time and resources.

Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence has shown that experts are made, not born.

– The Making of an Expert –Harvard Business Review-

Deliberate practice must have the following characteristics:

1. Repetition. One of the goals of targeted practice is to develop habits that operate correctly and automatically.

2. Focused. Instructors need to be available and knowledgeable to provide corrective feedback to help trainees model their skills. This requires accurate measurement; in the words of British scientist Lord Kelvin “What cannot be measured cannot be improved.”

3. Immediate repetition. After feedback, it is essential to perform immediate repetitions focusing on the areas where you are struggling until you manage to correct the weakness. This positively reinforces the learning process and creates a skill based on the satisfaction of the achievement. However, it is necessary to perform this practice until you achieve your goal.

4. Short exercises. Due to your brain’s structure, deliberate practice should be more of a series of short repetitions rather than a continuous flow. This series of repetitive, feedback-based, practice builds confidence and reduces stress. (Stress inoculation is an essential part of security training, without this nothing else will work)

5. Emphasizes on the difficult parts. Deliberate practice must focus on the most challenging aspects. It is on the edge of our ability that synapses are created in the brain to allow the development of a new skill. Deliberate practice must work to the limit of your frustration.

6. Focused on weak areas. Training is adapted to the individual and focused on their weak areas, or where they are making mistakes, this has to be outside their comfort zone.

7. Based on conscious resolutions. The deliberate practice approach should consciously focus on the element; in this case, improve performance in the task; this is much more important than giving your best.

8. Work Vs. Play. In general, targeted practice feels more like work than play and requires more effort than casual performance. Motivation must come from a feeling that you are improving a skill.

9. Active training. During active training, the instructor must have a very active role during practice, monitoring performance through the necessary technological tools to scientifically measure the activity carried out and control the training structure at all times.

In theory, Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is impossible to discredit; it stipulates that an expert, in any subject matter, must have devoted at least 10,000 hours of practice before he/she can be determined as such, however, in 1934 Edward Link demonstrated with his flight simulator that a person practicing “deliberately” could speed up this process. By the end of World War II, more than half a million fighter pilots were trained in his simulators. They found that deliberate practice achieved the skill level required to fly combat operations in a fraction of the time which was necessary given the urgency of the situation.

However, once this skill is created, it will be lost if it is not continued to be practiced correctly and deliberately, even if you have practiced it for 10,000 hours.

In conclusion, having all the experience in the world in any subject is not enough when don’t understand how to teach it in the limited time we have available, especially in the security and protection industries.


  1. Harvard Business Review – The Making of an Expert — K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, Edward T. Cokely
  2. Using Deliberate Practice to Train Military-Civilian Interagency Coordination — U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences 
  3. Assessment of the Think Like a Commander Training Program. — U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences,  Scott B. Shadrick and James W. Lussier

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