When I first started dancing (b-boying, to be specific) I just wanted to practice all the time.
How else was I supposed to get awesome?!
But already being a health and fitness enthusiast, I knew training too much would likely lead to burnout, over-training, and injuries. Plus, I was starting my Neuroscience degree, so I was stupid busy anyway.
Therefore, I’ve spent my eight (at the time of writing this article) years of dancing constantly trying to figure out how to get the most out of my practice time.
Of course, the truth is, the more you practice, the faster you are going to get better (as long as you’re not just screwing around). So, quality of practice aside, the question remains – how much do B-Boys usually practice? I’ve asked this question to many top level b-boys that I’ve met throughout the years – and I’ve gotten a wide range of different answers and opinions. Confusing!
However, now we actually have a research study that gives us some data! Some Doctors from Germany went to the International Battle of the Year in 2008 and surveyed both ‘professional’ (the competitors) and ‘amateur’ (others attending the event) B-Boys and asked them questions about training and injuries.
Let’s discuss what they found, and how this information can (and cannot) help us.
The Research Study:
In this study (1), five doctors from Germany went to Battle of the Year World Finals. The study was published in 2009 so I am guessing it was the 2008 battle. There, they surveyed 40 ‘professional’ (those in the competition) and 104 ‘amateur’ (those attending the event) B-Boys and B-Girls. They asked them a bunch of questions about practice habits, injuries and what kind, how much time they took off for recovery, etc.
We’ve discussed this study before:
- When I strongly critiqued a news article that referenced it quite improperly. Read: ‘Break-dancing will NOT kill you’.
- In the above post, plus this one: ‘Injury Rates of Sports’, we compared injury rates between different sports. This demonstrated that b-boying has a pretty normal rate of sports injury occurrence.
- And in yet another post: ‘B-Boy Stats – What are the Most Common Injuries?’, we looked at what the study had to say about the types of injuries B-Boys get.
This time, let’s look at what they learned about the practice habits of B-Boys.
Here’s some interesting statistics. Notice that the first number is the average (the mean), and in brackets is the range. The range is useful because it tells you how much variation there was between all the B-Boys (for example, while the average is around 15 minutes, some dancers warm up 45 minutes each practice… some don’t warm up at all).
|Age||21.5 (11-46)||22.2 (17-28)|
|5.8 (1-22)||7.2 (3-16)|
|Training per week
|7.4 (1-20)||11.2 (3-21)|
|17.2 (0-45)||14.4 (0-30)|
|13.8 (0-33)||16.3 (0-40)|
|Head-spins (dancers who
do them/ total dancers)
|71 / 104 (68.3%)||32 / 40 (80%)|
|2.5 (0-22)||3.9 (1-10)|
Limitations of this kind of research:
As usual, I’m gonna try and sneak in a science lesson here!
Remember, this was a self-report survey (dancers were given a description of the purpose of the study, and a description of each question, but then they answered these questions however they wanted), so obviously this stuff isn’t going to be 100% accurate.
Furthermore, the attendees of this event were mostly from Germany. Plus, this is just one event, and one year. While it is a good snapshot of the b-boy community, it’s obviously not going to represent the whole b-boy world.
There are other limitations, but I won’t beat that to death here. Check out the other article discussing this study: ‘B-Boy Stats – What are the Most Common Injuries?’ for more limitations we have to be careful of with this kind of research.
Why did they ask about head-spins specifically?
Interestingly, the researchers asked the dancers whether or not they practiced head-spins, and how much. Personally, I think they wanted to see if there was a correlation between amount of head-spin practice and neck pain/injury. But it looks like they didn’t find such a relationship, or else I’m sure they would have mentioned it.
However, I don’t think this is because practicing head-spins doesn’t increase the risk of hurting your neck… it probably does! I think this is because almost all dynamic moves in b-boying (power-moves, tricks, freezes, etc.) can have a risk of causing neck pain/injury. Therefore, the correlation between neck pain/injuries and head-spin practice time wouldn’t be much different than total practice time.
Okay, so finally: let’s talk about practice.
On average, ‘professionals’ practice more hours a week (11.2 vs 7.4), and have been dancing longer (7.2 vs 5.8 years) than ‘amateurs’. No surprises there! As we know, the one factor that is necessary to become great at something is practice.
However, note that some of the ‘professionals’ had only been dancing for 3 years!
Obviously there are always exceptional people – outliers. But keep in mind, these might have been the people who practiced the most – notice the range of practice hours – some ‘professionals’ practice as much as 21 hours a week! If you practice 5 times a week, that’s 4 hours a day! Younger guys usually have more time to practice than older guys.
Then there are the ones who only practice 3 hours a week… but they may be those top level guys who are already amazing, and spend more time traveling, teaching and performing. These are the exceptions you can’t really gather from research like this.
WARM-UP AND STRETCHING:
Looks like B-Boys spend about 15 minutes on warming up, and 15 minutes on stretching, every practice. That actually makes good sense, and looks like B-Boys are generally doing things right. But again, there is a lot of variation.
While I think people should always warm-up before practice, stretching can be very different depending on goals. If you are naturally flexible, or don’t care to dance in a way that requires a lot of flexibility, you might barely stretch at all. After-all, it doesn’t really help prevent injuries.
But if you want to improve your flexibility, you may have to stretch way more.
Note that only 80% of the ‘professionals’ trained headspins – proving that you don’t need them to reach the top levels of the dance. Just about all moves are optional for becoming a great b-boy, offering further credence to “expressing yourself”.
Do whatever movement you love to do – but still, do it well and practice a ton!
Conclusions / Recommendations:
Looks like if you want to be great, you should practice about 5-6 times a week, for about 2 hours each time. That may be hard to do – but if you want to get amazing, that’s the lifestyle! How long will it take you to reach the ‘top level’? Looks like about 7 years… which is a similar amount of time as the top performers of many other sports/arts.
But don’t forget, there is a lot of variation. Some people may practice, warm-up, and stretch/exercise way more effectively than others, getting more done in less time.
“Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” – Bruce Lee (or Vincint Lombardi, who cares)
So while these numbers are certainly interesting, don’t get too caught up in them. The bottom line is if you want to become great, then practice as effectively as possible, and as much as possible. If you are making good progress, maybe you don’t need to stress out too much about how many hours a week you practice compared to others.
Quality over quantity. And that’s usually true for everything.
To learn more about the science and research of practice, read
– Practice 101 – Improve your brain while becoming awesome
– Practice 102 – What’s the best way to practice?
and apply what you learn to your own training.
1. Kauther MD, Wedemeyer C, Wegner A, Kauther KM, von Knoch M. Breakdance injuries and overuse syndromes in amateurs and professionals. Am J Sports Med. 2009 Apr;37(4):797-802. Epub 2009 Feb 9. PubMed PMID: 19204362.