The Zeigarnik Effect: A Case For Practice

Next time you are out to dinner I want you to try something. At the end of the meal, before your waiter gives you the check, give them a pop quiz to see if they remember what each person ordered. It’s probably only been about an hour or so since they delivered all of your meals accurately, but chances are they will probably only remember a few of your orders.

You’re bored with me already but hang with me for a second. You see, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik loved to eat out and what she began to observe was that waiters were able to recall the orders they had not yet delivered with far greater accuracy than those they had already distributed. She took this observation into numerous studies where she concluded that people tend to remember unfinished or incomplete tasks better than ones they had already completed.

Still not interested? Well, let’s apply this theory to ourselves and for the sake of this context let’s apply it to our time in the gym. We are drilled on movement standards and hit with copious amounts of verbal and physical cues on a daily basis at the gym. And, through my own personal observations I have seen people make immediate changes and improvements with just a few sets of work. People are singularly focused on the task at hand and are acutely aware of how they are moving, all leading towards better technique. However, I will see the same people show up a few days or a week later and when presented with the exact same movement it is like they totally forgot what they learned last time. (Disclaimer: I am absolutely guilty of this myself)

It appears to me, similarly to Zeigarnik’s observations, that when in the midst of a task people are much better at remembering movement standards and the changes they have made but after the task is completed it seems their memory starts to fade. So, I ask what might be a possible solution to this? My answer is simple, “We talkin’ about practice”.

Yes, practice. Waiters have no utility in being able to remember a customer’s order but it is essential for us to remember new skills and techniques that we are taught. And if all of our practice simply takes place in the moment of performance, it will be a long road towards improvement in anything. Practice is rarely fun and in this case it isn’t even necessary but if you find yourself frustrated in your ability to retain new and novel concepts, maybe practice is for you.

I think practice is for everyone… always.

6/8/22 WOD


Complete 4 rounds for quality of:

5 Rack Pull
12 DB Overhead Tricep Extension
15 Superman

Then, AMRAP 15

1 Bull Run
10 DB Front Squats (50/35)
12 Inverted Rows


6 – 6 – 6 – 6
Supine Grip Bent Over Row

Complete 3 rounds for quality of:

8 DB Bench Press
10-12 Hollow Body Lat Pull Downs

Then, complete 3 rounds for for time:

9 Power Cleans (155/105)
6 Front Squats
3 Push Press
18 Pull Ups