Natural Movement Doesn’t Come Naturally: You Weren’t Born Perfect

posted in: natural movement, Science, Uncategorized | 23

Natural movement has become a trendy topic these days with the rapidly rising awareness of parkour, freerunning, primal fitness, barefooting, and most recently, MovNat, which teaches the “natural movement training system.” Just the phrase itself, natural movement, begs an explanation. What is natural movement, and more importantly, are some movements more natural than others? If we can postulate that certain human movements are natural, then logically, some other movements must be unnatural. This creates problems in the fitness and natural movement communities because one group will argue that their movements are natural, and the other groups will disagree. This article will explore the middle ground that all parties mutually agree upon. By the end, you will have a working definition of natural movement and you’ll also understand the irony that natural movement doesn’t come naturally.

What is Natural Movement?

It might not be practical, but it's still natural!

There is no single accepted definition for natural movement because everyone has a different perspective about what the term natural implies. Some people argue that natural movement is only possible in a natural environment (think woodlands or tundra). Others argue that natural movement is possible in any environment that humans inhabit. Still others claim that natural movement must meet specific criteria before it is deemed “natural” (such as serving a practical purpose, for instance – if it’s not practical, it can’t be natural, after all – right?). By now, you can see the many disparities that arise out of the vagueness of the phrase natural movement.

We know that the term natural is defined as “of, relating to, or concerning nature.” A simpler definition is “in accordance with nature.” Therefore, natural movement is any movement that is in accordance with nature. As humans, we are of nature. Therefore, the movement capacities we have are natural. So, it’s logical to claim that any possible human movement is a natural movement.

This is most obvious with movements such as walking, running, and lifting. But within the spectrum of possible human movement, we must include such practices as acrobatics, athletics, martial art, dance, and even physical activities like contortionism and yoga, which may seem quite unnatural from some viewpoints. By this broad definition, waving to a friend, saluting your superior, doing the splits, and embracing a loved one are all natural movements.

Natural is not necessarily Optimal

The trouble arises when we use the word natural to imply optimal. Natural does not mean optimal. So, even though we were all born into humanity fully capable of performing natural movements such as running, one person’s running technique may not be as optimal as someone else’s – even though both runners are completely natural in their movements (remember, all human movement is natural).

At the MovNat Expansion seminar, Erwan Le Corre taught us that any movement can be “naturally good” or “naturally bad.” This is an important distinction because technique can be good or bad, but still accomplish the intended result of the activity. Sure, mostly everyone can run, but not everyone naturally runs with excellent technique.

The Circular Strength Training system (CST) refines this approach a little more, distinguishing between efficiency and effectiveness in any movement. Effectiveness refers to ones ability to accomplish a specific physical task – it’s results based. For example, someone who can throw a right hook effectively will knock out his opponent with one strike. Someone who can run faster or longer than anyone else in a group is the most effective runner. Efficiency, on the other hand, refers to the quality of someone’s movement – how well they move or how good their technique/form is. Someone who moves efficiently in any given activity will experience less fatigue, and will get injured less often or not at all. For example, an efficient runner is one who never injures themselves because they run with excellent technique. An efficient boxer is one who roots well into the ground, uses good hip snap to propel a strike, and can keep fighting longer than others because her energy expenditure is minimal.

All movement skills are on a sliding scale of efficiency and effectivness, and fall into one of these four categories, in order of least optimal to most optimal:

1. inefficiently ineffective: poor form that does not result in desired outcome (Least Optimal)
2. inefficiently effective: poor form that results in desired outcome
3. efficiently ineffective: good form that does not result in desired outcome
4. efficiently effective: good form that results in desired outcome (Most Optimal)

So, we now know that all human movement is natural, but each persons movement can lie anywhere on the spectrum of relative efficiency and effectiveness. We can and should ask ourselves if natural movement skills helps us to accomplish a specific task (is it effective?), and also whether or not the skill is efficient at accomplishing its purpose.

You Can’t Learn What Isn’t In Your Nature

During my honeymoon in Maui, I learned first-hand that flying is not a natural human movement. I would go back to the island to retest my theory anytime!

Our nature determines what we can and cannot do, not how well we do it (the word nature could be substituted with genetics). As humans, we cannot fly, but we can run, jump, swim, and defend ourselves because those things are in our nature – among many other things. Most of us are born with the ability to build high levels of proficiency in specific movement skills (becoming efficiently effective). However, we don’t inherit the skills to perform natural movements both efficiently and effectively from birth.

The truth is that we’re not born into movement perfection. However, we know for a fact that proficiency in movement skills is acquired through diligent practice throughout childhood, youth, and adulthood. Similarly, they can diminish without practice.

It is this very reasoning that must be used when confronted with the argument of “So, you’re saying that we’re not fit for our natural environment and lifestyle needs – we’re broken?” This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are completely equipped to deal with the needs we experience on a daily basis and over a lifetime. The difference is that we are not born with skills, but with the ability to develop skills over a lifetime.

Let’s use an obvious example to put this one to rest: hunting. Humans have been hunting for a long time. Long enough that someone could postulate that the skill of hunting is instinctual and actually printed in our DNA due to countless generations of evolutionary development. Speculative, yes, but a extremely common rationale for an argument (if it sounds dumb to you, then we’re in the same boat). Now, here are some things I know…

  • I know many men who have an affinity for the outdoors.
  • Some of these outdoorsmen are in excellent physical health and a few have exceptional fitness levels, too.
  • I also know that if you put any of these fit and healthy outdoorsmen into the wild with the instruction to hunt for food, most of them would be unsuccessful.

Why? Because even though they’re physically able to hunt, they haven’t been trained in this skill. Surely, each of them is physically capable of learning the skill of hunting, but this isn’t something they were born with.

Similarly, my dog was originally bred for bear hunting, but I can assure you that without proper training his hunting instincts would be quite limited to barking and chasing any animal that moves (the goofball even chases after birds!). He’s not a bear hunting dog because I haven’t trained him for that! Humans aren’t all that different in this context.

Thus, it is an imperative distinction that we are not born with the perfection of natural movement skills, but with the ability to develop skills within the scope of our nature.

What we do and don’t know

The SAID Principle indicates that I am now better at climbing vines.

It’s common to promote a romantic idea of our ancestors being the pinnacle of physical perfection (I wrote about this here). It is often argued that hunter gatherers were of excellent health and would embarrass modern men and women with their exceptional physical abilities. This may be true, and maybe not. We really don’t know what our ancestors health and fitness levels were like. There’s evidence, of course, with 10+ foot tall human skeletons that have been dug up and fossilized human footprints that would imply record-breaking sprinting speeds. We can infer all sorts of things from these tidbits of evidence, but these are only useful for speculation at best.

What we do know is that we are all pre-disposed to the laws of conditioning. Every action is an act of conditioning. Here are three laws that every human is in subjection to:

  • Law of Outcome: Whatever you do produces an outcome, regardless of how you value that outcome.
  • Law of Adaptation: Whatever you do over a period of time creates a change in you to find homeostasis, regardless of how you value that adaptation.
  • Law of Progress: Whatever you do with continually increasing volume, intensity, density, or complexity becomes more easily repeatable, regardless of how you value the progress.

*Laws of conditioning taken from pages 7-8 in Scott Sonnon’s book BodyFlow – published in 2003.

Further, we have the SAID Principle, which states that the body adapts specifically to the demands imposed upon it (more in-depth explanation here and here). We know that if we move a certain way, our body will make us better at moving that way – EVEN if it’s not efficient or effective. That’s just how the laws of conditioning work.

The Playground Conundrum

Many a fitness coach are quick to point out that young children seem to have a inborn affinity for natural movement. Just watch any child playing at the playground and you’ll know what I mean. They run, jump, climb, crawl, wrestle, hang, swing, and balance – usually with impeccable efficiency. One could argue that these kids are born as movement experts, but this isn’t entirely true. It is true that children often have excellent biomechanics within various movements. However, children develop skills by the same physiological processes as adults do, just much more rapidly. Also, there’s no arguing the point that children are just as subjected to the laws of conditioning as adults are.

It’s a short-sighted desire to resort back to the movement quality we had as children. Yes, many children can squat fully, many of them don’t heel strike when they run, many can lift stones and branches with a straight back. These are all observable evidences that children move with good biomechanics (and we can learn a lot from studying this subject), but these are just the basics of natural movement. As well-studied and well-practiced adults, we can not only employ proper biomechanics (the basics), but also refine movements/skills to the point of mastery – moving far beyond rudimentary fitness skills. We are not creatures of accomplishment, but creatures of development. This is why movement sophistication is weaved all throughout the CST system.

These Things Are Certain

  • All human movement is natural movement – there is no such thing as an unnatural movement.
  • All movements are defined by their effectiveness in accomplishing a purpose and efficiency of how well that purpose is accomplished.
  • Our nature determines what we can and cannot do, not how well we can perform a skill.
  • We are not born into movement perfection. Rather we are born with the ability to develop and refine individual skills that are within the scope of our nature.
  • All movements and exercises are unique skills, and one skill does not transfer over to another.
  • Everything is an act of conditioning and everyone is subjected to that law.

Application

This teaches us that we absolutely must define the purpose for which we exercise, practice, train, or otherwise engage in any physical activity. It’s not enough just to be active. If we are merely exercising for exercise sake, then we are not fulfilling our birthright to ever-increasing our movement sophistication and refining our physical skills. It’s in our nature to develop, but there must be purpose behind what we are doing. Our primary job is to identify exactly what we want to achieve. Then, we need to identify effectively efficient movements and exercises to achieve those purposes.

This is not beginner level training philosophy. Rather, it’s for those people who take their health, fitness, and movement skills seriously. You know that I’m not one who tries to appeal to the masses and provide quick-fix solutions for long-term problems. I’m more interested in speaking the truth about physical living – that it’s hard to build a strong body, that it takes a lot of disciplined work, and that there are no quick-fixes. The solution to all physical goals is to internalize the underlying principles of physical living and practice applying them on a daily basis. This is the best way, the fastest way, and the only way to achieve physical mastery.

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Italian physicist and astronomer.

 

To your health and success,

CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Fitness Professional

 

23 Responses

  1. Kevin Lee Dougherty

    John, well-done brother. This in-depth, deep thinking and scribed well. Many points made here I’ve lived, experienced and witnessed for five decades (I’m 51 and move like I’m 31, no lie). I’ve had the benefit of being raised both in the inner inner-city (the 9 school months) and very rural southern-Indiana, the boonies, hill country (for the 3 summer months. So, I developed two, distinct ‘natural’ movement modalities. One took place throughout the obstacle course called the ‘urban edifice’, jumping and climbing keep-out fences, up and down flights and flights of stairwells, living on and off fire-escapes, playing urban commandos at night. Then, a day’s train ride later I’m in Plainville, Indiana (yes, that’s its name, “Plainville”), population 578 maybe and I’m on a 1,200 acre farm with hills and bottom-land that flood out, bridges over full rivers, running through corn fields and across the road was a forest, a ravine-rich forest that could be rural commando games, and I hunted and fished and hiked to those spots. Two different, but nonetheless “natural” play and exercise.
    As for children, it is my believe (and I’m a good listener who is willing to evolve my believes, too) that one reason they increase their agility so obviously rapidly is that they are not weighed down by the ‘luggage’ that adults lug around such as “ego”, “thinking”, “analyzing” and other ‘flow-limiting adult mind garbage, and natural instinct has a clearer path into a child’s execution of a movement.

    • Kevin, I’m glad you brought up that last point. I completely agree that we have a lifetime of “flow-limiting adult mind garbage” that inhibits our development. There are many things we could mention that contribute specifically to movement inhibition in the form of fear-reactivity, which is only one impediment to movement. There are too many to list.

      Kids not only have less impediments to their development, they are also physiologically hard-wired for accelerated learning. Allowing them free play and exploration in various “wild” (both urban and rural) environments is probably one of the best things we can do for their movement learning potential.

  2. Wow – quite the dissertation. I got a little bogged down philosphicaly until …”We are not creatures of accomplishment, but of development….” and stuck with it to the end of the article. Some great thoughts – for developing the level of physical living that we as individuals want to achieve – which I would add, is of itself an evolution. At 56, my goal of personal physical mastery is different than what it will be at 66 or what it was when I was 46.

    • Hi Karen, Absolutely, our goals are always changing, much like an evolution. I do think there are always some constants though – such as maintaining excellent health and mobility. Take care and say hello to Derryl for me!

  3. John, great in-depth breakdown, I really enjoyed reading your article and I liked your focus towards serious fitness practitioners. Thanks :-)

    • Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the kind words. Your thoughts are most welcome here!

      If any of my readers are in or around Neptune City, NJ and are looking for some serious strength and conditioning, check out The Underground Gym, where Greg is the owner and head coach.

  4. Great post John. And an important one. I am always shocked that only a few people really know about motorontogenesis as part of infant (and livelong) development. Most MDs, trainers and athletes have no clue. But there is a lot of reserach and experience out there. Think of Rudolf von Laban (dancer, movement analyst), Moshe Feldenkrais, Thomas Hanna, dance therapy, movement therapy, psychoanalytical infant research, body therapy, biomechanic research, fascia research (Thomas Myers), Rolfing. I could go on for hours.

    What can you learn here? Movement skills are not “natural”, it has to be learned. Just as you said. And movement quality is the important thing here. There is no “natural” movement, it is “natural” to move efficiently and it is “natural” to move with horrible coordination because both is the outcome of SAID princible or law of adaption. It depends on your life circumstances what your motor skills will be.
    My offhand definition is: “The most common causes of bad movement are insufficient parents, insufficient doctors and insufficient trainers.”
    OK the big picture is far more complex but that is beyond the scope of this post.

    No doubt – efficiency is preferable. Effectiveness with bad technique or bad efficiency means injury in the long run.

    Swiss MD and Aikido Master Dr. Christian Larsen researched a lot about this and I learned a lot from his Spiraldynamik Concept about moving biomechanically optimal. Efficient walking, running, lifting, throwing, climbing, dancing etc.
    http://www.fitfordance.de/spiraldynamik_EN.html
    http://www.fitfordance.de/institut_EN.html

    “Most of us are born with the ability to build high levels of proficiency in specific movement skills (becoming efficiently effective). However, we don’t inherit the skills to perform natural movements both efficiently and effectively from birth.”

    Absolutely! You have to develop the skills. Yes, that means diligent practice. And there is a lot that can go wrong in motor development in childhood (SAID principle,Law of adaption.) Adaption to unhealthy life circumstances means inefficient coordination.

    Paul Linden (Columbus Center of Movement Studies) works with Aikido and awareness training . Everybody who experienced some sort of abuse, neglect, humiliation etc has restricted movement (trauma reflex, SMA, fear reactivity etc).
    http://www.being-in-movement.com/content/winning-healing-body-awareness-and-empowerment-abuse-survivors

    Scott Sonnon has nice graphs about this in his Yoga book. I think the accumulation of trauma, sedentary lifestyle and stupid training are the main reasons why the majority of people in modern societies have bad posture, bad running technique and what not.
    It has (in most cases) nothing to do with “genetics”, “talent” or “fate”.

    Another example: The ability to learn speaking is genetic, but the skill has to be developed. If nobody ever speaks with a child it will never learn speaking . If parents have horrible speaking skills children will have the same. Ask any speech therapist! Children often imitate their parents, that means they imitate the bad movement habits of their father or mother.
    Good news: You don’t “have” hyperlordosis, lack of mobility, muscle imbalances, back pain, bad knees. It is nothing that invades your body like malaria. You “make” this problems (SAID). That means you can change your movement habits and patterns (with the help of trainers and therapists). CST is a very intelligent approach. In my opinion movement sophistication is crucial. Spiraldynamik, Somatic Education, Gray Cook’s Movement assessment and correction training, Paul Chek’s approach are other useful tools.

    • Andrea, Thanks for your very detailed comment – there’s a lot of value in here, in terms of starting points for further study. CST is my foundation in understanding and implementing efficiently effective movement, but it’s only one modality. As they say, good movement is good movement.

      The “good news” you shared at the end really hits home!

  5. You are very welcome, John. It’s always fun to contribute to my favourite blogs. If you want any ressources for further study shoot me an e mail. And yes, CST is a good base. Sophisticated stuff. That’s why I think about getting instructor certification. Scott Sonnon knows so much more than S & C textbook knowledge. The interviews that you made with him were great information for me. Thanks for that.
    Robb Wolf is another smart guy. I am listening to his podcasts “Paleolithic Soution” .19 hours valuable info. Podcasts have addictive potential. :-)

  6. John, this was a great post, thanks for a most interesting perspective: “Thus, it is an imperative distinction that we are not born with the perfection of natural movement skills, but with the ability to develop skills within the scope of our nature”.
    I don’t quite understand this though: “All movements and exercises are unique skills, and one skill does not transfer over to another”. In motor skills learning, there is such a thing as “transfer of learning” and it is supposed to be important in terms of sequencing skills to be learned, choosing instructional methods and assessing the effectiveness of practice conditions. Could you please elaborate on this?

    Best regards

    • Hi Spyro,

      Your question could merit an entire article of its own (or even a book), but I’ll try to describe my understanding of the SAID principle here in as few words as possible :-)

      The SAID Principle indicates that we adapt specifically to the demands we impose on our body. Therefore, since we adapt specifically to certain activities, one skill in an activity will not necessary create proficiency in another skill.

      For instance, an obvious example is that training the squat exercise (any form – weighted or not) does not ensure that a vertical jump will improve as a result of the conditioning from squatting. Here’s a research abstract that concluded this:

      “SQUAT TRAINING DOES NOT IMPROVE VERTICAL JUMPING”

      Weiss, L., Fry, A., Wood, L., & Melton, C. (1998). Comparative effects of deep versus shallow periodized squat training by novice lifters. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30(5), Supplement abstract 942.

      Ss (M = 10; F = completed periodized machine-based heavy-resistance training to determine if manipulating range of motion would have an effect on strength and power adaptations. Three groups were formed: a) deep squats that required the tops of the thighs to be parallel to the floor, b) shallow squats that were half the depth of the deep squats, and c) controls that did not participate in strength or power training. Training occurred three times per week for eight weeks.
      Two forms of vertical jump were not improved by either form of training. The deep squat group was the only group to improve 1 RM shallow-squat strength.

      It was concluded that training protocols were specific in their effects. Deep squats appear to elicit the best improvements for both shallow and deep squatting performance. Mahcine-based, periodized squat training does not enhance velocity-controlled squatting force and power or vertical jumping performance.

      Implication. Machine trained squats do not transfer effects to other forms of performance. Strength gains are particularly specific.

      There are many other examples of this. Another one is that boxing with light dumbbells will not make one a better striker – because that’s a different skill. Jumping on ice is different than jumping on sand. Doing a pullup is different on a diagonal, wide tree branch than from a smooth, level pullup bar. So, as best we can tell from the research, one skill does not transfer over to another skill in terms of performance improvement.

      This should be distinguished from sophisticating our movement, which is especially important concept in martial art – where trainee’s begin with very basic movements, then progress to combination movements, and onward from there to more challenging skills. In this sense, one skill builds off of the former. The difference is that movement sophistication is a refinement of the basics. Rather, it’s the same movement, but perhaps more efficient, effective, or complex.

      Does that make sense?

      This is only a very basic description, and I’m sure I haven’t done the topic justice. It’s been an ongoing discussion here at Physical Living, and it’s a very broad subject. If you’d like, I can send you an email with my database of research studies on the subject. Also, a great starting point is Chris’ blog Conditioning Research, the functional training category, where he has discussed this topic frequently:

      http://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com/search/label/functional.training

  7. John,

    Thanks a lot for your detailed reply and also for your continual exploration and research that benefits us all. I already checked a number of posts on the Conditioning Research blog (excellent resource!) and I would appreciate it very much if you could send me that e-mail. I promise to come back to continue the dialogue, after doing some extra studying:-)

    Very best

  8. John,

    But notice two things about the study you used as an example: it deals with untrained people and machine squats where used. What this study does prove is that machine training has no carryover, but REAL SQUATS (overhead, back, front, shoulder, pistols and such, with whatever implement) — not so sure.

    From my personal experience, back in my mid teen years I was deep into competitive street ball and basketball, where jumping high is a valuable skill. However after a year of playing (and we jumped a lot in the plays) I could not dunk. After about a year of pure basketball (13-14 years old) I started powerlifting seriously and fell in love with the squat. I could see a direct carryover from my squat poundage to my vertical leap — in about a year, once I was up to the level of warming up with 225 on the bar and my work sets where in the 320-400 range I could dunk with both hands from standing easily.

    In another example, yes, boxing with heavy dumbbells might not improve one’s boxing much — although I knew one hell of a boxer who shadowboxed with light, medium and heavy DBs every day and I’m sure he could put up a good argument for his training methods with his fists in the ring. But for instance, throwing things with correct mechanics does improve punching, like shortputs, med balls and such. At the very least it helps to understand the correct body mechanics and firing sequence (legs, hips, core, shoulder, elbow, and wrist).

    I think that specifity in exercises is definitely should not be overlooked, and the further I get into the field of human performance the more specific I get about my exercise selection for specific purposes as my understanding of the movement, task at hand and individual that I’m working with deepens. But at the same time, some exercises, for instance deadlifts, pull ups, snatches, sprints and such, have such a deep systemic effect on the body that they produce results across the entire board of physical performance spectrum.

    Also, similar to martial arts, there are two approaches one could take:

    A) Memorize a move for each particular situation and drill it until it becomes automatic, hoping that one’s response will be appropriate when needed

    B) Master principles and condition (liberate?) the body to move with freedom and apply these principles and movement skills across a broad spectrum of situations

    Of course, both approaches coexist to various degrees and I think that a healthy combination of two methods should be utilized. I think that exercise for performance, especially for performance in the nature, which is unpredictable, should utilize both general movements with a broad systemic effect and highly specialized movements.

    Respectfully,

    Greg Mihovich

    • Hi Greg,

      You’re right, it’s not the best study to use as an example, but this is often the case in research circles where scientists are creating workout programs that should be handled by qualified coaches. It’s only one example of dozens that I’ve come across and saved in my archives. My point is that the research (even if it’s not the best research) shows that conditioning work does not directly improve performance in an athletic setting. There are indirect benefits, though, as every coach understands.

      I wanted to highlight something you said:
      “[exercising] helps to understand the correct body mechanics and firing sequence (legs, hips, core, shoulder, elbow, and wrist).”

      This is the purpose of training, and what I was trying to get at in my description for Spyro. We’re not simulating the skill, necessarily, but we’re stimulating the body in a way to improve the attributes that will allow us to better execute the skill. If you build strength in a particular movement – like the deadlift, for instance, it will give you a better ability to apply skills with more strength.

      It’s a very technical discussion that, at first, may sound like an attack on conditioning coaches – saying that their methods aren’t helping athletes. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. It just means that coaches need to step up their game. It’s not simply a matter of exhausting trainee’s to get a general training effect, but of specifically catering each element of the training program to make sure key skills will be improved over a period of time. In a way, it requires programming our training using micro-cycles for peaking.

      In CST, we transition from General Physical Preparedness, to Specific PP, to Activity-specific PP, to Mental/Emotional preparedness.

      Thanks again for your comment. Those last two points you made are pure gold for anyone who is trying to balance skill work with conditioning work.

  9. John,

    It seems to me now that I misunderstood what you wrote – I thought you were referring to complex motor skills where there is a transfer of learning, like, for example, a tennis backhand drive, which does translate to a squash backhand drive or the shot put technique which could help someone develop a good cross punch (both with modifications of course). Yes, general physical preparation improves attributes, not sport-specific skills.

    Sorry about the misunderstanding, at least I hope it was productive. Thanks to both you and Coach Mihovich for the valuable input.

    Best regards

  10. Greg,

    your thoughts gave me some food for thinking. You make some good points, but I have some doubts. I never played basketball so I have no opinion in this regard. My karate training was with punching bag but without weightlifting, so I have no experience with that either. But for anecdotical evidence, read this statement from Jon Hinds, a coach who played a ton of basketball as a young man: “my leg extensions were really strong and I could leg curl and squat a lot too, but could not jump any higher and definitely felt slower”. Specific jump training (with resistance bands)gave him better results.
    http://monkeybargym.com/meet-jon.html
    I will buy his training DVDs (Monkey Bar Gymnasium) soon and then I will see for myself.:-)

    You wrote: “At the very least it helps to understand the correct body mechanics and firing sequence (legs, hips, core, shoulder, elbow, and wrist).” Well – maybe Medball and light weights but squatting heavy barbells? Deadlifting?
    You can’t improve coordination (body mechanics) and correct firing lifting heavy weights because then the body is in survival mode (no efficiency ).

    When some folks are succesful with carryover from weightlifting and some are not may be it is not a matter of “what” but of “how” ?
    I remember a dance student who attended my dance class. He had horrible coordination in basic movements. Zero hip coordination, no correct hip joint flexion, no knee stability in air squats, overall clumsy movements. Poor knee joints! Gray Cooks DVD about knee problems come to my mind……

    This guy plays hockey and he told me he sometimes does weightlifting for conditioning. Ouch! I don’t believe that he will benefit from weight training for his hockey skills. I told him to stop weightlifting (machine training!) and to attend a kettlebell class to improve biomechanics, mobility, stability.

    Bottom line: maybe athletes with good form (coordination, body awareness, understanding) may benefit from weightlifting or technique training with dumbbells and maybe some people should stay away from it – at least until they have corrected some weaknesses.
    I am no expert in strength and condioning training – just my 2 cents.

  11. John and Spyro,

    Excellent point, I agree that most of the conditioning training is done just in attempt to improve on attributes, not specific skills, including GPP, SGGP and SPP.

    Andrea,

    There is no doubt that Jon Hinds is a excellent coach and a very capable athlete, however, he also happens to sell rubber bands for various purposes, including training for vertical jumps – so naturally he will say that the only way to train is to do so with his rubber bands and everything else is no good. While I have no doubles that rubber band training is a very effective training modality if performed correctly, it is not the only one. The is a reason why ALL world record high jump, broad jump, sprinters and other related athletes routinely squat and deadlift double their bodyweight in training, as well as perform squat clean, power cleans, jerks, snatches and other lifts on regular basis.

    Do not confuse weightlifting with machine training. Weightlifting is lifting loads (kettlebells, barbells, humans, clubs, groceries, babies, etc.) from the ground, most of the time while standing up, and preferably lifting these loads all the way to overhead. Machine training on the other hand is an exercise in fertility. Weightlifting is extremely useful for any athlete and will improve one’s coordination (inter- and intramuscular coordination or the ability to use individual muscle fibers to their full potential and the ability of different muscle groups to work as a team) for sure, as a matter of fact any meaningful progress is impossible without an improve in coordination. Olympic weightlifters for instance are second in flexibility to only gymnast and can out sprint world class sprinters on 20-30 yard distances and out jump many good jumpers as well. We are all weightlifters by default; the question is how good you are?

    As for the “dancer’ that came to you place, he must have danced for a week or two before he started saying that he’s a dancer, cause most good dancers will put many “functional” trainers to shape with their superb coordination, sense of rhythm, mobility, power, strength and other physical attributes. Check this guy out for instance:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_IVHd17vhU&feature=response_watch

    or this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH3tPXnC2LM

  12. Greg,
    I understand your argument. And I agree on everything you write on your website about fitness industry BS training versus intelligent athletic training. Actually it is what I always tell people who are involved in fitnes training or sports. I firmly believe that “Everybody is an athlete and should train like an athlete” (crossfit philosophy, Eric Cobbs Z ealth concept etc).

    Yes, Jon Hinds sells rubber bands. So what. This doesn’t mean he tells us lies about his training experiences. Pavel sells Kettlebell. Does this mean you shouldn’t believe what he tells us about benefits of KB training? Scott Sonnon sells Clubbells. Does this mean that everything he says about the benefits of clubbell training is wrong?

    All world record jumpers and sprinters squat and deadlift? Maybe but I am not focused on the top 3 percent of the human species but on the average person. You write on your website that a trainee shouldn’t do serious weightlifting before he/she can do bodyweight exercises (I agree!) and a bad deadlift is dangerous, not good for health and performance . I agree again. That is my concern with blind enthusiasm for Olympic weightlifting. I am not against Oly lifting. I tried Oly lifting myself but I realized that I first have to solve some coordination issuees and stress related myofascial issues and improve my GPP before I can play with barbells without injuries.

    Of course I know the difference between machine training and real weightlifting, I know about kinetic chains and all the stuff. “Train like an athete, not like a hamster” as kettlebell trainer Brian Copeland says. I love this advice and give it to all the weekend warriors. Do interval sprints and BWEs and use free weights.

    But you can’t get good coordination/biomechanicsfrom lifting just barbells and swinging kettlebells like crazy if your body is messed up from childhood abuse, sedentary lifestyle, too much stress or bad training. You have to “clean the slate” with joint mobility, yoga compensation movements, physiotherapy, ART, Thomas Hanna’s Somatic Education or whatever works for you. If you start weightlifting with a dysfunctional body I don’t believe that by simply doing the Oly lifts (very demanding and complex stuff ) your neurons, hormones,and connective tissue go from zero to hero. Even BWE won’t make you better. You will continue practicing with improper biomechanics(I know from experience with myself and lots of other people from desk jockey to pro dancer). That doesn’t mean lifting weights can’t be helpful, but it is not a rehab tool.

    Dr. Jake Caldwell, physiotherapist, CSCS and kettlebell trainer, wrote a nice article about posture problems and kettlebell training :
    “As a physical therapist, I see many people from all ages, with various injuries, and in various stages of dysfunction. I can say that very few people, even high-level athletes with years of fitness training, have any idea what optimum posture is. Common conceptions of good posture are far removed from the optimum posture that we should all strive to achieve. ”
    http://www.dragondoor.com/articler/mode3/489/

    You are right: good dancers have superb coordination, sense of rhythm, mobility, power, strength – but again, I am not interested in the top 10 percent. Look at the average pro dancer or at the lay people who practice dance as a hobby (my clients). Totally different picture here.
    Ask doctors in dance medicine or physiotherapists who work with ballet dancers, jazz dancers etc. A lot of the the pro dancers have less than optimal coordination. They are effective but not efficient and it is sad how many careers in dance are ended due to injuries from overuse which in fact is misuse. The majority of teachers in professional dance can’t see the insufficient movement patterns and compensations that lead to injury over time. Or if they see compromised form they don’t know what is the problem and how to correct it.

    The books of dancer Eric Franklin are very helpful in getting from effective to efficient movement:
    http://franklinmethod.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-art-science-of-plies-by-eric-franklin/

    His book about the pelvic flor is great. I recommend it to any athlete from dancer to martial artist to crossfitter. :-)
    http://www.amazon.com/Pelvic-Power-Exercises-Strength-Flexibility/dp/0871272598

  13. Andrea,

    Good point my friend, of course, I don’t think that Jon Hinds lies about his training experiences – he seems not only a good coach and athlete, but a man of good integrity. But he also weightlifts, and does not just do rubber bands alone! He does pistols, front squats and overhead squats, kettlebell lunges and such – that’s weightlifting. Anyway, specific jump training with added resistance gave him results weightlifting alone could not deliver – very reasonable and logical, my experience was similar but reversed: jump training alone didn’t give me results, adding weightlifting did. I did not have rubber bands at the time, although I use them now a lot for my judo and wrestling training.

    Coming back to your point: ” You can’t improve coordination (body mechanics) and correct firing lifting heavy weights because then the body is in survival mode (no efficiency )” — I respectfully disagree. Lifting light or heavy should be taught and executed with great efficiency and the only way to lift your max attempt is to be very efficient. My philosophy always was: take the weight away and look at the movement performed, then find how you can do it better. Weight only narrows the margin for mistakes and forces you to be more efficient – you have no choice but to do it right or bail out of the exercise.

    You are absolutely right, of course weightlifting practice should be preceded with normalizing posture, mobility, GPP, breathing, flexibility and other “basics” (so much depth in these basics :-)). Remember, how u have send the “dancer” guy to a kettlebell class – that’s a weightlifting class: snatch, clean, press, squat, swing, deadlift – what difference does it make conceptually whether it’s done with a barbell, club, sandbag, human body or a kettlebell? Any coach worth his salt, olympic weightlifting coaches included will start with the basics outlined above, as a matter of fact, in the Eastern Europe they practice with broomsticks (mobility, posture, alignment and other related attributes/skills) for a very long time before even toughing an empty bar. Nobody is allowed to practice with heavy weights before they are ready, that’s a given. They also commit extensively to BW training. Here is for example some Polish weightlifting team footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqxlGJKfCTo

    As for the “top 10 percent” that you are not interested in – we started our conversation with discussing whether deadlifts and related weightlifting exercises could improve coordination and efficiency, well, they can and that’s a fact. The foundation needs to be there and that’s a fact too. That 10 percent got there by establishing good foundation first, as any athletic training for any sport begins with a wide GPP training. The fact that the people that you (and I) encounter are in need of corrective training before progressing to weightlifting a fact as well.

    My personal interest lies in studying that top 10 percent, cause I enjoy and strive towards maximum performance myself and I took the time (and still do) to establish a good base. Although, I also study the “bottom” J 90 percent and train a fair amount of that population too. Both groups present their unique challenges and interesting personal growth for a coach, although have to admit, it is more fun to play with tough athletes then people with no GPP base whatsoever that decided that they want to lose some weight for the summer J.

    Thanks for the links, will check them out.

    Respect,

    Greg Mihovich

  14. Hi Greg,

    thanks for your elaborate thoughts. I will give Olympic weightliftung a second try in the future. :-)
    You wrote: “Both groups present their unique challenges and interesting personal growth for a coach, although have to admit, it is more fun to play with tough athletes then people with no GPP base whatsoever that decided that they want to lose some weight for the summer J.”

    I understand what you mean , no problem. If I were an elite athlete I would definitely play with the tough ones too. :-) But for me it is also about goals and attitude. There are people who want to train like an athlete and use training not primarily for ego and winning medals but for development and self expression (Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body). On the other side there are the guys who want the medals or the attributes for showing off or lose some fat and they don’t really care about “physical living”, self development and expressing themseves. Quite often they get fat and boring after their 30th birthday.
    Yes, the elite athletes are fascinating and they are a good role model for everybody who wants to optimize his potential, even if he or she will never be a high level athlete like Randy Couture, Lucia Rijker, Steve Maxwell or Madonna Buder. But I also like studying the ordinary folks who make impressive transformations with health and athleticism (Mark Sisson has some impressing success stories on his website !).

    Best regards
    Andrea

  15. a well written article on the concept that we adapt to our current surroundings.
    jonathon kingdon has written that of all vertebrates, mammals have the longest period of functional immaturity. of the mammals, the primates have the longest, and of the primates, humans the longest immature period. this can be attributed to our many man made artifacts that remove our need for true survival instincts and reflexes. you might argue that for humans it is too easy to survive, with our jobs, our welfare systems and our lawful societies. i question whether not having the need for our inbuilt survival mechanisms leaves us with an inherent “dumbing down” of our nervous systems and motor patterns.
    YOu mention that all children can full squat, but so too can many eastern and african cultures, who never gave this up in favour of the lazier, “easier” chair option. i suspect that many westerners cannot employ a full squat as a resting posture because it is no longer practised.
    for more information regarding archetypal postures of repose and movement modelling please visit phillip beach’s page – http://www.phillipbeach.com

    • Thanks for your comment, Joshua. I agree – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. That applies to both to basic human postures and movement skills, and also to survival mechanisms.

  16. Good work, John!
    I study Psychology and I love the Methode Naturelle, discribed by Georges Herbért, do you know?
    I’d like you to tell me your references for this text. I use to make a connection between physical an mind welfare, believing that the only way of being in balance in life is being health in the both.
    I’m trying to make a kind of dinamycs for children and teen using the same idea you wrote here. Do you have something to say to help me with that?

    Sorry about my English. I’m Brazilian and as the physical habilities, if you stop trainning a language you forget it.
    Thank you very much!

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