Coach Caleb’s Corner
The Human Body… is there an App for That?
In this sci-fi age of powerful computers in everyone’s pockets and apps for everything, it would seem that anything we need help with can be digitally facilitated. Almost anything, that is. For some endeavors we still need to get physical. Getting fit and strong is one of those hands-on activities that still uses technology that was available to us pre-iPhone.
However… Consider the possibility that there is an “operating system” for athletic endeavors, which needs to be running properly to get your best results. Just like the OS on your phone, this human movement operating system can make or break the apps you try to use. If we keep the system up to date with the latest improvements, your apps are far less likely to crash. If we neglect a few updates though, it might not be safe to run those “Crush Your PRs,” “Get Shredded” or even “Firm and Tone” apps anymore! So what, pray tell, is this amazing system? I’m so glad you asked because it’s a proprietary Breakthrough Strength & Fitness blend of bodyweight movement skills training that can improve your performance for just about any physical task.
You might have heard this one before, but I’ll say it again; strength is a skill. What do we really mean by this? When we say this, we don’t just mean lifting heavier, we’re actually talking about a lot more than brute force. In our context, the skill of strength also means the skill of stability, of mobility and of coordination. The ability to balance, to move our joints freely and to achieve more intense, coordinated muscle contractions are all trainable skills which net impressive increases in sports performance, body composition and the quality of life in general. Let’s face it, owning a body that moves well and feels strong is way more fun! The progressive skill development techniques from programs like StrongFirst Bodyweight, Functional Movement Systems, Yoga Tune Up® and Flexible Steel form a solid, principles-based system that can chart a course toward success for any fitness challenge we set our minds to. These principles for training the body are what you might think of as our “operating system” for all the apps (fitness goals) you like to run on your device (body). Ha! I’m a bit too fond of analogy, apparently.
In the world of fitness, we are forever inundated with tools, tech, and supplements which promise a better tomorrow. Lost in this maelstrom of material is the body itself which is supposed to wield these implements! It’s not the tool, of course, but the body and mind that uses it that makes the difference. Movement matters. Just think about that for a second. The way we perform a movement is often the only thing making the difference between safety and injury! Ergo, a body that moves well also performs well and is safer to use than one that doesn’t care about how it moves.
To illustrate these concepts a bit further, let’s talk about pull ups. I don’t mean those swinging, kipping things, I mean hanging motionless from a bar with your elbows straight and then pulling yourself up until your chin is above the bar. One of the most common fitness goals that we love to tackle at Breakthrough is helping students achieve a personal best with this feat of strength. In some cases it’s one pull up, and in others it’s 21 pull ups. In either case, which ingredient do you think matters more, the pull up bar we use, or the body that’s doing the pull ups? Right. It’s the bar. Just kidding! This is an exercise that you just can’t fake your way through. In order to run the pull up app, you need an operating system that supports it. We need to create that system by enabling a favorable body composition, training the requisite mobility and teaching the muscles to maximally contract in the correct sequence. Getting to know how to steer bodyweight with the greatest efficiency and under complete control by breaking the movements down into a series of drills, now that’s how to build a formidable platform to safely run complex programs on.
High performance and safety is achieved by what an athlete does with his or her own body, not just the equipment used in training or on the field. Athletes with greater control over their own bodies are more likely to succeed in most endeavors. I have not had the pleasure of trying this, but I suspect it would be far easier to teach a gymnast to play golf, than to teach a golfer to perform an iron cross on the rings. The gymnast’s general physical preparedness is likely to be better, of course, and that preparedness is rooted in the ability to maximize their skills in bodyweight-only movements.
Too often, we blame our embattled bodies for letting us down in some way. “I’m too big,” “I’m too small,” “I’m not fast enough,” “I’m not strong enough.” And then we seek a solution outside of our own selves to try to fix things, or to blame if we don’t succeed at fixing things. We speed through our warm up instead of really checking in… or treat bodyweight exercises like planks or push ups as less important than deadlifts and military presses… or we try to avoid movement patterns we aren’t naturally good at and we check out mentally on exercises we think we are already proficient in.
Whether it’s a kettlebell, barbell, TRX, ProBar or your own body, the “tool” is only as effective as how it is used. The bodies we’ve got are eager to support us if we can keep their operating systems up to date. Fitness is about the body, so maintaining mobility, strength and control in steering our bodyweight (whether unweighted or under a load) will boost our achievements in any physical activity, and help us look and feel good doing it!