The Two-Factor Model in Strength Training, and the Voice

I was doing some reading about strength training the other day, and came across this excellent article about the Two-Factor Model in the world of strength training. As I was reading it, it struck me how similar this model was to the philosophy we have in our voice coaching system, and also how we effectively build a voice. It’s relatively straightforward in principle, but the outworkings are profound. Let’s have a look at the two-factor model.

What is the Two-Factor Model?

In short, it is about two phases:
1st phase: “Practice” – Contains exercises that are highly skill-specific to what you are trying to do, e.g. running and sprints if you a runner, sparring if you are a fighter, and singing songs if you are a singer. We do these things to cause physiological adaptation and development towards the specific thing we want to do.
2nd phase: “Training” – Contains exercises that are NOT specific to what you are trying to do, but are selected based on being extremely effective at enabling your body to do that skill-specific work more powerfully, e.g. squats, deadlifts, etc for any athlete as these are THE most effective way to increase strength and power, and similarly vocalises (vocal co-ordination and development exercises) if you are a singer. We do these things to maximise physiological adaptation during the practice phase.

Quick definitions moving forward

Practice is all about the actual thing you want to do. It’s fighting for fighters, it’s running for runners, it’s singing for singers. If I refer to practice, I mean this.

Training is about preparing and conditioning your body so that when you go to the practice phase, it is made even more effective. It’s not about how obviously linked training might be to practice – it’s about selecting the exercises for training that are maximally effective for creating adaptation in the body. If I refer to training, I mean this.

We need to TRAIN effectively, in order to PRACTICE effectively

This might seem obvious but consider how many people skip the training phase or never visit it at all, and just keep hammering the practice phase over and over. Repeating songs endlessly, when they have not sufficiently trained their body to use that phase efficiently, effectively, or powerfully. In the world of sport, this is like someone choosing to do things not only incorrectly in their chosen arena, but to be practically setting themselves up for grievous injury.

SIDENOTE: There are a small minority (often voice teachers) who ONLY train, and never practice. This is also missing the point. We need both phases.

Similarly in the world of voice and singing, we need to condition the body and train it. We do this so that when we practice we will find ourselves in not only a technically correct place, but we do so with such strength, that we rarely fall out of that correct co-ordination. In singing in particular, we spend a lot of time at the start of voice training spending more time in the training phase than the practice phase – in some cases I’ve spent 90% of a session on the training phase and only 10% on the practice phase.

Why is this? Does this ever change?

The reason we have to do this at the start is because most singers have not sufficiently trained their voice to be able to stay in that correct co-ordination come the practice phase. Hence the training phase takes priority. Nevertheless, as the training takes hold, this balance of course shifts.

As we progress, the level of training in someone’s voice becomes sufficiently deep and strong that I can devote a little more time to keeping them in the practice phase for longer. We’re not necessarily spending less absolute time on training, but the ratio between training and practice will shift. Training will ALWAYS be of critical importance. It not only develops, but maintains also. It’s the mindfulness of the inherent nature of these phases helps to keep things straight in our mind. It’s important to apply things to song, but that doesn’t mean the exercises of the training phase needs to be obviously like a song. The training phase is about maximal effectiveness in encouraging physiological change, NOT about how similar it is to the thing you want to do.

I found this article to be incredibly helpful in creating a separation between the two phases, and has certainly helped entrench in my mind how important BOTH these phases are in building a voice.

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