By Dave Thomas
You know the type. The guy who has absolutely no regard for progression, coaching or just flat out common sense. They just want to stick it in everything and do as much as possible, scoffing at your suggestion to dial it back and realize that no movement treats every body the same.
No matter where we are along the curve, it’s very important that we understand that what a movement yields has some to do with the mechanics of the movement, but is largely a product of how the body performing it is put together.
There’s really no such thing as an inherently “bad” movement.
Unless you’re this bro, brah, and Coach bru.
(For sure. Totally make sure that’s a “rep”, Coach.)
What we have to understand is that a movement can have a variety of outcomes depending on the body performing it.
Let’s take a very popular movement that is considered relatively easy to learn.
The deadlift. One of the better movements we can perform for posture and structural health, but ironically it’s viewed as the most dangerous by outsiders who constantly scream, “Don’t hurt your back!”…often as those same folks sit at a desk in flexion all day. Day by by day. By day.
Perception: The deadlift stresses and strains your lower back, making it unsafe.
Reality: The deadlift trains and strengthens the the back from the erectors to the larger lats.
However, both of these outcomes are possible depending on the individual performing it.
Let’s look at Chaz, Emily and Jim.
Chaz can’t touch his toes and works at a desk eight hours per day. Accordingly, his back is rounded most of his existence and his spine in a position of constant flexion. When Chaz tries to perform a body weight squat, he cannot break parallel without falling over due to tightness in his ankles, and he cannot sit upright due to tightness in his t-spine. Chaz goes to the gym, but he usually trains isolation and traditional cardio.
Emily is a runner, but she is very active and has a high level of body awareness. She is a little tight in her ankles and hips from the repetition of running, but she can touch her toes with ease and can hold a very good bottom position in a body weight squats. She lacks upper body strength but possesses good readiness for some of the larger movements.
Jim has largely performed a bodybuilding routine at his local globo gym, but he is in great shape and treats his body well. He doesn’t have experience with barbells, only machines, so his body awareness is a little off. But other than that, he is strong, athletic and picks up movements very quickly.
How would you slot these different people?
Emily and Jim can likely begin with and greatly benefit from the “scary” movements at their middle progression, where Chaz needs to not even glance at the barbell yet, and spend some time on very light weight regressions to develop his body function first.
But alas, Chaz is a fitness fuckboy. He ignores progression, hops right into a 70% pull that looks like a dog taking a shit and strains his back.
Chaz blames the movement.
A 300# deadlift is an amazing training tool for someone who has been at it for months and years, terrible for someone just starting out.
It all just depends on where you’re starting out on the curve (most beginners hate admitting to themselves they are beginners).
I could make the case that the sit-up, or hell, even the very chair you are reading this in is far worse for your back than a deadlift. Continuous spinal flexion is one of the worst habits we can get into.
Let’s take the overhead press, a great builder of strength and teacher of the total body functioning together as a system. I prescribe it for a lot of folks very often. But, if you can’t properly hold your arms overhead, do you want to do that under a loaded barbell?
Probably not. Begin with dumbbells and some shoulder mobility drills.
How about snatches? Phenomenal tool for combining strength and speed, and muscle development of the shoulders. But have bad shoulder mobility and no understanding of speed and this movement becomes an outright disaster (I like dumbbell snatches better, anyways.)
How about overhead squats? Posses the requisite mobility and stability in your joints and I believe this to be among the most productive movement we can do do, pound for pound. Try and do this with bad ankle mobility and/or stiffness in your t-spine and you actually might kill yourself.
How about box jumps? Develop your impact ability and this becomes a very valuable tool for strength, power, athleticism and fat loss. Dive right into a high elevated jump with no prior plyometric experience and you’ll probably be uploading a picture of your shredded shins thinking it’s cool (it’s not).
I could do this all day.
The point here is that real life falls somewhere between perception vs. reality for most people when it comes to all movements and training, and as a population we need to take better ownership and understanding of the what, when and why.
In your first few months, make your focus movement pattern, body awareness and the “ilities”. Once you have that on lock, proceed.
When you exit your circle, you bypass the important stabilizers, the offensive line to Tom Brady. Without them, there is no highlight reel. You can have a great QB all day long (global movers) but if your offensive line is shit (global stabilizers), you’re only going so far before the QB gets hurt.
Haven’t spent any basic time strengthening your hamstrings or learning hinge pattern in your sleep?
Then don’t immediately dive into pulling heavy weight off the floor, or squatting into a deep position of flexion.
Not everything is for everyone, but most most things are for most people when you allow movement to be performed across a spectrum of progressions.
It’s okay to be in the top percentile of one movement, and still progressing on another.
Don’t be a fitness fuckboy (or gal) and just jump into everything without any regard for proper progression. And don’t be Coach Fuckboy and prescribe it that way.
You just have to take time to find out where you are along the spectrum of movement and act accordingly.
Good things will eventually happen for you
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