There is a common misconception that movement is powered by our muscles. In reality, movement is powered by gravity, and the muscles only play a supporting role.
Wrong assumptions about the way our muscles are supposed to work lead to inefficient use of the body, potentially injurious training methods, and less than ideal rehabilitation approaches.
Having a better understanding of the role of gravity and muscles can help you avoid unnecessary injuries that develop because of extra stress on the body from inefficient movement. Of course, there’s really no need to understand this intellectually if you simply develop naturally and move naturally. However, there’s little chance of developing naturally and moving naturally these days by accident - you must do it consciously due to our very unnatural lifestyles. A little education and attention can help bring the necessary awareness to avoid the senseless damage we cause to the modern human body.
Have you seen the cable machines they have in gyms where trainers have people doing “anti-rotational functional core” exercises or whatever they like to call them? Well you could just get a stick/staff/axe and chop. Actually, the person who does the machine version will not necessarily be able to ‘chop’ very efficiently or powerfully.
The lesson is, many useless yet often expensive pieces of equipment have been invented in the name of fitness to replicate very basic and natural functions of the body that do not need them. Another example: step counters.
Functional fitness machines, counting steps, and counting calories are good examples of how much basic sense we’ve lost.
Move naturally. Don’t drink the (costly) kool-aid.
The phase ‘natural movement’ is used in so many ways but what does it actually mean? How can any movement not be natural if we are natural human beings?
It’s very simple. Natural means in accordance with nature. It’s not a subjective term. To use a different example, a fruit that grows on a tree without artificial interference is a natural food. A GMO crop, on the other hand, is not. A fish caught in the ocean and cooked over a fire is a natural food. A gummy fish-shaped candy is certainly not. When you tamper too much with nature, you start to get problems. So how does this apply to movement...
Movement is powered by one force at the top of the hierarchy which we are all subject to: gravity. Natural movement means the muscles support your body weight under the force of gravity, but the muscles don’t power your movement. Your muscles aren’t there to do the job of gravity, and any voluntary attempt to override what gravity (nature) is already doing very well is inefficient at best, and at worst has harmful consequences.
A simple example of this is the notion that runnng requires ‘pushing off’ the ground to propel yourself forward. It doesn’t. If you move naturally, so to speak, you will fall forward automatically, thanks to gravity. All you have to do is maintain an optimal falling angle and body position and pull your foot from the ground with the proper timing and speed. The better you do this, the less muscle effort you need, and the less stress is placed on the body.
Of course, you need the right kind of strength to be able to maintain the ideal falling angle and to be able to pull each foot from the ground in rapid succession and maintain it without breaking down. All strength training is not created equal. While there are some similarities, strength training for runners is different than for basketball players, or for weightlifters, or for dancers.
So natural movement is not a collection of movements. It’s HOW you move. Just like a GMO apple is still an apple, a heel-striking runner with poor posture is still running... it’s still movement, it’s just that there is unnecessary interference and it’s not ideal. An apple is a natural food but if it’s genetically modified in a way that opposes nature, It will cause problems. And if you run (or move) in a way that opposes nature, it will cause problems (hence the large percentage of injured runners, rise in musculoskeletal issues, and prevalence of chronic injuries/pains among the general population).
Nature is not some external phenomena, the way we tend to treat it. We are nature. When we live out of harmony with nature, it means we are out of harmony within ourselves. The more we understand how to eat, sit, move, live in accordance with nature, the less problems we will create for ourselves.
Move naturally. Live better.
Whether it's hip pain or pain in some other area of the body, the worst thing to do is just try to get rid of the pain. An injection, a pill, an on orthopoedic device or artificial support... these are not solutions. They are temporary comforts that do not address the root problem at all and often make it worse. Unfortunately, that is the approach most people take.
Pain is there for a reason. It's not wise to try to get rid of it without addressing the root problem. If something hurts simply from doing what it's supposed to do - for example, your hip hurts to sit, your knee hurts to walk or run, your back hurts to bend over or twist, your shoulder hurts to lift something over your head, etc - then you've somehow created a disability for yourself in the way you live.
If you need a crutch just to walk, that's labelled as a disability. Similarly, if you need a chair just to sit comfortably, that's definitely a disability! If someone is born with a disability, that's unfortunate - it's obviously not their fault. But if you make yourself disabled because you live haphazardly or carelessly, that's the real disaster.
To avoid such disasters, you can move and manage your body intentionally, not accidentally. That is what Skillz Movement is about. Everyone has to move, everyone has been moving since birth, but still so many people have so many issues with basic, pain-free movement in their everyday lives. That is the reality. The body needs some work. It needs some attention. If you live haphazardly and unconsciously, sitting for 6 hours per day in an office or in school, then going to a gym to exercise your body into a painful concrete block (unintentionally) in the name of 'fitness', then expect pain.
The human body is a fantastic piece of equipment. But it's not fool-proof. The geometry of the body has to be maintained in order for it to function smoothly. So thank your pain for reminding you that you are not living properly. Because once the body is treated with reverence and used properly, it works beautifully and lasts a lifetime.
Contrary to common belief, sleep is not a requirement for the body. Rest is what the body needs. Sleep is just one form of rest. The less restful the body is while you’re awake, the more it will call for sleep.
Rest means being at ease. There’s a lot of focus on improving the quality of sleep, but that is not necessary and it’s not the right approach. You can’t truly improve the quality of sleep if you don’t improve the quality of your wakefulness. The focus should be on becoming more restful, or more at ease, while awake.
Take the way you move, for example. Are you at ease, do you move easily? A lot of people aren’t even at ease while sitting. When this is true, standing won’t be easy, walking won’t be easy, running certainly won’t be easy, movement and life in general will be more stressful than necesssry.
If you can engineer your body and mind to function with a certain level of ease, you’ll be more restful. When you’re more restful, sleep won’t be an issue and you’ll require less of it. While you’re alive, it’s time to be awake! There will be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead! So for now, LIVE dynamically in peace, restfully.
Note: Regular use of nervous stimulants like coffee will decrease restfulness in the body and increase sleep quota in the long term by draining energy. The short-term, temporary effect is a trick. Don’t be fooled.
Why do we tend to think of good movement as the ability to ‘control’ our body? I think the term ‘body control’ is very misleading. It implies that you can control something that in reality you cannot. The only way to truly control something is to stop it or kill it. So trying to control your body will lead to less and less movement. Your body wants to be liberated, not controlled.
If I had to describe one key quality of someone who is skilled at movement, any movement, it would be the ability to fall without fear. Good movement looks effortles because it is, relatively speaking. It’s when you get in the way, or try to do too much, that you move poorly and make it more difficult. This 'doing too much' comes from fear and excess tension. You have to get out of the way. Let gravity work for you. Develop, naturally, the strength and resilience to support your movement, and learn to relax and let yourself move.
Tennis balls, footballs, basketballs, lacrosse balls, ping pong balls, soccer balls... they all offer plenty of opportunity for play and development in an infinite number of ways. Hand-eye coordination, peripheral vision, depth perception, timing, rhythm, accuracy, precision, ‘feel’... I think if you’re not playing at least some kind of game with some kind of ball on a regular basis you’re missing something important. And if you’re one of those people that say “oh I was never good at sports” or “I’m not very coordinated that way” then you’re missing the point. Being good is not the point. Good is relative anyway. Play, develop, and enjoy the process and the many, many benefits.
You can use the few examples shown in the video to try and if you have some cool, fun, challenging games to share then I’d love to hear about it.
If there was a Fitness 101 list of basic exercises, push-ups would definitely be on the list. Everybody knows what a push-up is, right? It’s such a simplistic exercise. How many people can actually do a good one these days is another matter entirely, but that’s not the point of this article.
The point of this brief article is to share what, in my opinion, is the best way to develop the strength to do a push-up if you cannot right now. A popular method I’ve seen is having people drop to their knees and do what is sometimes (inappropriately) referred to as ‘girl pushups’. First of all, I’ve seen females do push-ups far better than males on many occasions, so let’s drop that gender-biased nonsense. Secondly, the ‘knee push-up’ method rarely ever carries over to developing the full body push-up properly. There’s a better way.
The simple method I use to help people develop push-up strength is descending elevated push-ups. The concept is simple. Maintain the same body position as a full push-up, but elevate your hands to a point where you’re able to do the movement with proper form. The easiest variation would be completely vertical, against a wall. Most people can start somewhere around hip height, like using the back of a park bench or the top of an office desk.
Stay at a level until you can perform a few sets of 10-15 reps with excellent form and full range of motion, then place your hands on a lower surface to increase the challenge. Continue this way until you’re on the floor banging out push-ups with ease like a pro. Do a focused session of 3-5 sets every 1-3 days (or as long as it takes for any major soreness to subside).
You can accelerate your progress by ‘greasing the groove’ with a quick lower intensity set (do no more than half of your maximum reps) every couple hours throughout each day. This is like constantly reminding your nervous system that you want to be able to do this, without fatiguing it to the point of diminishing returns. It usually works well in conjunction with your less frequent, higher volume training sessions.
I should mention that this advice assumes you meet the other necessary requirements for good push-ups. For example, wrist mobility and scapular mobility are common limitations that sometimes require specific supplemental work.
If you’re already able to perform full push-ups with ease, try your hand at the alternating one-fist push-ups shown in the video below. Chest to the ground! No cheating. Half range of motion is for the delusional ego-driven folks who only want to pretend to be strong.