I trained with a new client this Wednesday, let’s call him Mac, and he managed to surprise me by not having a specific short-term goal. Usually clients already come to me with measurable goals like losing a specific amount of weight, dropping down to a certain amount of body fat, being able to beat once PR or increasing one’s strength by being able to lift more all within a certain amount of time, usually months. And that is all fine. Specific goals give us a purpose, motivate us and help personal trainers to design their training to a client’s wants.
Mac though presented me with a need instead. “I’m in my forties and I just want to be able to enjoy being active as long as possible.” To retain clients, personal trainers have to show progress in regard to what clients want but also have to balance that with elements regarding what clients need. It’s nice to have attained a toned physique this summer but what about ten or twenty years from now? What Mac asked for was something I usually try to sneak into training like Brussels sprouts into a children’s meal: Prehabilitation and general physical preparedness (GPP in fitness fancy speak).
Todd Alan Johnson, a musical actor on Broadway, played the younger and older Javert in Les Miserables. Portraying older people is quite hard. We can all conjure up a scene where an actor failed miserably playing an older person. Johnson though took his cues off observing older men and realized that there’s a “slow and steady measured tendency in their movement”.
Purely from an anatomical perspective those fixed points could be viewed under the Janda approach. Dr. Vladimir Janda follows the functional approach of musculoskeletal medicine. He indentified two groups of muscles: tonic and phasic muscles. As we age tonic muscles tend to tighten and phasic muscles tend to weaken. For example one of those tonic muscles are pecs. If someone is just keen on increasing his/ her bench press the pecs get stronger but tighter with the years if nothing else is done. Depending on the person it might have an effect of the range of motion of the shoulder, weakening of the rhomboids or be the cause for neck / back pain later.
Starrett is not the only one. Other well-known trainers like Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John believe more energy should be dedicated to improving once movement skills and seamlessly integrating a mobility routine into one’s training program.
The most outspoken movement teacher/ trainer I respect a lot is Ido Portal. He believes that it most beneficial to us if we aim to become movement generalist. I remember one post which clearly represents his philosophy and in which he lists 4 most important concepts to practice, if you are human. (click here if you want to read his full post)
That is why I like Ashtanga Yoga so much. You learn more movement skills the more you progress into the Ashtanga Series. I’m currently working on getting two legs behind my head instead of only one.
2. Mobility - range of motion is king. Moving into it with strength, control, stability and motor refinement is a must, not just passive range. But still - if you don't have range - you can’t get stronger in that range, you can’t use that range, you can’t stabilize or control that range.
So... FIRST THINGS FIRST - get the range. […] Weakness is limiting - but range is the real party pooper - no range = no movement.
Mack told me that he would like to work on pistols. And pistols are mostly a ROM (range of movement) thing. Strength for a pistol can be gained quickly. But mobility needs to be earned.
3. Strength in the right areas - you need strength to move... Especially in the weak links. Common weak links pretty much everyone needs to address: Scapular control and grip.
I’ve never thought about scapular control until my physio sister noticed that I’m still winging when I’m doing a pushup. Winging means that my scaps rotate and slightly protrude from my back. It’s just a sign that my serratus anterior, a phasic muscle, needs strengthening until it can keep my scaps in place.
4. Isolate -> Integrate -> Improvise. The triple 'I' is my way to look at mastery.
Anything you do should move up that ladder if you intend to master some stuff, get a lifelong fulfillment and enjoy the best that movement has to offer.
Improvisation, notice, is superior in my eyes to the concept of 'play' as Play in its highest level is improvised, but improvisation is always a form of Play. [...]Improv is where life is at its strongest. Well... Improv IS life.
Well. The master has spoken. I ain’t got nothing more to say.