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An exercise by the Attendorn volunteer fire brigade
In 1931, police officers practice climbing on a smooth, makeshift house facade.
A sport exercise

Practice is a methodically repeated action aimed at preserving, acquiring or improving skills . Practices are practiced that cannot be carried out directly through will or decision, such as elementary and physical life and world activities such as walking and speaking, complex skills and abilities of an artistic, athletic, manual and spiritual nature as well as individual attitudes and attitudes.

Every practice aims firstly at a thing, a topic or a content that is being practiced and is to be better mastered (vocabulary practice). Second, the exercise aims at acquiring a particular way, style and / or method in which the thing is practiced. Thirdly, it aims at the practitioner himself, at his self, which should gain style and form in the exercise. Attitudes and attitudes such as judging, concentration, attentiveness, tolerance of ambiguity and imagination are therefore practiced. The repetition is characteristic of the exercise. It is a form of learning aimed at continuity and durability. In addition, it is only practiced if one does not yet “can” the desired ability and skill. Disappointments, irritations and failure are part of the experience of one's own inability to practice. It is always astonishing for adults to observe children who practice something with a high “tolerance for errors and frustration” (the so-called Montessori phenomenon). This does not slow down the child's intention, but the goal is not (initially) achieved.

Often done exercises are key to attaining an exceptional skill or even mastery .

By practicing are memory content and body schemas strengthened and changed. Exercises are therefore directed towards knowledge and ability. It is also essential for the exercise that existing knowledge and skills, habitus and competence can be relearned or practiced with it. There are sports exercises ( training ), instrumental exercises ( études ), spiritual exercises ( retreats ), philosophical exercises ( meditations ) and the eastern spiritual exercises ( meditation ). In the military field, quick, unconsciously controlled action is rehearsed through drills ; in road safety training, how to deal with the vehicle and the traffic situation. Each exercise has an aesthetic-sensual, a methodical-cognitive and a practical-ethical dimension, even with different emphases. In modern times, the methodical and cognitive aspect came more and more to the fore. The aesthetic-sensual and the practical-ethical others were largely lost.


In Plato's antiquity , the exercise ( askesis ), along with the natural prerequisites ( physis ) and teaching ( mathesis ), was an essential part of learning (Menon 70a). In their practical philosophy, Socrates and Plato relate ascetic exercises to physical and mental practices equally. In ancient Greece there is an abundance of practical exercises in gymnastic, medical, erotic, family and philosophical areas. Pure knowledge ( episteme ) or sheer artistry ( techne ) without practice are just as meaningless and useless as practice without knowledge and artistry. The practical exercises are interlinked with the practices of knowledge and are cultivated as self-care and the art of living. This also includes virtues such as moderation ( sophrosyne ) and self-control ( enkrateia ). According to Aristotle, exercises essentially contribute to a successful life ( eudaimonia ) , because only a repeated action can turn virtue into habitus ( hexis ): “For what we have to do after we have learned it, we learn by doing it do it. You become a builder by building and a zither player by playing the zither. Likewise, we become righteous through righteous action (…) ”(Nicom. Ethik 1103a, 1103b).

The principle of the art of living and self-care, that a successful life requires practical practice, remains in effect in the Roman Empire, but also in the Middle Ages. Even in Roman Hellenism, experience and action were the goal of practicing self-care, self-knowledge and truth (Foucault 1990). Christianity promotes internalization under the sign of chastity, promised salvation and ecclesiastical obedience. In the monastic orders and in church institutions, practical exercises are linked to a personal relationship of dependency and obedience as well as to the confessional ritual. They are now practices of deciphering the secret and hidden, "sin" me. Religious exercises, retreats , have the goal that the practitioner should enter into a relationship with God. They should enable self-conquest and self-order. In the “Spiritual Exercises” by Ignatius von Loyola, this inward-looking goal is broken down didactically into a whole series of “external” individual goals and supported by a system of illustrations, stagings and aids that are intended to enable gradual progression. In Ignatius there is a wealth of aesthetic forms of exercise that aim at the "application of the senses" beyond the ancient tradition of practical exercise and rhetoric

Both the aesthetic-sensual and the practical-ethical dimension of exercise are largely lost in modern times. The spiritual exercise as meditation becomes the determining form in philosophy. In the meditations of René Descartes and in the "ethical asceticism" of Immanuel Kant , exercise is seen as an operation of the power of judgment (KdrV B 172), with which the rules and laws of reason are converted into ability. The modern dualism of mind and body manifests itself in the separation of mental exercises (the power of judgment, reason) on the one hand and physical or motor exercises on the other, which are now largely carried out separately. The cultural practices of sports exercises, training , musical exercises (instrumentalists, virtuosos), targeted exercises in specific performance domains (e.g. chess) and the spiritual exercises of the intellectual disciplines as well as spiritual and spiritual forms of meditation, Zen , now make specialized and differentiated forms more remarkable Expertise.

When developing new forms of social organization on a voluntary basis, for example in the form of volunteer fire brigades , the most important measure was the implementation of exercises.


Pedagogically, the modern dualism manifests itself in the teaching of philanthropism in the 18th century through Herbartianism from the 19th century to the present day. Exercise is defined as a secondary form of learning to process or consolidate, which is subordinate to insight, understanding and explanation. To this day, these stages or phases are decisive in the classroom: entry, development, application or exercise. The practice technologies of a dysfunctional upbringing in the 19th century are supposed to discipline and standardize through drill, mechanical drumming and dull automation. Reform pedagogical method loosens up the exercise methods and differentiates them considerably, but cannot prevent exercises in school from being sidelined, usually as follow-up activity at home in the form of homework. Exercises in school target the body, whether through automation and sitting still or in the socio-educational, “indirect” and reflected discipline in the “training room”. Exercises are tried and tested means of "learning" the "mind" through the "body", the social order through self-control and the social norms through training. In the last few years there has been a return of the exercise in education. Intelligent exercises and task formats as well as a new reflection on the exercise as an educational form of learning are intended to increase the importance of the exercise for learning and teaching.


In the neurosciences it is assumed that the brain's ability to memorize something through repetition has to do with the way nerve cells work and their switching points, the synapses . In order to reproduce a rehearsed movement or a text and other learning content, the brain needs an interconnection that represents the learning content. By using the same switching pattern several times, this is only formed. The most successful procedure for establishing the correct interconnection is the repeated, as uniformly error-free as possible execution of the planned process: the exercise.


The older behavioral and cognitivistic neurosciences interpret the connection between knowledge and ability as a rule application of stored memory contents. Exercise is then primarily a cognitive and cerebral process of storage or networking. This, however, cuts the motor-physical, ethical and philosophical dimensions of the exercise of affecting attitudes and attitudes. Recent research in educational science , neurosciences , philosophy and history and cultural studies, among others, includes physical and bodily processes ( body , embodiment ). This brings the body schema and implicit knowledge into view. In educational science, the experiences of inability and disappointment in practice are examined. Errors and disappointments in the process of practicing can be used productively to change, transform and reshape existing abilities, skills and attitudes.

Exercise in the right

The word exercise is also found in law . This includes a collective is behavior ( actions or omission ) of certain entities to understand that constantly repeats itself without a written legal rule requires. For example, common law is the unwritten, but constant, steady and general practice in legal dealings. To distinguish from the common law is the prevailing practice . This is not a matter of legal validity, but the actual practice that dominates the traffic, which has been formed over a long period by the general public or smaller groups ( merchants ). The common practice is a binding collective exercise has been cleared by commercial business custom. The company exercise is the regular and uniform repetition of certain behaviors on the part of the employer , from which the employees may conclude that they should be granted a service or benefit in the long term.

Types of practice

Mechanical practice is the repetition of similar tasks until they are understood. It consists in the frequent repetition of an action or performance. The aim of this activity is to secure certain behaviors so that they can be performed without thinking too much and with a certain fluency. Disadvantages are the inflexibility, in which the acquired knowledge cannot be applied to new areas and the decreasing motivation due to monotonous practice.

The aim of working through is to generalize knowledge so that it can be applied in new situations. In order for learners to achieve flexibility in thinking and acting, a deeper understanding is necessary. This is achieved by means of versatile thinking in variations and serves to expand understanding. The less the learners structure the learning content, the lower the retention rate. One disadvantage is that weaker students may be overwhelmed .

Intelligent practice has recently been seen as a new challenge compared to the old concepts of mechanical practice and working through. New models are tested in mathematics didactics (modeling tasks), in French and English as well as in general educational science.

Mental practice means practicing in the head and can e.g. B. be used by athletes or musicians. The practitioner executes the sequence of movements to be learned in all details exclusively in his head. Movements can also be learned or improved by internally verbalizing individual movement segments or by observing other people (e.g. "copying" movements in professional tennis players). Mental practice can also be used to cope with stage fright by visualizing the foreplay situation and thus preparing psychologically. A general improvement in the ability to concentrate was also observed. This type of practice has been used for a long time, even famous musicians (e.g. Walter Gieseking and Arthur Rubinstein) report on it. In the meantime there are also scientific findings about the effectiveness of mental exercise, such as B. a study from 2009 by Jörn Munzert ( University of Gießen ).


  • First graders learn to read and write by practicing the letters repeatedly.
  • Artists such as trapeze artists or magicians have to practice their precise movements until they are sure of their cause.
  • Actors practice their lines by speaking out loud repeatedly.
  • Instrumentalists practice a piece of music through many hours of daily play (= practicing) .
    • Practicing a musical instrument requires a variety of physical and mental learning methods. These can range from repetition methods for muscle memory, through physical training (strength training, endurance training to control breathing or the pulse), through mental training (performance training , concentration exercises , methods for "learning without an instrument") to multi-sensory learning methods such as synesthesia pass. To consolidate certain playing techniques, there are specially composed collections of études that usually contain technical problems with increasing levels of difficulty. The concert etude is a separate genre (for piano e.g. Chopin , Scrjabin, etc.)
  • Rescue exercises, disaster exercises or military exercises that are carried out regularly give those carrying out the security to act correctly in an emergency. Exercises in which all conceivable emergency services are involved and in which large amounts of damage are assumed are called full exercises.
  • Exercises are an integral part of numerous spiritual and religious contexts around the world.


  • "Practice makes perfect" because practice is a prerequisite.
  • “A master has not yet fallen from heaven,” because you have to practice to be able to do something well.
  • “It is easy to practice what a master wants to be” early on, as it is easier to learn as a young person.
  • “Exercise patience,” as patience is apparently difficult to learn.
  • "Constant practice" is a common practice in the legal language .

Other forms of exercise


  • Otto Friedrich Bollnow: From the spirit of practice. A return to elementary didactic experiences. Freiburg i.Br 1978.
  • Malte Brinkmann: Pedagogical exercise. Practice and theory of an elementary form of learning. Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77630-3 .
  • Malte Brinkmann: Practice. In: J. Kade (Hrsg.): Pedagogical knowledge: Educational science in basic terms. Stuttgart 2011, pp. 140-146.
  • Malte Brinkmann: Practicing - elementary learning: reflections on the phenomenology, theory and didactics of educational exercise. In: K. Mitgutsch, E. Sattler, K. Westphal, IM Breinbauer (eds.): On the trail of learning: The educational perspective. Stuttgart 2008, pp. 103-125.
  • Michael Erler: Happiness out of virtue through practice without philosophy? Plato's concept of exercise between sophistry and Hellenistic philosophy. In from. Renger; A. Stellmacher (Ed.): Practice knowledge in religion and philosophy. Production, transmission, change. Berlin 2018, pp. 21–33
  • Ignatius of Loyola: Spiritual Exercises. Translated by P. Knauer. Würzburg 2006.
  • Salzburg Abbots' Conference (ed.): The Benedictine Rule. Latin / German. Beuron, 1922.
  • Hans-Ulrich Grunder among others: Lessons: understand - plan - design - evaluate. Schneider Verlag, Baltmannsweiler-Hohengehren 2007.
  • Almut-Barbara Renger: Exercise. In: A. Kraus; J. Budde; M. Hietzge; C. Wulf (Hrsg.): Handbuch Schweigendes Wissen. Upbringing, education, socialization and learning. Weinheim 2017, pp. 771–782.
  • P. Schwarzenbach, B. Bryner-Kronjäger: Practicing is stupid. Thoughts and suggestions for instrumental lessons. Waldgut, 2005, ISBN 3-03740-001-3 .
  • Martin Gellrich: Practice with Lis (z) t. Rediscovered secrets from the workshop of the piano virtuosos. Waldgut, 1999, ISBN 3-7294-0067-3 .
  • Linda Langeheine: Practicing with your head. Mental training for musicians. Zimmermann, 1999, ISBN 3-921729-52-1 .
  • Renate Klöppel: Mental training for musicians. Learn easier - appear more confident. Bosse, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7649-2444-7 .
  • Almut-Barbara Renger; Alexandra Stellmacher (Hrsg.): Practical knowledge in religion and philosophy. Production, transmission, change. Berlin 2018.

Web links

Wiktionary: Exercise  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Malte Brinkmann: Practicing. In: J. Kade (Hrsg.): Pedagogical knowledge: Educational science in basic terms. Stuttgart 2011, pp. 140-146.
  2. Almut-Barbara Renger; Alexandra Stellmacher (Hrsg.): Practical knowledge in religion and philosophy. Production, transmission, change. Berlin 2018.
  3. Michael Erler: Happiness out of virtue through practice without philosophy? Plato's concept of exercise between sophistry and Hellenistic philosophy. In from. Renger; A. Stellmacher (Ed.): Practice knowledge in religion and philosophy. Production, transmission, change. Berlin 2018, pp. 21–33, especially p. 27.
  4. Ignatius von Loyola: Spiritual Exercises. Translated by P. Knauer. Wurzburg
  5. Malte Brinkmann: Conquering-yourself-and-ordering-being-life. Pedagogical Notes on Power, Anthropology and Didactics in the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius von Loyola. In: C. Thompson, G. Weiß (Ed.): Formative resistances - resistance education. Change of perspective between education and philosophy. Bielefeld 2008, pp. 99-120.
  6. Franz-Josef Sehr : The founding years of the volunteer fire brigade Obertiefenbach . In: Yearbook for the Limburg-Weilburg district 1995 . The district committee of the district of Limburg-Weilburg, Limburg 1994, p. 170-171 .
  7. Klaus Prange : Structures of teaching: a didactic for teachers. Bad Heilbrunn / Obb. 1986.
  8. ^ W. Fritz Loser: The exercise in class and its contribution to an educational theory of teaching and learning: teaching, structure and criticism. Published by FG ​​Maurer. Dohmen, Munich 1976.
  9. W. Rudolf Keck: And again and again drill. Exercise as a form of learning in the history of didactics. In: Friedrich Annual Issue. 2000, pp. 20-22.
  10. Herbert Gudjons: Intelligent Practice: Methods and Strategies. In: Log in. Vol. 26, H. 138/139, Berlin 2006, pp. 14-19.
  11. ^ Almut-Barbara Renger: Exercise. In: A. Kraus; J. Budde; M. Hietzge; C. Wulf (Hrsg.): Handbuch Schweigendes Wissen. Upbringing, education, socialization and learning. Weinheim 2017, pp. 771–782.
  12. ^ Malte Brinkmann: Educational exercise. Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77630-3 .
  13. ^ RG, judgment of November 1, 1901, Az .: Rep. II. 230/01 = RGZ 49, 157, 162
  14. BAG, judgment of July 28, 2004, Az .: 10 AZR 19/04
  15. Renate Klöppel: Mental training for musicians. Bosse, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7649-2444-7 .
  16. Hanna Drimalla: Train from the sofa. on: dasgehirn.info , December 2011.