What Does a Moonwalking Dog Have to do with Your Exercise Routine? Exercise vs Training

Many of you probably know me as a “fix it” guy for specific injuries, and that’s great because it helped you find me. But I think it’s time we discussed the bigger picture of how we approach training in general. This way you can be sure that your time spent in the gym isn’t giving you injuries, but is building a strong, injury proof body instead.

First, let’s make sure we all know the difference between an exercise routine and a training program.

When you exercise, it’s for the benefits of that singular session. It could be a group class or weight lifting session and the goal can be to elevate your heart rate, burn calories, maybe even get a pump, or relax and sleep better at night. Whatever the benefits you’re after, the point is that the exercise sessions aren’t dependent on each other for the desired benefits.

What elevates your exercise session to a training session is a training program! Training programs focus on specific goals that you work towards over time.

Stout Stella

Let’s use my awesome dog Stella as an example. I can take her to the park, run around with her, wrestle a bit, maybe play fetch. Then when we’re done playing, I give her a bunch of snacks to eat and we go home. That’s like exercise for your body.

Or I could take her to the park and train her to stand on her hind legs and moonwalk like Michael Jackson. This would probably take many sessions to accomplish. The first week or two I’ll be trying to get her to just stand tall in place. Then we’d spend a month getting the moon-walk down right. Finally, we work on the crotch grab. Every time she pays attention and makes an effort in the right direction, I’ll reward her with a treat. This is like training for your body.

In both cases, after three months, we spent fun quality time together in the park. But in the training example there is this whole other, very cool accomplishment that comes with that fun quality time. How awesome would it be having her moonwalk for my friends when they come over for drinks instead of just running around chasing her tail?! 

The truth is you’re already training your body whether you know it or not. How you eat, drink, sleep, think and move matters. They all send messages to the body, good and bad. Over the next year I plan to discuss how you can manipulate all these aspects of your life to become more of the person you would like to be, but for now let’s stay with the fundamental movement patterns.

Now that you see the difference between exercise and training, let’s look at the first ingredient of any good training program. That’s making sure it contains all of the fundamental movement patterns. If certain patterns are overlooked or underdeveloped, imbalances will develop with time and this leads to injury. So what are these key ingredients?

Here at Overhaul Training, we break up human movement into 7 fundamental patterns.

They are:

  1. Squat
  2. Lunge
  3. Hip Hinge
  4. Push
  5. Pull
  6. Rotation
  7. Carry

I think of fundamental movement patterns like the primary colors.

Primary Colors

If you’re a painter and you have the 3 primary colors on your palette, you can combine them to create any other colors you wish. But if the blue is dry and crusty, it doesn’t mix well with red, and now you can’t paint that beautiful purple plum.

Movement is similar.  If you’re a baseball pitcher and your lunge is shaky, stiff or weak, when you combine it with a push, your pitch will not be as strong as it could.

body-weight-lunge

UCLA wins 10-1. RHP Trevor Bowers records his 10th win of the season.

The first place we start is testing your ability to perform the foundational movements. We want to see what moves well and what doesn’t. For this we do a Movement Audit.

Here’s your directions. You’ll notice that I only give you a photo of the set-up. That’s because I want you to do the movement without any visual cues from me. Let’s see how you move on your own.

  IMG_3205 IMG_3186  SQUAT

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side and two from the front. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Find a stance that’s comfortable for you, generally between hip width and shoulder width.
  • Lace fingers behind your head, elbows wide.
  • Keeping feet flat on floor, squat as low as you can with eyes forward and a tall posture.

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  IMG_3187 IMG_3188  LUNGE

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side with the knee touching the floor, for each side. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Grab a broomstick or dowel. You can pretend to hold it if one isn’t available. The right hand is in the curve of the back of your neck holding the top. The left hand is in the curve of your lower back holding the bottom. Keep your tailbone and the back of your head in contact with the stick.
  • Take a medium size step with your left foot, feet in-line with each other.
  • Slowly lower your right knee and gently touch the floor before standing back up. Stay tall and upright with your tailbone and the back of your head still in contact with the stick.
  • Switch sides; left hand in the curve of your neck, right hand in the curve of your lower back, step with your right foot and lower your left knee.

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  IMG_3189  HIP HINGE

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Stand with your back to the wall, 1 foot (0.3 meters) away from it with arms reaching overhead.
  • Bending mostly at the hips and slightly at the knees, reaching your butt back to touch the wall. Arms are still reaching overhead and your back remains straight.
  • Return to standing straight.

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    IMG_3191   PUSH

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Lying flat on the floor with face down, place your hands shoulder width, thumbs in line with your collarbone.
  • Tuck toes under, lock knees and push your body up in one solid piece, stiff as a board.

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  IMG_3196  PULL

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Using either a Smith Machine or barbell and squat rack, set the bar just below chest height.
  • Take an overhand grip on the bar, shoulder width.
  • Straighten your body stiff as a board and walk your feet back until you’re at a 45 degree angle.
  • Pull your chest to the bar and then lower back down.

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  IMG_3202  ROTATION

  • Film 3 repetitions from the side with the reaching arm. Tell the camera if there is any pain or discomfort describing the location and feeling.
  • Begin on all fours with hands directly below shoulders and knees below hips, about 6 inches apart.
  • Eyes remain fixed on the floor, shoulders and hips remain level from one side to the next.
  • Reach your left arm to the wall in front of you and your right heel to the wall behind you.
  • Now do your best to touch that elbow and knee together, reach them away again and return to the floor.

Are you flexible enough to move through a full range of motion with proper body alignment? Are both sides symmetrical? Does anything hurt? Do you look stable or are you shaking all over the place?

If you are lacking mobility (flexibility) and can’t perform an exercise with full range of motion we turn to foam rolling and stretching. The foam rolling helps release trigger points in the muscles and glued down sections of fascia. The stretching further breaks down the adhesions in your muscles and connective tissue.

If you’re lacking stability and are shaking or wobbling during an exercise, it’s because your nervous system hasn’t learned how to tell the many muscles that move you how to do so in a graceful way. Let’s focus on the range of motion you can do well and slowly increase it to the areas needing improvement. Your movements should be slow, deliberate and you only add extra weight when it is no longer challenging.

It’s important to understand that if you’re stiff and lack flexibility, it is crucial to work on them together.

Your body performing a movement pattern is like an orchestra playing a symphony. To sound  beautiful, each instrument must learn their part; when to play, which notes and how loud. Just like your muscles must learn when to contract, how much force to use and when to release. Your brain is the conductor, leading the orchestra of muscles.

And once a movement pattern looks good, we can then focus on doing it heavier, faster or for more reps.

If you’re not sure about exactly what you’re looking for in these movements that’s OK, it can take years of training to see what’s going on. Fortunately, I have two decades of experience and I’m here to help. 

All you need to do is film yourself performing the Movement Audit and share it on my Facebook page. I’ll give you feedback on what moves well and what needs some work. I’ll also tell you exactly what to do for it. If you could just edit out the extra footage between movements we’d all thank you (mainly, I thank you).

If you think you have all these foundational movements down, your next step is the Foundational Strength Challenge.

Are you ready for your first challenge? Keep an eye out, I’ll be sending that to you in next week’s post.

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