Written by Josh Hoodless
Getting bored of your regular gym routine? Not moving as well as you used to? Hips are getting stiffer? The big buff gym junkies and the lean natural movement guys will always argue what’s best for everyone. I’m saying why not do both? It’s always time to get stronger but maybe it’s time to incorporate some challenging exercises or movements that put your body across several functional planes.
What do I mean by planes? Without going too far into functional anatomy, just think of directions. In the gym, most of the exercises are in the same direction; squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull and even running or riding a bike.
Do these exercises transfer to everyday movements? Sort of, sometimes, but not exactly. We are always bending, twisting, reaching and moving across all directions and sometimes all at once. Wait a moment! That doesn’t mean we need to join the local fitness franchise cult of crawling around on the floor like some crazy animals do we? Of course not.
However, It does mean that we should think about training movement patterns that we realistically do on a daily basis to help keep us limber.
Don’t get me wrong… traditional strength exercises like Deadlifts and Squats are very natural and are the best way to develop overall strength. But, if you’re unable to get into those positions properly then those maximal lifts can get a bit dangerous on your body long term.
Natural movements along with some stretching and flexibility training can improve the body’s ability to move dynamically – especially if you play sport. Sport is a great example of moving and changing directions while making decisions. Something very rare in the gym.
What are natural movements? Some examples are: Ground movements, crawling patterns, different direction stepping/lunging, lifting and carrying, catching and throwing, and also climbing to name a few. Each movement example has several exercises ranging from easy to difficult.
This style of training compliments other styles of training like cardiovascular, strength and speed, flexibility and muscle gain. The dynamic nature of natural movements help to increase mobility while assisting a healthy joint/muscle relationship. Just remember, what’s natural for one person may not be natural for another.
Just remember natural doesn’t necessarily mean optimal.
The limitations of natural movement training is the ability to see muscle or strength increases due to the inability to effectively load certain muscle groups to initiate growth.
When doing dynamic complex movements across many planes, the body is only going to use weight that matches the weakest part of that movement. For example, you can bend over to lift a heavy weight but you would struggle to twist and then press the weight vertically.
If you used a weight that was comfortable during the twist and press, then you would be under-training the bend and lift part of the action.
There are limitations of traditional strength training too. The idea is to use different styles of training, including natural movement, to help with imbalances or weaknesses with certain areas and abilities of YOUR body.
What is your purpose for exercising in the first place?
If you want to be strong – do strength training. if you want to be flexible – stretch. if you want to be fitter – do cardiovascular training. If you want to move your body dynamically – do natural movements. If you want all the above – DO all of the above training.
Always seek out an experienced strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer with great knowledge of functional anatomy to help you move optimally as well as naturally.