Our perception (sensory awareness and body-space awareness) is the key element for learning movement. Not memorization of techniques, performance cues, or instructions.
Instead of learning techniques, if you simply understand the basic cycle of movement and how to apply it, you can create an appropriate and efficient (natural) technique for any movement. Applying it requires perception. Perception is only developed through paying attention and regularly practicing diverse, natural movement.
So rather than trying to learn and copy techniques, understand in simple terms what is really hapening when you move, enhance your perception, and see how much simpler and more natural movement becomes and feels.
If it’s within your current ability, try the Shaolin Head Flip demonstrated in the video. It’s a simple enough movement that doesn’t require any extraordinary raw physical strength or ability, but it does require a certain body-space awareness and basic perception to FEEL the movement, coordinate the action, and do it safely with minimal effort.
Rather than just exercising, enhance your perception!
Here is a hip mobility progression from easy to difficult. Mobility means flexibility together with strength. The easier progressions shown here require the least amount of strength and as you get to the most difficult digressions there’s an element of elastic and explosive strength needed and an ability to reposition the body quickly and instinctively by flexing the joints (not the muscles).
Of course there are also more difficult progressions than what are shown here, but this is enough to chew on for now.
When I was a young child, I never thought to myself that I need to workout or get some exercise. Yet, I was almost constantly moving, playing, and getting lots of so-called exercise. If I found a stick, I found a way to use it. A wall, a ball, or just a patch of grass were all reasons to play and use my body. Not with the intention of exercising or getting healthier or losing weight or looking good or anything like that. Simply because I’m alive. It’s no different today at the age of 37. Why should it be?
If as an adult you find yourself not feeling as youthful, energetic and alive (without a cup of coffee), happy, etc, then what is different about now compared to when those things seemed more natural and easier? It’s not just the responsibilities, work, age, or similar excuses people use... we all have that to deal with. It’s the approach. The outlook. The accumulated choices (or forfeiting of choices). The priorities. The psychological drama. I’ve never, ever regretted going outside to play. Never regretted laughing genuinely. Never regretted investing time to learn something new. Neve regretted sweating and tiring myself out from simply playing. Never regretted getting a few bumps, bruises, or grass stains because I went outside to play in the backyard.
It’s the fountain of youth. Drink up.
This is the essence of Skillz Movement. It’s available to anyone.
Prepare. Protect. Practice. Play.
The extent to which the body and mind are properly prepared, trained, and maintained determines one’s ability to breathe and move efficiently and to ‘bounce back’ from the external forces put on the body and mind daily (e.g. gravity, weight, ground reaction force, fear, stress, etc).
“A young tree bends in the wind and snaps back with force.”
You can train yourself to be young, flexible, and resilient, or you can train yourself to be old, rigid, and fragile.
Train young. Play. Move better. Live better.
Techniques are just abstract ideas and philosophies. All movement should be as natural as walking. A baby learns to walk without learning any techniques. There’s no need for techniques. Only if you’ve trained/lived yourself out of the ability to move naturally, then you need an effective process to re-train your body and mind to relax and move naturally.
Most limb injuries (i.e. to the arms, including the shoulder/elbow/wrist joints, and to the legs, including the hip/knee/ankle joints) come from improper use of the limbs. Specifically, from carrying excess tension in the limbs and using them as the primary source of strength and leverage. This creates rigidity, weakness, and fragility over time.
The limbs are just extensions of the body (trunk) and should be used that way. But since modern living has most people moving in such limited ways, people become like robots - disconnected from their bodies and unable to use the body in its natural integrated capacity.
Learning to move better, more naturally, through a regular movement practice and/or proper training can eliminate a lot of unnecessary problems and correct existing ones.
If you don’t move and train in a way that utilizes and strengthens the natural elasticity of the body, you will weaken the body, erode the joints, and make the ligaments and tendons more susceptible to injury. This is mostly about HOW you move, but also a little bit about what types of movements and training you do, as certain types of exercises/stretches and machines, for example, force the body to move unnaturally.
The photo below illustrates a beneficial exercise for the middle section of the body, with emphasis on strengthening the posterior side. The main function of the middle section of the body is to connect and control the upper and lower sections so strength and power can effectively be transferred, and elasticity can be utilized. By understanding this, one would not waste time doing endless crunches or using ab machines found in many gyms. Not only is it an ineffective/inefficient way to train, but it’s also potentially harmful.
Working against natural movement principles means working against the body, which has consequences. For an intelligent, safe, and effective approach to training the body, check out our services.
When two bricks collide, it’s pure friction. If they hit hard enough, they will shatter. Being strong in the way a brick is strong is a fragile and limited kind of strength. It’s one-dimensional. But when water crashes into a brick, it yields. It can crash with enough power to wipe out a brick house, and still it can flow around it effortlessly. It’s a much more versatile and powerful kind of strength. How you train and develop your body determines if you become like a brick, or like water.
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard."
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.
It’s often said that exercise is important for health. I think play is far more important for health than exercise. Exercise can be playful, but it’s usually not when you observe how most people exercise.
Play, in my opinion, does more for both physical and mental health. It’s all in how you approach what you’re doing. Work can be play if you approach it with the right attitude. Life itself is play - it’s all a game!
Instead of torturing yourself with exercise that you have to drag yourself to do, do something playful that involves really using your body. Sports are an option but it’s definitely not the only option.
Your ability and willingness to play says a lot about you. There’s a saying that you can tell more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation. It’s true! For fun, try the juggling variation demonstrated in the video below. Come up with your own variations too. Be creative. Move and play. Exercise is for ‘old’ people. Old is an attitude, not a number. Play... it’s the essence of youth.
When you’re busy thinking about what you assume you should be doing in order to move this way or that way, which muscles need to be activated, etc., you’re only getting in the way of your body. If you want to develop your actual movement capabilities rather than just your philosophies about movement, then focus your attention on the SENSATION of movement and the right intention.
To stand up from a squat, for example, there’s no need to try and activate your glutes. Simply stand up with ferocious intent and feel the sensation of standing up naturally. You do not govern your muscles. Let them work naturally. An infant doesn’t learn to walk by receiving mechanical instructions and intellectual cues from an expert walking teacher. The only true teachers are gravity and your own body sensations - just don’t override them with excessive thoughts.
A good teacher/coach can help you get more in tune with your body and the sensations of movement by exposing you to tasks/situations that pose a variety of movement challenges for you to (re)learn natural movement through a safe process of natural progression and development, while also developing a superior level of strength and resilience to support movement. A trainer who dictates simplistic exercises and gives you wrong mechanical performance cues is robbing you of proper and natural development and messing you up. It’s more of an art than a science. It’s like dancing. You can be taught choreography, but you cannot be taught how to dance... you must learn and feel it for yourself!
People tend to think big muscles means big strength. In reality it’s not necessarily the case at all. You can build very big muscles that are basically useless. Not only useless, but actually detrimental to your ability to move. The TYPE of muscle you have makes all the difference.
I’m not referring to muscle type as in slow twitch vs. fast twitch vs. super fibres or other names that have been invented for various muscle types. I’m just referring to muscle type as in efficient vs. inefficient - in other words, does your muscle development support and allow your movement to happen naturally and easily or does it get in the way.
Muscle building just for the sake of a particular aesthetic is one thing. Let’s leave that aside for now. In the context of movement, athleticism, performance, fluidity, coordination, agility, etc... you should focus on movement development and not muscle development. There is a significant difference. The typical machines found in gyms and exercises targeting muscles as opposed to patterns might develop your muscles, but they won’t do much to develop your movement and may in fact severely hamper your movement.
Lastly, muscle and movement are definitely not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, someone with good movement develment will have a more balanced, natural, athletic look, usually with well-defined muscles and a flexible, elastic type of strength that provides superior resilience.
Better movement = better muscle. But bigger muscles does not mean good movement.
Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of mini-blogs/articles presented by Skillz Movement. This platform will replace our social media presence, so please be sure to check here regularly if you're interested in staying connected, learning about various topics related to movement/health/fitness, and checking out our photos/videos.
Today's quick topic is about running on ice. Why ice? It's a good way to evaluate the efficiency of your running technique. Since ice is slippery, it provides little room for wasted movements and inefficient technique when running. The feedback is instant... if you run poorly, you slip and/or fall.
While I don't necessarily recommend ice-running as a regular practice (although it could be if you enjoy it and are adequately prepared), it's a fun and effective way to check whether you're wasting efforts and putting unnecessary stress on your body when you run on other more forgiving surfaces.
If you're going to try this out, use sense and please be careful. For help with your running technique and development, email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about remote Individualized Programming (anywhere) or in-person Private Training (Guelph and surrounding area).