There are many common barriers in speedcubing that most cubers struggle to overcome: Sub-30, sub-20, sub 15, sub-10. The faster you get, the harder it is to improve quickly, as refining your solves and identifying tiny mistakes gets more difficult. I struggled a lot to break the sub-10 barrier, and it took me quite a while to get there. This blog outlines a few key factors that are involved in breaking the sub-10 barrier, and I hope that you can find this useful in your cubing journeys.
The ideal cross at this level should be planned entirely in inspection. Making the most of your inspection time is a vital aspect of speedsolving at sub-10 levels, trying to plan as much as possible. Efficiency should also be kept in mind, a cross of around 8 moves or less is ideal, and the solution should be one that can be executed easily. Making use of opposite and adjacent arrangements of colours and solutions that insert multiple cross pieces at once can be very helpful in finding a more efficient cross. The best way to practice for this would be to initially just ignore inspection time. Take as much time as you need to find a good cross, and then try and execute it as well as possible. This practice will help improve your crosses and in time, you can start using inspection as well when your solutions become quicker to find.
As you get faster, F2L arguably becomes the most important step to solve, and it’s the step where people tend to have the most room for improvement. Lookahead is essential in this stage, tracking the next pair while solving the current pair, and being able to smoothly flow through the F2L. The best way to go about this is to do slow solves, where you reduce your TPS but try to keep looking ahead without stopping or pausing in between. This helps build a rhythm and flow to the solves. Something to look out for is cube rotations. Minimizing cube rotations for F2L can shave off a lot of time from your solve.
Another way is to browse YouTube or PDFs for obscure and efficient F2L solutions and find ones that work for you. There are a few cases that I’ve learnt this way that have come in handy during official solves, especially the harder cases with flipped edges. Keyhole is another technique that can come in handy, where the corner is solved, so you have to move the bottom layer away to insert the correct edge and back again. It’s also important to have good finger tricks for common cases so that you can immediately execute the moves on recognizing the case.
The main thing to keep in mind for the last layer is speed. OLL and PLL are pretty much essential, and you should be able to both recognize and execute them as quickly as possible. There are a variety of algorithms for each case besides the commonly used ones, so try and implement those which work for you. Drilling LL cases with good finger tricks and training yourself through general solves for LL recognition is how to improve in this stage of the solve. Cubesolves, Feliks Zemdeg’s website, has a 2-sided PLL trainer that can be of some quick help.
There are a multitude of freely available resources online - algorithms, tips, example solves - and it’s up to you to make the most of them on your cubing journey. The main way to improve is always lots of dedicated practice. Happy Cubing!