Natural Strength and Fitness

Let’s kick this off by stating that all movement is good, so long as it doesn’t hurt. No, pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s a signal to stop doing what you’re doing. The fitness world is a packed arena full of good movement from yoga, pilates, barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, walking, running etc etc. It’s all good. Moving is good. Feeling good is good.

But here’s a question, is what you are doing now going to serve you when you are both out of your exercise modality and when you will be old(er)?

It’s great to be flexible, but are you strong? It’s awesome to be strong, but can you get to the floor and play with the kids or grandkids?

It’s mighty fine to have an exercise habit but are you useful?

This is something I’ve been acknowledging for a while now after the realisation that some people are great in the gym but, well, kind of suck at life usefulness. A bold and cheeky statement, but a truism all the same. It is oh so very important to go to the gym, develop strength, mobility and to go for a good walk or run, but I believe we are missing the boat somewhat by not using our exercise time for a higher purpose. Life.

Life is not just going to the gym (#gymislife) as many will propose. Life is living well, with great function until the day we die. Doing the housework without getting out of breath. Tidying up the garden without putting your back out. Playing with the kids without limitations. Having the confidence to go for a good bush walk, climbing over boulders and jumping over creeks. And as we age, still being able to do all of this as well as dress ourselves and climb the stairs with an armful of groceries.

Note, I made no reference to doomsday preparation or the zombie apocalypse. I’m talking about real-world, purposeful exercise.

Believe me when I say I love kettlebell swings and presses. Like as much as Thor loves Beer, I love Kettlebell training. But while the kettlebell swing does develop strong, snappy hips, it’s not the best preparation for jumping over things. It’ll help a lot, but will not develop the ankles and feet for take off and landing as well as propulsing the body through space. The kettlebell press teaches great pressing mechanics but not necessarily the pressing ability to push over the top of a wall, branch or throwing a heavy object. Pressing a weight will help, but it’s not complete.

Yes, strength training with weights from kettlebells to barbells is fantastic but maybe they lack some reality or context to the real world.

Here’s a fun challenge to contextualise your training

If you train 3 times a week for example, how about taking one of the sessions and adding context. By that I mean converting each exercise or movement on your list and making them real world applications of that movement. This session wouldn’t mean a max out type session, but the execution of purpose behind each movement.

To demonstrate, here are some ideas.

The Deadlift, or Lifting & Carrying or Forward Jumps?
Bench Press, or Crawls or Vertical Presses?
Barbell Squats, or Step ups or Balancing Walking Split Squats?
Good ‘ol Rows, or Hangs or Traversing?
Planking, or loaded carries. Perhaps tripod balancing & vaults!
Burpees, or the Prone Get Up, or maybe crawls to a hang & foot pinch?

There are no reasons ‘not’ to practice traditional strength movements. They are great at develop specific strengths. What I would love to see more of is the practice of using these traditional lifts with a flare of real-world applications.

A greater use of our time spent in the gym would be in helping others. Be that assisting the elderly, disabled, volunteering to help maintain our green spaces putting your hand up when people ask for help on social media. We’ve almost gotten to a stage when meeting new people is fearful. Eye contact is dwindling or shielded behind our smart devices.

As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats put it, ‘There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met’.

Train to be strong, useful to yourself, your family and community.

I would love to hear from you if you already train / exercise / workout this way. Likewise, if you’d be interested in learning more and how to apply this concept to your own training, just get in touch.

Jamie