Movement

When Less Effort is Better

Trying to apply a lot of effort and straining to do things can push you to learn poor movements.

Your body will find the most efficient way of doing something with what it has right now, not necessarily accounting for what could be built if you worked in a particular way. Straining to lift heavier at the cost of form means your numbers go up, but are you after numbers? Or changes in your body?

Take it easy.

Rest up.

Especially when you’re learning new movements, apply a little less effort and keep your focus at about 60-70% of total available.

ANNOUNCEMENT!

!ANNOUNCEMENT!

Starting this weekend, I'm teaching a couple of new classes at Praksis :)

The first is a beginners class (4pm-5pm). I'll share some introductory strength, mobility, handbalancing and locomotive work in these classes.

ANYONE is welcome to attend. But don't think that's not the case for any other class at Praksis - all are welcome at all classes. Even if you're not a beginner (but remember: we're all beginners), you're welcome to come along and get some extra practice in.

But there is a specific purpose for the beginners class: to offer a dedicated time for people who don't think they're 'ready' for Praksis yet to come and try it out.

Please share this around with the people you know who are interested in coming along but have been too afraid, busy, self-conscious, etc etc etc.

The second is a mobility class (5pm-6pm) immediately following the Sunday beginners class.

A good chance to round out the weekend with a bit of movement.

These classes will run as a trial for the next four weeks and, if they're popular, I hope they'll be added to the schedule permanently.

Don't let Cool Shit Distract you from the Human Layer

I first came across Ido Portal around five years ago when I found this article on hanging. I wasn’t exercising regularly at the time but I was convinced straight away that there was something to what he was saying. I went out and bought myself a door frame pull-up bar and started my own ‘hanging month’. Within a couple of weeks I had stopped. I didn’t complete the challenge, but I did keep up regular exercise from this point onwards.

During the hanging month, I began to use the Fitstar app to guide me. I loved it so much that it distracted me from the challenge. I didn’t care - the app was so cheap compared to a gym membership ($50 a year!). Not only could I do the workouts at home, but the stuff I was learning included things like handstand pushups. It was awesome. I decided I wanted to learn how to do a handstand and some other cool shit. Since then I’ve been working towards goals like a one arm chin-up, 60 second free standing handstand, and freestanding handstand push-up. I still sometimes hung on my pull-up bar, but the other movements were much more interesting so it wasn’t a focus anymore.


Years later, in February 2018, I attended a Movement X seminar in Melbourne. I’ve been working towards my “cool shit” goals and made a fair bit of progress. Go me! And yet, one of the things that struck me about the seminar was our conversation about the purpose behind the hanging challenge.

We talked about the fact that to hang from a bar isn’t a special thing. It’s not something that should be difficult for you to do. It’s not “cool shit”. I certainly don’t mean to shame you if you aren’t able to hang from a bar. But to put it in perspective - to be able to do the hanging challenge you don’t need to be a specialist athlete or even a movement enthusiast. You only need to be human. Even though it might seem ‘normal’ that most people can’t do this, it’s definitely part of the human set of skills.

 The Human Layer forms the base of all your skills. Movement is the more complex stuff, like perhaps pull-ups or dancing. Most people can do things in this layer too, but it will require some attention. Specialist skills are things you need to devote a lot of time and become an expert in before you can learn the skill. Think things like handstands and one arm chin-ups. Or even just specialising in a specific sport - the specialist layer is a narrow set of skills built on the other foundational layers. 

The Human Layer forms the base of all your skills. Movement is the more complex stuff, like perhaps pull-ups or dancing. Most people can do things in this layer too, but it will require some attention. Specialist skills are things you need to devote a lot of time and become an expert in before you can learn the skill. Think things like handstands and one arm chin-ups. Or even just specialising in a specific sport - the specialist layer is a narrow set of skills built on the other foundational layers. 

A lot of people neglect the human layer. It’s easy to ignore because you can learn movements and even specialist skills like olympic lifts without addressing issues in your human layer of skills. If you’re like me, you might focus your training on the “cool shit”. But when you neglect the human layer, you limit the possible size of your pyramid. You can build a much more stable pyramid with a bigger base.

In my years of movement practice, I have noticed this effect even though I didn’t understand it. I have been trying to improve my pull-ups for years. I’ve seen some progress in that time, but things sped up considerably when I started working on the basic hanging and scapular strength suggested by Ido. My capacity and general shoulder stability has increased drastically.

So, don’t neglect the human layer. Practice your hanging. Practice your resting squat. Practice things like throwing and catching. Practice moving your spine. Practice walking. These skills are not “cool shit”. They’re part of the human layer that will serve you well in everything you do. Get better at these things and you’ll get better at most other skills. You’ll learn things you can bring to other skills either at the human layer, or further up the pyramid.


Since the seminar, I have decided to have another go at the hanging challenge. I’ll approach it a bit differently this time with a different perspective. Want to do it with me? Have you tried hanging before?

PS - yes, I do find it funny that I seem to keep using pyramids as models for things. What can I say, I seem to be thinking in triangles lately.

Emptiness and Quickness in a Movement Practice

We’re working on emptiness and quickness in movement practice this month at Praksis. These ideas are just two of the varying qualities and modes of practice I’ve been learning there.

Since emptiness is something I haven’t ever heard about before, I wanted to tell you about it. This is my first time trying to explain this, so bear with me.

Training emptiness is about training to let go and not use the muscles for movement. For me, it’s easiest to think about this in your shoulders. Almost all of us hold a lot of tension in our shoulders - you’re probably doing it right now! Relax!

 An emptiness drill for the shoulders as shown in one of Ido Portal's movement camps (see the Facebook post I got this photo from  here ). Keep your shoulders loose and heavy and create the swinging movement by turning your hips. If you're doing it right, your arms will start to feel heavy.  Eventually you should be able to be empty enough that you'll feel heavy in the shoulders and maybe get the sensation of your scapulae (shoulder blades) wrapping around your spine.  

An emptiness drill for the shoulders as shown in one of Ido Portal's movement camps (see the Facebook post I got this photo from here). Keep your shoulders loose and heavy and create the swinging movement by turning your hips. If you're doing it right, your arms will start to feel heavy.  Eventually you should be able to be empty enough that you'll feel heavy in the shoulders and maybe get the sensation of your scapulae (shoulder blades) wrapping around your spine.  

Emptiness is the state of no tension. When it’s coupled with a moment of tension at the start, you can use this state to move very quickly. Think of a whip cracking or that finger slapping noise you might’ve heard.

This stuff is completely new to me. As a naturally anxious person who is learning to let go, I’m in the habit of holding a lot of tension. Not to mention that most of the training I’ve done has been for strength and mobility. And whilst emptiness is related to mobility, you don’t get good at emptiness by stretching. It’s its own thing.

We'll be working on this until the end of January. Although this could be something easier to learn about in person, I'm looking forward to sharing more as I learn more about it. You can sign up below to get my monthly newsletter where I cover this stuff and more.

De-loading your Training for Fun (and Profit)

This month, I’m exploring the relationship between movement and rest. On the last Sunday of every month I meet with other Canberra movement practitioners to discuss our practice and move together. As a community, Sunday tends to be the day we all take a rest from our training.

But there’s a difference between resting by reading a book and resting by moving. We spent two hours learning mobility drills, playing, and dancing together. We weren’t training, but we still moved.

Intense Rest and Play

As it turns out, I’m de-loading my training this week too. As with rest days, in de-load weeks I still move. I move in a way that is less stressful, so it’s less tiring.

I do less volume with the same or increased intensity in what I do. Doing it this way helps you to figure out feels like to do more work without getting tired since you’re doing much less work overall. You can also de-load by decreasing the intensity but keeping the volume the same, but it’s not as fun. When you can work with more intensity, the possibilities open up. Maybe you can experiment with a heavier weight in your squat, or see what it feels like to do more pull-ups in a row. De-load sessions can be a lot of fun as you break through plateaus and see what you’re capable of.

As my movement practice deepens, my understanding of ‘rest’ is changing. I used to think rest was only when you stopped altogether. But rest is so much more than that.

Rest is an opportunity for you to take a break from the work, do less, be a little less serious, and play.

Working In

This month, I’m exploring the relationship between movement and rest.

Last week, I was recovering from an enormous amount of movement. It was also the first week of my new movement program, so I got to the end of the week feeling extrememly tired. So much for resting! That said, I only felt fully recovered once I was able to move fully again. So, this week I’m looking at ways to keep moving while still getting the required rest.

I found something you’ll love: I heard about the concept of ‘working in’ on a recent episode of the Onnit podcast. It’s about doing movements that bring more energy into the body rather than depleting the body. It’s resting movement! This working in article over at the C.H.E.K. Institute goes into a bit more detail about how to do a work-in. Essentially, it’s doing movements that don’t raise your heart rate or breathing above a rested state like gentle forms of yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.