There’s a lot of talk of natural movement in fitness at the moment. But what does it mean to move naturally? For a lot of us, that’s probably pretty stiffly, especially in the hips! In fact, the low squat used to be the preferred shooting position in the United States military, but no longer and not because it’s ineffective. It’s one of the best shooting positions to be in. You can go from a big target to a small target very, very quickly. But more and more recruits are showing up who can’t squat anymore, so they’ve deleted the position. Mind you, the people shooting back can still do that deep squat! But don’t get me wrong, shooting isn’t a big part of my life; the deep squat is though.
In fact, I grew up a gymnast, then a rock climber; having a good deep squat has been an essential for open useful hips for everything I do. I love using my own body weight, my own strength against my flexibility, maneuvering myself around with only what I have. As a fitness professional I know I have been guilty of it too in the past, but we tend to teach exercise from a standing position, which is the opposite to how we learn to move as infants. First we breathe, then grip, then roll, then crawl, eventually we sit, kneel, squat, then stand. So technically, we squat before we can stand. This developmental sequence has important implications for how we should learn to exercise and how to correct dysfunctional movement patterns, and from the other side too, how we can make sure we have the most fun we possibly can!
I love Ido Portal, MovNat and Gray Cook and all that they’re doing for the fitness profession. I think mostly I love their approaches because this progressive, infant development style is implicit, and key to understanding human movement.
I also love the move toward natural movement because it’s working toward developing a benchmark for fitness. After all, what is fitness? I think for me it’s all about adaptability, being able to do what I want to do in movement, like bouldering, trampolining, surfing, trail running, slack-lining and tennis, while simultaneously making sure I do what I need to do too (and I think Gray Cook’s FMS screen is key to this).
For those of you who know my story, I ran a blitzing NYC marathon qualifying half marathon only to have emergency brain surgery to remove a tennis ball sized tumor two weeks later, nearly symptom free. I guess it’s no wonder I don’t think speed and personal records are the best test of fitness?!
I’m not going to try to tell you to think like me, I just want you to think; about where your body is in space at any time and in relation to where it’s going. That’s natural movement. It’s really un-thinking; it’s perfect timing with everything the rest of your body is doing. Sure it’s about strength and power, speed and agility, flexibility and endurance. A lot of us excel in one or two of these, but if you want to rise to the top you have to start from and return to a solid foundation. That’s true fitness.
In this series, we review:
- Why changing our food isn’t Paleo enough: our need for a movement standard, and how to discover yours
- why we should move like we did when we were kids; it puts the fun in functional
- why you’re only old as spine; and how you can age yours gracefully