If you missed the last newsletter and you’re interested in physical training at any level from beginner to elite athlete you may well find that some of the concepts ideas or suggestions will be helpful to support either getting you on your first programme or perhaps make key changes to optimise the results that you’re already getting.
We reviewed the essential nature of assessment in exercise programme prescription giving respect to the fact that we are all individuals, that we will all, to some degree, have different requirements from an initial exercise programme. We know this as we will all have slightly different patterns of muscle and movement dysfunction and imbalance. I am ceaselessly amazed in my client assessments that I still find unique and quirky patterns of imbalance that I have not seen before and that are present in a way that requires a different approach to treatment and exercise prescription.
Assessment, Posture, Core stability and movement - Assessment is essential, Posture is empowering and Movement matters.
We then reviewed posture, stability and movement as the foundations from which we can truly build an empowered physique that will last a life time. If we train with poor posture, muscle imbalance and inadequate joint stability we are training for short term gain and long term pain. If we do not address these aspects of health we are not training for health but for vanity – not for long term success and a body for life but for the impression of health and wellness as presented by the mass media. And really, truly and very clearly what the mass media is largely peddling is fundamentally inaccurate and preys on our insecurities and human vulnerabilities. The manipulation of the truth is how to sell people stuff that won’t help and that they don’t need. It’s called marketing.
Exercise choice and programme development - Understand how to make better exercise selection based on movement not muscles.
It is true to say that the first exercise programmes that any one of us does should be the most important physical training programme we will do in our lives. Except that this is very rarely the case, and it was certainly not the case for me. I spent years weight training with no real comprehension of what was going on or of what I could actually be achieving with weight training and yes this did lead to short term gain and long term pain… this is how I ‘know’ how serious inaccurate training can be, however innocent.
So how do we make sure that either our first exercise programme of the next one that we do will be the most important one we ever do? We make sure that we correct our posture and muscle imbalance so that we have a platform from which to work. If we do not address these issues everything else, all the effort put in, all the hours of training in the gym, sadly can be causing more harm than good. This is why your first programme is so critical, it’s the one where you set the direction for your future self and literally you only need to be three degrees out to end up in a world or pain rather than a world of gain!
As we have already discussed (in last month’s newsletter) the first key bit of work is to get the right stretches and mobilisations to bring the body back to balance. In my experience although we can take powerful steps ourselves to balance the axial skeleton (pelvis, spine and skull) a significantly enhanced and faster result can be achieved by working with a Neuromuscular Therapist or Osteopath. So with enhanced body balance we now need to be thinking about exercise selection.
I have found that for a complete basic movement, postural correction and the foundation of an empowered physique, the vast majority of people need at least ten exercises usually split in to two programmes of five. We need around ten exercises for some very specific reasons.
Although human movement is extraordinarily complex we actually only have a limited number of primary movement skills. We have a push, pull, rotation, bend, squat, lunge and gait (walking, running, and sprinting) the key to understanding why movement matters comes when we get the concept that we only gain strength in the position in which we train. So to be strong and stable and to develop a killer physique for life we need to be highly proficient in these movement skills. To really develop a killer physique these movements will need to be pushed to the edge of your capabilities thus forcing adaption and so muscle toning or development.
So movement matters and form follows function. You will look good when you work well and when you work well you can look good for life. As there are six primary movement skills we ideally need to include a version of each of these movements in your programme. The key to working out which movements or exercises to choose comes partly in the realization that all exercise are a version of, or contribution to, one of the primary movements. They are either on the easier end of a scale or on the more complex end of the scale.
The vast proportion of the work I do is with injured people so the majority of programmes I design after testing will be comprised of exercise that are at the easiest end of the scale. Most people when tested cannot effectively stabilise balancing on one leg and doing a short single leg squat, they will normally exhibit clear signs if instability. This demonstrates to me that this person will most likely lack control or stability when performing either a lunge and or a squat pattern. To make sure this individual progresses effectively and gets optimal muscle response and development with no damage I need to give them a simple movement which is an easy version of either a lunge or squat pattern.
As there are six primary movements and in this first programme I ideally want to give a complete and rounded development – I need to find the appropriate level to start at in pushing, pulling, rotation, bending, squatting and gait. This gives us our primary exercises which might include exercises such as a kneeling press up, a single arm high cable pull, a lower body abdominal rotation (Russian twist) a split squat (descended lunge pattern) and a body weight sumo style dead lift. We then need to find the other key exercises specific for the individual’s particular pattern of imbalance which would normally include some deep abdominal retraining, retraining of the deep spinal muscle, perhaps some conditioning for the deep anterior neck muscles or other such ‘core’ or ‘inner unit’ muscles.
The truth is that the nature of what needs to be achieved the first exercise programme will result in the most complex programme you will ever do in your life. This has to be the case as it’s the programme that teaches you to use your body in a way that you have not used it, to move away from where you are strong and to challenge you where you are weak – to teach you a range of movement skill that you do not have in a position of postural control that you may not yet be aware of. As with all truth what initially seems highly complex has a core of profound simplicity. As with any complex subject it is the teacher that will make it simple and building an empowered physique that can last a life time can in principle be very straight forward indeed. It is unfortunate that the simplicity of this truth cannot be expressed in a general way as everyone is different and the work is hands on, physical, visual and its necessity becomes self-evident with application and teaching.
However we are all learning and this is a journey, so any steps we take towards understanding the principles of better assessment, posture, stability and movement skill will take us in the direction of building a physique for life, a physique founded in health and wellness rather than one founded on vanity that leads to pain.
Nutrition Counts - Take your programme to the next level with high quality organic supplements.
The greater the load we place on our bodies the more essential excellent nutrition becomes. The total load our body has to cope with can be expressed as ‘total physiological load’. This takes everything in to account from how we think and perceive the world (how stressed we are) to what we are eating, how hydrated we are and how much physical and psychological recovery we are getting when we sleep.
The first phase of training when we are building a foundation, restoring function, correcting posture, getting stable and learning movement is the key time to rebuild your gut health and restore biochemical balance to your body. This is a great time to address diet and lifestyle factors as you will be making the maximum progress you can with light loads and actually decreasing your physiological load by restoring balance to your body.
As you begin to ramp up your training to intensify the muscular response you will be increasing the total load on your body as you will be pushing your body to respond. Many people that I work with are not healthy enough to train hard; they need to address key nutrition and lifestyle factors to get well enough to get an optimal muscle response. Pushing the body hard enough to really make a difference when we are biochemically out of balance can lead to less than optimal response alongside joint pain, immune suppression, toxic overload and adrenal fatigue.
The essential general actions to take tend to be cutting out caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar alongside switching to organic of locally grown foods and getting rehydrated. The majority of us need to eat far more protein than we are as our society is dominated by carbohydrate rubbish, refined sugar being the central culprit of disease, otherwise known as ‘crack for kids’.
Alongside a balanced diet of high quality organic and natural foods we can of course take supplements to push the boundaries of your body’s optimal potential response to exercise. Our supplement requirements will be as individual as our exercise requirements however I will share with you what I take on a given day to compliment my diet.
- Living fuel super greens – one full meal replacement shake
- Blue ice fermented cod liver oil with royal butter – fantastic all round health product
- Glutathione – The master antioxidant!
- Turmeric capsules – Curcumin being the key active component.
- Green tea extract – mixed with water
I mix it up and vary my supplements depending on how I am feeling and what I am working on however these are my ‘go to’ supplements. I take glutathione in courses and not all the time as our body once healed should produce plenty itself.
Building a physique and body for life, one that works the way you want it to, pain free with limited chance of injury and that looks great comes down to getting the foundations right. It’s the first 6-8 weeks of training that sets up how everything after it goes and so how you will look and feel it later life.
If you get the correction and stability right you will have the opportunity for great posture, optimal muscle balance and expression of movement. Working on your diet and reducing internal stress factors at the same time as introducing high quality organic supplements I can assure you that it’s possible to achieve states of health and wellness, happiness and joy that are not easily expressible : )
Enjoy the process of discovering the dysfunction in your body as what remains unconscious is a problem. That which we are conscious of offers us our greatest opportunity to progress and achieve our goals.