We are all wonderfully designed to move. We are all born with the same potential for performing a wide range of physical abilities. Much like a new computer or mobile phone arrives preloaded with a host of apps, we too are loaded with a massive database of ‘apps’.
Apart from the wonderful stuff that happens inside our gooey centres, our physical operation performance apps are pretty awesome. We are made to move, like in locomotive movements and we are made with manipulative skills, like carrying, lifting and such.
For now, let’s take a look at some of our own lesser practiced ‘locomotion’ movement apps:
#1 I can’t start talking about jumping just yet, without first mentioning our vestibular system. This system relies on the feedback from our eyes, ears and physical positioning to relay to the brain about which way up or down we are. If there is a mismatched message or delay in feedback, we get dizzy. If you’ve ever had travel / car sickness when you where reading, your brain has been part focussing on the reading whilst not totally matching up with the movement of the car. End result, dizziness, nausea and the cold sweats!
How do we train this? Lead all your physical movement with the eyes. Where the eyes go, the body follows. To really enhance the feedback loop, purposefully carry out movements with quick head and body movements. Rolling on the floor, tumbling, spinning around. Should you find yourself over stimulated and a tad dizzy, try this corrective measure.
#2 Balance is by far a very undertrained human skill. We can’t deny we use it daily and equally can’t deny plenty of people lose it often. Before I start to riddle, balance keeps us upright but also uses that previously mentioned vestibular system to control muscles in reaction to changing situations. Balance is very much a reactive strength. How does the body react when we have to walk over a narrow surface, along a curb during a rain storm, over stepping stones to cross a creek, over an uneven surface? Many reactions co-work throughout the body’s musculature to keep us upright according to the messages from the vestibular system.
How do we train this? Practice walking on narrow or uneven surfaces, slowly at first. Wobbling is a massive part of the learning curve. We must lose our balance to start to learn how to maintain in. Ever watched a toddler in the early stages of learning to walk? It both scary and hilarious, as they wobble, fall over, get back up and repeat. After a short period of practice they’ve moved onto running, jumping and so on as they upgrade their apps. Here’s an example of balance practice.
#3 ‘Get up’. It’s inevitable that we all have to get off the floor, and prior to that we will have either taken ourselves to the floor or had an unfortunate trip or fall to meet the floor. The practice of getting to the floor and back up is a wonderful expression of strength connection. Connecting our limbs and torso might seem like an odd statement but aside from the actual physical connection of tissue, many people don’t move with a physical connection of their body parts. There is often a lack of communication between upper limbs and lower limbs and the torso in between. Getting off the ground can take many forms and can be reactive, agile movement or a specific and strategic movement. A quick response to getting off the floor is a reactive movement, very much steeped in historical practice. The way you have always gotten off the floor will be the first choice in most cases. By purposefully practicing a variety of means of getting up, with strategy, the larger your library of options you’ll develop. The wonderful thing about getting off the floor is also that the skills involved translates to getting over ‘things’. Getting over a retaining wall is a perfect example of using get up skills to get over something.
How do we train this? There are many methods of getting to the floor (see video below) but sometimes, just getting down and up a few times a day can be great practice. At the gym we do practice what I call the ‘broken limb’ series, when we practice get ups with the scenario of imagining we have a broken arm, or leg. Much fun for all.
#4 Crawl. Whilst we’re on the floor, maybe after a fall, or maybe because of some other reason (sneaking indoors after a late night, trying to avoid the neighbour, or because you’re under your house or roof-space) crawling is a skill we’re born to master. It is a pivotal movement sequence we develop as infants that grants us the ability to walk, run, climb as well as provide the brain with a host of neurological development. Like the get up, crawling connects our torso and limbs. You could even say that crawling is very close to being a complete workout to replace numerous gym exercises. Your legs, arms, shoulders, pectoral, upper back, glutes and entire abdominal wall and waist will get an incredible training effect.
How do we train this? To appreciate the movement and where we start individually, it’s best that everyone starts on their hands and knees, much like we did originally as infants. We may crawl forward, backwards, on an axis, in a circle. These alone will engage many, many muscles. The progression is as simple (not always easy mind-you) as moving onto the feet and hands with the knees just off the floor. This is a game-changer movement. There are numerous other crawling shapes and positions, but starting with the knee hand and then foot hand should suffice most of us.
#5 Stick the landing! You don’t have to be dismounting a double back flip from a balance beam to stick the landing. Stick the landing refers to landing on your feet, unwavering, and not falling over. This is part one of the sequence of learning to jump. Jumping without knowing how to land is fool-hardy. Sticking the landing may follow a trip, a fall, a temporary loss of balance or slipping off a ladder. From a physiological perspective, it’s also a simple and effective way to load up the skeletal frame. Loading our bones is the simplest method of preventing early onset osteoarthritis.
How do we train this? The video below demonstrates a simple drill. The purposeful leaning forward and catching ourselves gently on our feet is step in learning how to stick the landing. Performing the drill from a small step is one progression as is performing a jump prior.
#6 Jump! Truth be told, us adults just don’t jump around as much as kids, and that is a pity. The benefits of jumping include helping us to maintain our agility, joint and bone health as well as muscular power and strength. Jumping is also incredibly playful aka fun. There is nothing wrong with adults having fun. We shouldn’t take ourselves ‘too’ serious. May of my clients have jumping exercises routinely or on a planned rotation. I love to see the smiles and giggles and sense of achievement. Jumping as an exercise does not have to be terribly gymnastic. A short strategic jump or hop is all it takes. A short jump from one stepping stone (or pretend one) to another is great as we tie in vision and movement; foot-eye coordination so to speak.
How do we train this? A version of jumping we practice often is the leg swing jump. It is perhaps the most commonly employed jump when we have to jump. One leg back swings along with the arms then we forward swing the arms and the leg to propel us forward in a jump. Here is a ‘how to’ video of the leg swing jump.
#7 Hanging! Okay, it’s not a locomotive, not initially anyway. A hang or brachiation from our hands or arms on an overhead branch, gym pull up bar, ledge, cliff face perhaps is a key to unlocking a completely new level of human skills that we are born to do. Brachiation is the act of travelling by swinging from one hand to the next, like all those cool ninja warriors on TV. For the rest us however, to yield the upmost benefits from this design feature of the human shoulder girdle, all I suggest for most people is just hang. Your shoulders will thank you for years after some practice. They will feel great and less prone to tweaks and strains carrying out day-to-day tasks.
How do we train this? The video below demonstrates options, but feet stay on the ground. We use the gymnastic rings to hold onto to before pushing our butts back and simply hang. W often call the position, ‘water skiing gone wrong’! Time wise, a period of 5 diaphragmatic breaths is sufficient to start with. That might take 20-30 seconds. We will either hang with upper tension, that is to say, keeping our shoulders pulled down away from our ears, or we’ll relax everything. Which depends on the individual and the comfort feedback the body communicates.
Running and walking are the other two pivotal day to day locomotion movements that we do do apart from these six above. As the more frequently used movement apps, I thought I would leave them alone and delve into the above lesser considered locomotion movement apps.
I’d love to know what you think. Maybe drop me a message.
Perhaps I’ll do this again, but cover manipulation skills that we store in another app!