PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.
The art of movement is something you will see discussed in many texts, in one way or another. This is a concept that was visited, studied and developed hundreds and even thousands of years ago, such as with Shaolin kung fu. It is also something studied and utilised in modern times throughout all manner of academic science, sports performance and injury prevention.
The Unleashed Training model of the art of movement is what underpins everything you will do while following any Unleashed Training program. The art of movement is the art and science of the way the human body moves in order to complete a task.
The art of movement is a set of principles and guidelines that form the basis for effective and efficient movement in any given context. It is about replacing poor and inefficient movement with movement that that will better accomplish the task at hand. Taken further, the art of movement provides the tools and resources to;
a) Move correctly, efficiently, effectively and naturally;
b) Combine effective movements in order to transition from one efficient movement to another;
c) Develop and apply correct and effective movement, such as the development of speed and explosive power.
Foundational movement is the set of movements that the human body is naturally structured for. Much of the modern movement patterns of humans is not natural. The following is a list of all the foundational movements of the human body.
Running – Running is not a movement reserved only for competitive runners or athletes. In modern times there are a great number of people that either cannot run or don’t run safely and effectively. Running is a skill that humans have literally unlearned through not doing it. To remedy this, it is recommended that people incorporate at least a small amount of running into their weekly schedule. If running causes pain then it is advised to learn correct biomechanics and fix your running stride.
Squatting – Squatting is one of the most natural of all movements in humans. Take a look at the average person in a first world, western country during times of rest. They are generally in a seated position in a chair of some kind. In this position all postural muscles become inactive, and over time the body unlearns how to properly squat, leading to a very large number of problems. In third world countries you see people squatting all the time. It comes easy for them, even in the elderly. As a result, they are far more mobile in the knees, hips, ankles and spine. Learn to squat effectively, with and without external resistance and utilising full range, all the way into the very bottom of a squat position, heels on the ground.
Walking – Similar to running, walking is a natural form of human transport. Running and walking in humans can be grouped together using the term bipedal locomotion, meaning forward motion on two legs. Walking is not quite as unlearned as running is, however modern humans mostly don’t do enough of it. Incorporate more walking into the weekly schedule and be aware of how you are walking so that imbalances and poor form can be corrected over time.
Lunging – Lunging is another form of squatting but with a staggered or split stance. Lunging is utilised for many different tasks, particularly helpful for getting low enough to lift an external load.
Jumping – Humans have a very effective anatomy for jumping in many ways. The simple standing vertical jump is achieved through a perfect kinetic chain, with the glutes, quads and calves working synchronously to propel the body upwards. The same applies to a running jump, such as when clearing a hurdle or running and jumping to reach something up high. This becomes unlearned through a lack of use. Some form of jumping should be incorporated into every weekly activity routine. In some people, such as obese or those with joint injuries, jumping is something that must be approached with caution.
Lifting from the ground – Lifting from the ground is as simple as it sounds. Humans are born with arms and hands. We do not use our hands for locomotion, we have evolved to use them to perform other tasks while our legs carry us. The most fundamental of all gross motor tasks is lifting from the ground. This is simulated with the deadlift and all other strength movements that begin on the floor. The issue is that we have also unlearned this pattern. You will often see an untrained person lifting with a rounded spine or in some kind of compromised position. Naturally, humans are meant to lift from the ground with a flat, neutral spine with involvement of the glutes, hamstrings and quads, along with the stability muscles of the spine. The muscles are structured and aligned in the spine in such a way that they produce maximal force and provide maximal stability when the spine is straight and neutral. Learn how to correctly deadlift and utilise that same movement when lifting anything from the floor.
Climbing – Climbing is perhaps a secondary foundational movement in humans. We are naturally built to be able to climb, however it is not a movement that is primary in our environment, even in humans that live in a primitive and wild environment. Having said that, climbing is still a movement we should be capable of performing with a degree of proficiency. This can largely be simulated with simple body weight strength exercises performed from a hanging position. The most common is pull-ups, which can be practiced using a variety of grips. More advanced than that is muscle-ups. Humans should also have the basic ability to clear a wall or fence up to their own height.
Swimming – Swimming is a life skill. Just about every land mammal can swim, and most do so without instruction. As a human, swimming should be a pattern of movement you are capable of performing at a level that is at least competent.
Elements of Physical Capacity and Conditioning
The art of movement is not a specialised concept. It is not reserved only for those that have an interest in movement such as gymnasts and sprinters. The art of movement applies equally to the average person as it does to the elite athlete. Foundational movements are the movements that are natural for humans and must be relearned. Physical capacity and conditioning is the use of those movements in various combinations to perform a variety of physical tasks. Regardless of the sport or range of tasks performed by an individual, there are certain components of physical capacity that should be achieved by all athletes and individuals.
1. Strength – Strength is the ability to generate force throughout a given movement against a given resistance. This forms the foundation and basis for all other conditioning. Strength can be broken down into two main forms:
a) Movement of one’s own body. This is demonstrated through body weight strength exercises and gymnastics, ranging from simple movements such as push-ups to intermediate such as pull-ups and pistol squats to advanced such as muscle-ups, handstands and plyometric push-ups. Progression is achieved through either increasing volume/density or through progressing to a more difficult version of an exercise.
b) Moving an external resistance. This applies to training such as lifting weights. Lifting a weight in a given way involves moving an object external to oneself. Progression is achieved through either increasing volume/density or through adding additional resistance/increasing the weight.
2. Explosive Power – Explosive power is applicable to just about every sport. It is also an element of physical development useful in non-sport tasks. Explosive power is an extension of strength, being that it is expressed as generation of force with a high speed. Explosive power can be expressed in sprinting, jumping, throwing and high speed weightlifting movements.
3. Capacity – Capacity is a broad term referring to the ability to do a task or group of tasks at a high level of output for an extended time. Typically, capacity applies to two areas:
a) Anaerobic Capacity – The combined output of the anaerobic energy systems. As an example, a 400m sprint, a 100m swim or a maximum intensity 1 minute row on an indoor rower.
b) Muscular Endurance – The ability of the muscles to repeatedly perform a task at a high level of output. As an example, loading a barbell with 100kg and performing as many squats as possible in three minutes, resting as needed, or a set of as many pull-ups as possible until failure.
The art of movement is a process that requires the development of each of the foundational movements and then applies training to condition the body to perform these movements in varied challenging tasks.
There are four components of training that pertain specifically to the conditioning of effective movement.
1. Skill/Biomechanics – This component applies to the learning of correct and effective application of all required movements, such as correct running stride, learning to lift safely and powerfully from the floor etc.
2. Strength – Strength training, along with skills, forms a foundation for the development of all other components of fitness and performance. Strength is general in nature and is not a specific activity. Strength training requires the development of all major planes of movement and all major muscle groups.
3. Explosive Power – The development of the ability to generate force at high speed. Such as in sprinting, jumping, throwing and high velocity weightlifting movements.
4. Speed and Agility – Speed and agility is the ability to move the body, or part of the body, rapidly in a given direction, and the ability to rapidly decelerate, change direction and accelerate again. Sprinting and agility drills are good examples.
The last thing to cover in the art of movement is injury prevention and fortifying the body against damage. This is a step by step and ongoing process.
1. Learn the foundational movements and perform them correctly and efficiently. A sprinting stride, if not learned correctly, will result in injury. The best way to prevent this is by learning how to do it effectively.
2. Balanced strength development between directly opposing muscle groups and in synergistic muscles. This means that if a muscle gains strength, its direct opposite must equally gain strength to ensure balance of strength. For instance the relationship between the deltoids and the lats. Further to this, smaller muscles that act as synergists should also be adequately conditioned to take on assistance and stability roles. Such muscles include pectoralis minor and teres major.
3. Balanced mobility surrounding a joint. Each of the joints in the human body have the ability to perform a specific action or group of actions. For the shoulder it is a range of actions, whereas the less mobile elbow joint can only flex and extend. Mobility/flexibility should be equal in each of the individual movements at a given joint.
4. Strengthen weak and vulnerable areas. This will be different from one person to the next. Each person has certain areas that are more vulnerable to injury and instability. These need to become a major area of focus to ensure there are no weak links in your kinetic chain.
The art of movement is a simple concept. It is the natural way humans are built to move. Going further than that, it is natural and foundational movement that is trained in such a way as to be correct, proficient and at effective levels of work output.
The art of movement is something to be applied to all athletes and individuals. It applies equally to athletes as it does to average people that aspire to be fit, strong and healthy. Take the preceding information on board, use it, dissect it, question it and do further research. Make movement work for you.
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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.