5 Circles of Health – Movement Pt 2

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What makes a movement practice?

We are back again looking at the various elements that we consider to be vital for a healthy human movement practice.

You can read part 1 here.

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We have already looked at the lower layer of the fitness pyramid; lots of general daily movement, mobility work, and low intensity cardio. Next up on the agenda is lifting heavy things.

Lift Heavy Things

Weight training, resistance training, call it what you will, the basics are that we lift something heavy. What is that ‘thing’ and how ‘heavy’? Well that is all subjective.

For some, heavy lifting will mean getting into the gym and pulling a Herculean loaded barbell until their eyes nearly pop out. For others, it can simply be moving our own bodyweight.

Bodyweight training is a great place for most beginners to start. It is easily adaptable to your level, requires no specialist equipment or membership, it can be done anywhere you have enough room to stand up and lay down, and you don’t need special clothing or footwear (you can even go old skool and do it in your pants and vest, like off of the 80s).

As we become better versed at lifting weight we can start adding external force in the form of resistance bands, free weights (barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, etc), resistance machines, odd objects, etc.

At a minimum I like to see these movements included in a lifting session: Upper body push, upper body pull, a squat movement, and a hinge movement (like a deadlift for example).

There are many good bodyweight training programmes out there for those starting out, and those who only want to do bodyweight training.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness programme is a good start that focuses on pull ups, push ups, squats, and planks, adaptable to all levels.

We have extended the movement criteria in our 5 Circles of Health programme to include all seven of the Primal Movement Patterns required for healthy human movement, as set out by physiologist and high wizard Paul Chek.

The seven Primal movement Patterns are:

  1. Rotate
  2. Hinge
  3. Squat
  4. Lunge
  5. Push
  6. Pull
  7. Gait

Gait, for us, is walking, running, sprinting etc, and therefore is taken care of in the previous category and the one following.

For barbell training you can’t go wrong with following a programme like StrongLifts 5X5 or Starting Strength, both great for beginners

“But I don’t want to get ‘bulky’.” This is a concern that we hear often, mainly from ladies.

The fear is that if you lift weights you will be overly muscular and bulky. If only it were that easy. Fat loss is so much easier to accomplish than muscle growth. Muscle growth requires an awful lot of work and an awful lot of food. It’s a hard enough job for a man in his 20s, brimming with testosterone and human growth hormones, to put on any substantial muscle gain.

The glorious Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir – visir.ie

Some of my female clients see things like the Crossfit Games, and the amazing Amazonian-like goddesses of strength and assume this is how they will look after doing some deadlifts for a few months. They won’t. These athletes had a genetic predisposition for muscle gain and strength which is probably why they gravitated to Crossfit. Equally, playing basketball doesn’t make you tall.

Weights don’t make people bulky, excessive cakes do.

How often should you lift heavy things? Well that depends on your goals, but for most people concerned with living an optimal healthy life, I’d say 2-3 times a week, and this can take as little as 10 minutes for those starting out.

As time goes by we need to make sure that our routine is still challenging us and therefore, we need to make sure that we increase the weight, decrease the rest periods, increase the time or intensity, or a combination of these factors. This is known as progressive overload.

And while you can of course work all this out yourself, nothing beats a good coach or trainer.

Move really fast occasionally

Sprint work is an amazing addition to your movement practice, but one to approach with a little caution.

What could be a more primal exercise than running for your life to escape a marauding predator or to chase down a kudu for dinner? We are built to run, both at low level endurance pace and at break-neck speed. True, some are better designed for one form than the other, but all of us can benefit from moving really fast on occasion.

Sprint work is a powerful hormetic stressor that, when applied appropriately, can help us reduce body fat, increase muscle mass and toning, up our levels of testosterone and human growth hormone to help build muscle and slow ageing, and to boost our cognitive performance.

If you are an absolute beginner to movement practices then focus on the previous 2 layers of the pyramid for a few months to build a solid foundation, before tackling sprint work. It’s common to automatically think of running when we talk of sprint training, but it is not the only option. Cycling (including stationary bikes), rowing, swimming, and even walking for some, can be great, lower impact alternatives.

And yet again the term ‘fast’ is totally subjective. Fast for you may be a brisk walk, or it could be speedy session on a running track.

Regardless of the type of sprint work we do the key is to go all-out. We are looking for maximum effort for a short duration. Each repetition of a sprint should last somewhere between 10-20 seconds, definitely not exceeding 30 seconds.

And this is not a case of ‘no pain, no gain’. In between reps you are aiming to feel fully recovered. If you are struggling to recover then your session is over.

As to how many reps you do, I would keep it somewhere between 4 and 10 sprints. As soon as your performance drops off, or you are requiring more effort than before, stop your session there.

If you are new to sprint work stick to the lower side of the time and reps, and regardless of your experience, if you are not feeling 100%, give the session a miss.

My personal recommendation is for a sprint session to occur between 7 and 14 days. This is not a more is better kind of deal.

For a great introduction to a sprint protocol check out Mark Sisson’s guide to sprinting.

Play

This aspect features outside of the pyramid, but in fact it can be included in all aspects of movement, if not all parts of life in general.

Play is hugely important for human development and social cohesion. Kids do it unconsciously. But as we reach adulthood we start to see it as frivolous and self-indulgent. I would argue that it is anything but. Play, for us at Wild Life is an integral part of our system and so often the missing link for people who struggle getting a movement practice in place.

We’ve been fooled for decades to assume that working out has to be an endless struggle, that pain is the only indicator of effort, that you need to suffer now to reap the benefits tomorrow.

Struggle is good but it is only one side of the coin.

Play is moving for no other reason than for the sheer joy of it. It’s not outcome motivated. It’s not about the gains, it’s about the games. It’s fun. If it’s not fun or exhilarating then it’s probably not play.

We incorporate play into our sessions, especially group sessions. And it is so nice to hear the screeches of delight, the pant-wetting laughter, and see the clouds of steam rising off the participants as they slump on the ground in exhilarated exhaustion, oblivious to fact that they had just been ‘working out’.

Be a kid. Climb a tree. Balance on the railings. Play tag. Roll around on the floor. Wrestle. Dance like a loon. Whatever you do, do it often. Even better if you do it outside. In fact, stop reading this and do it now!

Recover

Just as important as everything else on the list, but usually not given enough importance, recovery is vital to being a happy, healthy, harder to kill, human.

Use your intuition. If you feel out of sorts or low in energy, maybe avoid that killer conditioning session or sprint workout, and go for a walk or do some mobility instead.

Alternate your hard session with some easier ones, and factor in days ‘off’ whereby you stick to gentle movement work.

Prioritise your sleep. It’s one of the other 5 Circles of Health. You can’t hope to perform optimally if you are sub-optimal at catching zzzs. Embrace the daytime ‘Disco Nap’ whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Focus on stress reduction and management, yet another of the 5 Circles of Health. If our nervous system is jacked up from work and home stress we may not want to add to it with a week of daily Murph workouts.

Be kind to yourself but be aware that recovery does not mean laying on the sofa watching Netflix all day. Active recovery is key.

So that is what we consider to be a good, well rounded movement practice. You can of course add to it or modify it to meet your own needs.

And this has been our approach to training for a long time, based on what we understood to be an ancestral framework of human movement. I recently read paleo-anthropologist Daniel Lieberman’s book Exercised and have been pleasantly surprised, and not a little smug, to see him concur with pretty much all of our approach to coaching people. Definitely worth a read.

So go forth, Wildlings, and shake your money makers, move your bodies in all of the glorious ways nature intended for them. And remember to have fun.

If you are interested in our free upcoming Wild Reboot then join our mailing list. The Wild Reboot is a free 14 day introduction to the 5 Circles of Health.

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