There’s a thousand right ways to do almost anything. I know that’s not what you wanna hear, but it’s the truth.
For any skill you wanna learn, the right focus is gonna depend on where you’re at, what impediments you have, your natural strengths, your goals, your context, and whatever other training or activities you’re into. All that stuff impacts how your practice works, and that’s a lot of variables to balance in a master equation.
So how do you choose the right details to focus on? By now you know you can’t do it all at once…
In this episode, Ryan and Andy yap about:
- What kinds of details are important when you’re learning a new skill or working on an exercise
- What we optimize for personally and as coaches in GMB programs
- Why good form is subjective and why that doesn’t stop good coaches from providing useful cues for performance and practice
In every program we’ve created there’s hundreds of details and decisions we’ve made, and we can’t explain each of those, but this discussion will give you a sense of the value hierarchy behind them and why we focus on certain things more than others.
You’ll be able to look at conflicting opinions and viewpoints expressed by different teachers and understand why they differ and which side is most appropriate for you.
Stick it in your earhole.
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Some of the resources mentioned:
- Article: Learning the Benefits of Good Form
- Podcast: What the Hell is Good Form?
- Example of Technical Cues: How to Do an L-Sit
- Program for Transitional Movement: Mobius
- Another Cues Example: Locomotion Exercises
Transcript of Exercise Technique – Focusing on the Right Details for Safety and Results
Andy: Alright, alright. Welcome to the Generally Mediocre Biotechnology Podcast. Here I am. I’m Andy. Dr. Ryan, who is not a doctor.
Ryan: I only play one on podcasts.
Andy: That’s right, that’s right. So today, we’re going to be talking about details. So GMB’s known for our tutorials, being very detailed, very clear explanation of a lot of movements that people seem to think are very complex. Well, they are complex, and things that a lot of people gloss over we try to make them accessible by providing a lot of details.
Andy: So we’re going to talk about why we choose those details and what’s important about those and a little bit about how you can make sure that you’re choosing the right things to focus on when you train. So this is going to be helpful for coaches but definitely helpful for everyone trying to figure out, “Of all the things I could be trying to focus on when I practice, what’s most important?”
Ryan: Yes. And like anything, I mean different coaches, different teachers all teach different ways. The way that we teach we’re not saying it’s the best, but for what we’re doing at GMB, it is the best way. And so today, we’re going to be looking at some things, for example, our values and why teach the way we teach and the ways that can help you for what you want to be doing.
Andy: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it gets people’s knickers in a twist … I like that phrase. It gets people’s knickers in a twist when you say, “This is the way we suggest doing something,” and then it’s not what they’re used to. So what they’ll do is they’ll fire back, “Well, this coach said do it this way, and this guy said do it this way. And this guy said you should never bend your back. And this guy said that you should squat this way.” Well, this guy’s talking about squatting with 1,000 pounds on his back.
Andy: And everyone wants to say, “Well, oh my God, why do these different people calling themselves experts have different opinions? Somebody must be wrong.” And the truth is that sometimes experts are wrong, for one. But also different experts are expert in different things, and they’re living in different contexts, different situations. And so they are choosing the details that they focus on based on those contexts. And some of it is preference, but some of it comes down to the values of what is important to them and their clients.
Andy: So that’s what we’re going to be talking about a lot. For GMB, our values come down to building your autonomy, making sure that you’re able to do this for the long run, longevity, and also making it fun. Those three things are what we try to focus on. So we will get further into each of those later on.
Andy: But first, let’s talk a little bit about specifics with this because I know, Ryan, when you’re teaching in seminars, this comes up a lot when you demonstrate a movement or you’ll just go on and give people a coaching cue. And it very often happens that the people with the most experience are the ones that get the most hung up.
Andy: Do you have any specific examples of a particular move or something?
Ryan: Absolutely. This is great. And it’s a topic that comes out every single workshop, seminar, event that we teach. A great example is when we’re showing the crab movement in GMB. And so in GMB, I ask the people have their fingers facing to the outside. Okay? We always have someone, pretty much every single time, someone that’s gone through Animal Flow. Now, for those of you who know me, you know that Mike Fitch is a good friend of mine. And the thing with Animal Flow is that they teach the hand position differently.
Ryan: So which is correct? And the answer is yes. The reason I say that is because we have different goals for what we’re after when we’re performing the crab. And so with Mike’s, I’m not going to try and explain why Mike does it the way he does. That’s Mike’s way of doing it for Animal Flow. We have specific reasons for why we do that in GMB. That’s one example.
Ryan: The other thing is also the A-frame position that we have. And so this is an assessment movement that we use. And right off the bat, a lot of people will say, “Hey, that’s just downward-facing dog in yoga.” And the thing is is, yes, it looks that way, but there are different reasons for why we do or use that particular position in GMB.
Ryan: And so this is something that I always mention when people come to our seminars is I respect everyone for the knowledge that they have, but I would like everyone to take that knowledge and just kind of put it to the side for a second and just look at what we’re trying to do with open eyes. And so rather than saying, “Okay, we’re correct,” we just say, “Hey, listen, here’s a different way to look at it.” And unfortunately, though, on the interwebs, we have a lot of people that don’t really do that.
Ryan: Another great example is whenever I show a hollow-body plank, you get the yoga people say, “No, that’s incorrect. That’s not the way to do a plank.” And, hey, whatever. We all have our reasons for doing what we’re doing.
Andy: Right. And I think this is really important because you’ve studied several martial arts-
Ryan: Yoga, yes.
Andy: … Gymnastics, yoga, various fitness modalities. Jarlo has been a physical therapist for more than 10 years now, done several martial arts, is actively teaching self-defense and other things. I’ve done martial art for quite a while. And we have experienced a lot of things. And so we understand that these moves keep coming up in a lot of contexts. But specifically in GMB, we’re not teaching GMB as a martial art or as yoga or as whatever or any of these other contexts. So when we use movements that are also seen in these things, we’re not using them in those contexts.
Andy: Where gymnastics is a great example because we teach a lot of things that come from gymnastics, but we’re not teaching them in a sport gymnastics context or even a recreational gymnastics context for somebody trying to get the higher-level gymnastics skills. We’re teaching them in a fitness context for people that are trying to get stronger and move better. And so the things that are important in that are different.
Andy: And it’s really important to understand people want to look at something and say, “Oh, well, that’s a movement from this.” And even not getting into that, we’ve written and talked about that before. “So you should do it this way.” Well, you should do it that way if you’re doing it for that purpose. Right? If you’re doing a break fall for judo, you should do it one way. If you’re doing a rolling maneuver for making your body more limber and
flexible and building your spatial awareness, well, that’s completely different.
Andy: You don’t need to be worried about necessarily the surface that you’re falling on. You don’t need to be able to get up in a position that has you tactically grounded. You don’t need to keep your eye on your opponent as soon as possible if you’re doing this for spatial awareness and for general fitness. If you’re doing this in Judo, you better bet your ass that you’ve got to get your feet under you and get your eyes on your opponent ASAP.
Ryan: And so, yeah, it comes back to the goals. What is the purpose? Why are you doing this? And like you said, with the background, my background in Judo, multiple martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, not trying to showcase Brazilian jiu-jitsu in GMB. We’re not trying to showcase something in that. We’re simply saying, “Hey, let’s look at improving your strength. Let’s look at improving your flexibility. Let’s look at improving your control and doing it in a way that you can use it for the other things in your life that you want to be doing and apply it to that.”
Ryan: So that’s the big differentiation is that we’re not doing a specific sport or a specific activity. We’re training to have better physical autonomy and wide ranges of moves and, again, coming back to longevity as well as having fun with it. Yeah.
Andy: Right. Absolutely. So we could probably give dozens of examples of specific details that we do in ways that are different from what people are used to. I think the crab and the A-frame down dog and some of these other things, some of these movements from martial arts are probably good enough to give people a good idea of what we’re talking about. So let’s move, we’ll get more into how we choose the specific details later. But let’s talk briefly about also general guidance on details for exercise form, why this is important, and sort of how we think about detail and how we think about form.
Andy: I believe we have an article about this on our website. And we have done a previous podcast on what good form means. But we haven’t really talked too much about why we make the decisions we do about that, where that thinking comes from. And so I think this is a good place to say that just like we kind of alluded to, we’re not really attached too much to the right ways of doing things in a particular context. We’re not really worried about exercise names or the semantics about stuff.
Andy: In fact, we have a program that has a variety of different movements in it that’s made for building muscle control. And we specifically avoid naming any of the exercises in that because we don’t want people to bring their preconceived experiences and ideas into the daily practice. So that’s what we don’t really care about. So let’s talk about what we do care about this.
Ryan: Yes. Number one thing that we’re looking after … Well, I don’t want to say number one. One of the things that we’re looking at is, first off, safety, and can you get into a particular position safely and perform that particular position or movement safely? And that’s of course not just leading to longevity, also looking at physical autonomy. And the reason why is that if you force yourself to do something, then that means that you don’t have that autonomy.
Ryan: An example would be coming back to the gymnastics side of thing. I was a competitive gymnast very long time. There are certain things that you’re required to do. And you have to do that in order to receive a particular point or score. The thing is, if that’s something that you’re working towards, you’re going to focus only on those particular things. What we’re after, though, really is looking at where you currently are in your body. What can you do safely right now in order to help you work towards that autonomy, work towards that longevity, and as well have fun?
Ryan: So that’s why specific things. The why that we do things is, first off, looking at that safety.
Andy: And if I can pause you right there, I just want to give a really clear example of a thing where sport rules really define what people practice. I mean you gave something from gymnastics that there are specific things that people have to do. So of course gymnasts practice those things. But here’s a really simple example. So I went to a tournament a long time ago for Kyokushin Karate. Kyokushin Karate you punch to the body. You cannot punch to the head. You can kick to the head. It’s a full-contact style, but because of the rules, people are optimized to know that within a certain distance, their head is safe. So they don’t cover their head.
Andy: And I was watching these people. They’re getting right up in each other’s faces and just doing body punches and not even caring about their head because the rules forbid that. My martial art, we have a lot of things that are not allowed. When MMA kind of first started with the UFC and all the BJJ guys were just destroying all of these boxers and karate guys because none of these joint techniques or grappling moves were ever allowed in Karate practice. Right?
Andy: And so these are examples where you can see that people can get to a very high level in something, and in their context, they look like they’re really good at it. But because of the rules of engagement, because of the assumptions of that context, they leave huge holes, huge weaknesses open. And this is true of fitness training as well. If your fitness training is based on the way that is based on dance aerobics or something, then you’re not going to have a whole lot of things with pulling strength. Right?
Andy: If your fitness training is based on the way that somebody trained as a college athlete, you’re going to see a lot of sprints. You’re going to see burpees and stuff like that. You’re probably going to see some weight-room stuff. But there’s going to be a lot of things that are left out from that. There’s not going to be a whole lot of complex movements outside of sport-specific drills. And so this is something that’s really important. The assumptions of the source material get carried forward, and they don’t make sense where you are.
Andy: And so that’s why safety is really important here when you’re looking at things where someone is teaching in a certain context that might not be safe for your context.
Ryan: And likewise, you do see people who get so hooked on something in terms of only using blinders to see it and saying, “Oh, well, that’s not going to help me for X or something like that,” and completely miss the point of why something is being done. Again, you can bring that back to martial art and everything like that as well. But bringing it back to that in terms of safety and things like that, over the years, when we first started with GMB, it was more gymnastic-based things. That’s what we were doing. But we’ve refined it. We’re looking at not doing more but actually doing or taking movements and using movements that perhaps, a good way to look at it is have better carryover for more things and allow a person to focus on less in order to do more of what they want to do down the line.
Ryan: Again, coming back to the crab example, of why we turn the hands out to the side, a couple things, but main things, the two things are, for one, it’s a carryover for when a person is performing the L-sit or a movement similar to where they have to support themself above something where they’re holding on to something. And so when they’re holding on to something, the hands are naturally going to be turned out with the fingers to the outside. That is setting a person up to be able to get stronger, have better flexibility and control in the first position in the crab so that when they move on to those other movements, they’re naturally going to have that feeling for what it hopefully and should feel like when they’re performing that.
Ryan: The other thing too is a lot of people have wrist issues. And some people actually can’t get into the position with the fingers facing forward when they’re performing the crab. And so various reasons for doing this, and, again, the safety portion of it looking at the flexibility of the wrist, the strength of the wrist. Does a person actually have control when they’re moving with their fingers facing out? I’ve just found that doing that actually supports that person for what we’re after, again, in GMB when they’re moving around on the ground and then apply to other particular positions as they advance throughout the progressions.
Andy: I think that’s great because a lot of people look at, we do a lot of variations that don’t seem like they’re moving you toward a goal sometimes.
Ryan: Yeah, a lot, yeah. Exactly. Yeah, people are like, “It’s easy.” Like, great, okay. Exactly.
Andy: We’ll do the bear walk forward and the bear walk backward, and doesn’t change anything.
Ryan: Yeah. There, yeah, that’s it.
Andy: What’s the next progression of the bear? The next progression is get really good at these things. And, yeah.
Andy: But the thing is is what we’re doing is not necessarily trying to get you to something harder. What we’re doing is trying to get you really, really good at these things. And we’re building safety within this by changing it just enough that you’re doing it with your joints or your force vectors in a little different direction, and you’re building safety, building more control in these positions, in these movement ranges.
Andy: So that’s a lot of what we’re trying to do by staying at a relatively low level compared to what a lot of people might assume they’re trying to move toward a goal. We actually stay at a lower level but do similar things at the same low level before we move up. And that is mostly, yeah, physical and psychological.
Ryan: Sure. And you mentioned this earlier too, spatial awareness and other things that a person might not even be aware of that they’re improving while they’re doing that. Also moving into maybe the next topic of since we’re talking about details, trying to keep the cues to a low number and sometimes even just one cue. In fact, that’s something that I really like to focus on during the apprenticeship. In order to become a GMB trainer, you go through the apprenticeship. And that is something that everyone, every candidate has trouble with because they want to try and do all this stuff. And, no. We’re focusing on one single thing.
Ryan: The bear’s a great example. Just shove your butt up into the air as high as you possibly can. Great. When you can do that and you can focus on doing that and don’t forget about doing it, becomes natural, move on to the next cue. Likewise with the crab, do you have your elbow pits facing forward when you’re walking? That’s the only thing in the very beginning you’re going to be focusing on. And so by keeping those cues to a minimum, you’re not overwhelmed with things.
Ryan: And the only issue with that, if there is an issue, is that a lot of people want to hurry up to the next thing. And they think that they have it, and they think that they’re not progressing, or they think that it’s too easy because you’re only focusing on a single thing. But as you mention, keeping the things low, you’ll be getting that feedback if you’re aware of that and you’re open to the fact that it’s about practice and looking at building those skills.
Andy: Yep. And this is something that I mean especially anyone that’s coaching listening to this but also for your own practice as well. I started teaching or helping teach martial art when I was about 12. I was a school teacher for several years. I’ve done corporate training. I’ve taught teaching training in all kinds of different environments. And even in GMB too, when we have our apprenticeship, the number one, absolutely number one, and I say this in the context that I have made this mistake myself in various contexts, the number one rookie mistake as a teacher or coach is to try to fix too many things at once, to try to give too much information, too many details, too many cues.
Andy: And invariably, all this accomplishes is confusing your student or your client and also making it really hard for them to get better at any of those things, any of them. So what you’re actually doing is you’re preventing them from progressing by giving them too many things so they can’t actually fix any of them. So if you’re coaching or even if you are just doing your own workout and trying to figure out, “Where should my mind be right now?” one thing … Like Ryan said, we sometimes give up to three technical cues on an exercise because some of them have a lot going on. And as you progress, you want to be able to fix multiple things.
Andy: But as Bruce Lee is famous for saying, the height of cultivation runs towards simplicity. Remove, always remove. Adding more technical cues does not fix your technique. It never fixes your technique. Adding more things to think about does not make you better. Remove them until you have only one. And that is the best position to be in as a trainer where you can give the one cue that’s going to fix multiple things. That doesn’t mean that we let everything slide, but if we can come up with one cue that fixes multiple things …
Andy: That’s why Ryan says stick your butt up in the A-frame and bear crawl genius because when you stick your butt up, what else happens?
Ryan: Yeah, well, that’s just the thing. You see a person in that A-frame and they can
be sagging, they’re lacking that scapular elevation. They could have their arms bent. They could possibly have their legs bent. The heels are up off of the floor. But by asking that person to push their butt up into the air, what’s happening? Scapular elevation. Arms are going to be locked out. It’s going to improve the lower back in terms of being able to have that pelvic tilt. You’re also looking at elongating the legs in order to get a better stretch facilitated throughout the movement. The heels are going to be going closer.
Ryan: So there’s so many different things. Core activation happens as well. And it’s
about one single cue. And it’s not that we’re trying to fix anything. We’re trying to bring better awareness so that a person can learn what is actually going on in their body. So, yeah.
Andy: Right. So let’s talk about that, awareness of something. This is another, this is the third reason. But we’ll get back to the second one. We kind of reverse order here. It’s all right. It’s all right. You threw me for a loop there, but good transition. And then I fucked it up. Okay, so awareness. This is one of the really big reasons that we have cues. I mean it’s obvious in a sense that why do you cue something to bring awareness to it? You say something so somebody pays attention to it.
Andy: But beyond that, we’re trying to bring awareness not just to specific things, but awareness in general, right, because what happens a lot of times is if you look at a video and you may not know what that person is thinking or why they’re doing a thing or even what context they’re practicing in, but you look at a video and you say, “I will do the thing in that video.” Right? And then you try to mimic it as best you can. And if you’re 70% there, you think, “I’m doing it.”
Andy: And are you paying particular attention to the way your force transfers over the surface of your foot as your weight shifts? Nope. Are you paying attention to exactly where your fingers are pointing and your joint alignment? Are you doing this in the safest way? Are you doing this in a way that makes it easier for you to learn something from this? No, you’re just doing what feels like what the thing looks like.
Andy: And so without something to focus on, you blast through it. What we do is we try to give you cues to bring your awareness back to the fact that you’re practicing, not that you’re following something on a video. Bring your focus back to your body. If you just get a cue like just stick your butt up or feel your hand on the floor, even that is just enough to bring your awareness back to your body and not just the cue but to other parts. So bringing the awareness into your experience, and we like to give cues that are not just externally rotating your scapula, because nobody knows what the hell that means. Right?
Ryan: So I also want to add to that. Sorry to interrupt, but if you’re the kind of coach who’s giving this long cue, where asking them to do this long thing, it’s not going to happen. It’s got to be short, and it’s got to be a cue that the person can actually do. It’s like telling a person to relax or something like that. How the hell do you relax? Or in the muscle-up, it always drives me crazy, sorry, I’m going to go on a rant here, when people are like, “You got to get your shoulders over your hands, get your shoulder …” Well, how the hell do you get your shoulders over your hands? There’s one thing: elbows back, elbows back, giving them that one cue.
Ryan: That happens. Give them a cue that is going to allow them to perform that without having to think too much about what’s going on in there. That is where the awareness comes because it brings it to a certain one point and allows them to perform that. Then they can learn what it means to be aware rather than just asking a person to relax.
Andy: Right. Someone who already has exceptional motor control and body awareness, they can do things like elevate the scapula, externally rotate the elbow, tilt the pelvis. People can do that, right? People that’ve done a lot of practice with breathing and things like that, they can actually feel their diaphragm move. And so we know how to relax the diaphragm. But if I’m coaching someone and I’m like, “Relax your diaphragm, use your stomach muscles to breathe,” or something like that, they’re going to be like, “What that fuck are you smoking, man?” They don’t know what that feels like.
Andy: And so you can’t give cues that are based on anatomical structures to people that don’t already have immense levels of control and awareness. Give cues. Your cue has to be something that you can feel. It has to be something that you can feel. Press your palms into the floor. Stick your butt up. Right? Pull your knees tight to your chest.
Ryan: Yeah, squeeze your butt, whatever, yeah.
Andy: Drop your shoulders down to your ribs or whatever. Give a feeling that people can know they’re doing it right, because otherwise, they’re not going to get any of this stuff. And this is about awareness, right? This is how someone knows they’re doing the cue correctly. If I say, “Externally rotate something,” they’re going to be like, “Is there a mirror I can check if I’m doing it correctly?” because they have that external point of view to even know.
Ryan: Right, exactly, yeah. And again, this is why we use these cues. And this is why over the years, teaching seminars in person, yes, we could talk about anatomy, but the problem is is the people in a seminar, if they don’t have the same vocabulary and they don’t understand what’s going on, it’s not going to happen. So how can you explain it to the entire group of people out there in a way that’s going to allow everyone to participate and fully understand what’s going on? And so that’s another reason why we give cues the way that we do.
Ryan: Now, coming back to something, I’m kind of leading into the next thing, but you mentioned bringing awareness into that movement, sometimes people might be thinking about, “Okay, I need to push down and through the floor as I perform this movement, but they’re still rushing through the movement, and they’re missing out. And so one of the best things and something coming back to the apprenticeship that we’re talking about that pretty much we say every single day for every single movement is, “Slow down.”
Ryan: And even when we say, “Slow down,” people think they’re going slow when they’re still going fast because we’re so used to exercising rather than practicing a movement. And there’s a big difference there. It’s difference between just getting your sweat on and blowing through a workout and actually learning and being aware, what we were talking about, in a movement. And the way to do that is by slowing it down to the point where you’re like, “I’ve never done it this slow before.” Great, you’re going to get so much feedback by doing that.
Ryan: It’s going to be much harder. Great. That’s why going down to that first variation, that first progression, if you will, of a movement is actually so important because if you can’t do that movement at its lowest level at the beginning slow as possible and know everything about it, it’s going to be difficult when you move towards the next thing.
Ryan: And by the way, I’m not saying that you should only perform that basic movement for a year or something like that. I encourage people to move on and play and explore. I’m just saying that the way to get better at things is by slowing it down and bringing awareness into those foundation movements so that you’re able to then explore I don’t want to say better but maybe more. Open your options up and allow yourself to do more.
Ryan: Great thing here. Just yesterday, I was on Instagram. And recently I posted a video about me doing a lot of different rolling variations and things like that. And the question is, “I could never do that, Ryan. How can I be able to do that?” Or something like that. Well, the answer’s pretty simple in the sense that you just start at the basics with the basics, and you get better…
Ryan: Lots and lots of break falls…
Andy: I mean the answer is easy. You basically you start gymnastics at age, what, nine, keep doing that, then do lots of martial arts and stuff. And then you’ll be able to do everything like us.
Ryan: The answer is you can’t compare. If you want to be able to do that stuff, you’ll start at age five in gymnastics. But anything, though, if you want to learn, it’s like, “Oh, great, I want to be able to play guitar like that guy.” Okay, you got to start at beginning, and you just got to practice. You just got to learn the basics, get very, very comfortable with the basics. When you get to a certain level, then it’s a matter of exploration. And that’s where that awareness comes in, because you can’t just hope to just, “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do this, and it’s going to be, and it’s going to be this.”
Ryan: It’s not this linear progression of anything. It’s that foundation, slowing things down, being aware, focusing on a single thing at one time, then when you start to get better, opening up your mind, if you will, to be able to explore new things but, again, always coming back to that foundation and making sure that you’re honing that craft. And so this is the difference between an athlete and a great athlete is that their awareness and their ability to understand what’s going on when they’re performing their foundational movements. And that’s really kind of where it’s at.
Andy: Yeah. And I think this is really important to understand is that when you see people that are very gifted technically or athletically, you still have to understand that just because they can do everything effortlessly now, they didn’t start that way. Nobody started that way, none of them.
Ryan: Better you than me, man.
Andy: We have, I just answered some comments on YouTube, which God help me, the comments seriously. We get some great comments, some very intelligent questions, everything too. But it’s also YouTube. And so you get a lot of really ignorant and stupid comments. But we also have some comments from people that I can see where they’re coming from.
Andy: So our cartwheel tutorial for some reason has been trending or something lately. We’ve gotten a lot of comments on it. Somebody linked to it or something. And we got a bunch of comments like, “I want to see somebody who can’t do a cartwheel do a cartwheel.” Well, if they can’t do a cartwheel, how would they do a cartwheel?
Ryan: Exactly, yep.
Andy: “Well, you’re just showing a person who already knows how to do a cartwheel on your cartwheel tutorial.” Well, yes, because how can we teach something that we can’t do? How can we show you how to do a cartwheel without knowing how to do a cartwheel? That doesn’t make any sense.
Ryan: Oh, okay.
Andy: Well, how do you know … One comment I think is, “I want to know if this is real or if it works.” And I assure you, cartwheels are real. Cartwheels exist. Cartwheels are out there in the wild existing for people. Cartwheels are very real. And cartwheels work. And the thing is the first time I tried a cartwheel, I fell down. Second time and the 10th time, I fell down. And the thing is you probably will too. But the difference between me and somebody looking at this YouTube video is my first time trying a cartwheel, I was seven. And now, at 40-something, I’ve been doing cartwheels a long, damn time.
Andy: But that does not mean that the process is really significantly different. I just did the work that you have to do now in the past. And so to bring it back to what we’re talking about with the details of all this stuff, all of these things are about understanding that it is a process. Awareness of how your body is moving is a process that you have to develop over time. And that’s why we have these cues to give you this so that you can do these things easily, not just throw your body upside down and not die. That’s not a cartwheel. Right?
Andy: So it takes time, but spending the time, building that awareness is what makes you able to do things effortlessly. Spending the time in it, experiencing it, doing that is important. You’re not just going to see a tutorial and know how to do it and be able to do it. I mean you can with some things, but you’re still not mastering that thing, and you’re not owning it, and you’re not going to be very good at it.
Ryan: Mm-hmm, yeah. It’s-
Andy: And so that’s why we throw a lot of cues in here that are kind of like a monkey wrench just to slow you down and literally to slow your progress. I mean, you just said you want people to move forward with stuff, but also we do want to move forward not at a jumping-ahead rate but at a rate that allows you to actually really master things.
Ryan: Absolutely. And just to go a little bit deeper in that topic, there are particular groups out there that say you have to have a certain duration of time before you’re allowed to move on and things like that. That’s great. But the thing is is let’s focus on that awareness. Are you truly aware of what’s going on in your body? And if you are, well then, hey, keep practicing, keep focusing on that, and then try the next progression, variation, whatever. Are you comfortable with that? Are you able to do that safely?
Ryan: Then it comes back to the safety part of it. We’re looking at, again, that longevity, being able to not just do it now and get a particular trick, but be able to enjoy this stuff for as long as possible without breaking your shit. And so awareness, that’s why we keep bringing things back to the awareness and being able to work towards that autonomy, mastering a particular movement. Focus on the process.
Ryan: Yes, the goal is great. Figure out your goal. Okay? Have it align with your values. But the thing is is once you’ve figured out your goal, then it’s time to look at the process to get you there. Focus on that process. And then enjoy it, coming back to the fun, our value of fun. And that’s what it’s after.
Ryan: If you’ve chosen something that you just it’s killing you, you don’t really enjoy it, hey, move on. Throw it away. Put it to the side. You’re still a good person. It’s fine. Well, you might be an asshole, I don’t know. But put it to the side. Find something that-
Ryan: Yeah. But bringing it back to what we’re talking about with our values and when we’re talking about the autonomy, we’re talking about longevity, we’re talking about fun, this is what it’s after.
Andy: It’s a distinct possibility.
Ryan: And that’s why we’ve got things set up the way we do, focusing on that safety portion of it. Make sure that you’re prepared to be able to perform this particular movement, being able to do it safely so that you can enjoy the process. And after you put in the time on the mat or wherever you’re doing this, you will achieve that. And that’s also looking at longevity. So, yeah.
Andy: Yep. All right, so last bit. We’ve alluded to this in a few ways, but just to be completionists about it, the kind of third reason for choosing details in this, we said safety, we said awareness, and the other one is just to … This is maybe one of the most obvious ones. So I don’t think we need to spend as much time on it, but to set yourself up for other movements. Prepare yourself to be able to do more difficult stuff-
Ryan: Oh, absolutely. We could even go back to the crab.
Andy: … Or set yourself up for a different variation or something else.
Ryan: We can go back to the A-frame. And the reason why is, I already mentioned this
before, but just jumping up and trying…
Andy: You have maybe just a really simple example of that?
Ryan: Yeah, you might be able to do it. You might be able to. But if you’ve never been on the rings before and you just jump up on the rings and try it, you’re going to look like you’re having a seizure up there. So take a step back. Let’s look at the crab. Let’s look at the setup. Let’s build that strength. Let’s build that flexibility. Let’s build that control. And let’s spend some time there working on that, preparing yourself in order to move towards those other skills.
Ryan: And a lot of people are saying … To come into the handstand, for example, a person comes to me, they’re like, “I want to do a handstand.” I’m like, “Great, okay. Let’s work on your wrist mobility.” And they’re like, “No, no, no. I want to get upside down into a handstand.” “Yeah, I get that. But we’re preparing you to be able to safely perform that handstand so that you’re not just jumping up in there, you’re not going to hurt your wrist and have to take a month or two months off to let your wrists heal so that you can’t be working on a handstand.”
Ryan: So that’s why prep and setting yourself up is so important. And, yes, you can watch YouTube and see the sparkly, shiny skills out there that you might want to get to right away. But focusing on that setup, looking at exactly where you are, assessing where you are in your body and what you need, in the long run, is going to help you to get towards that goal faster.
Andy: Yeah. And so you mentioned wrists for handstands. And that’s a great one. But maybe something that’s even easier to understand with handstands is for years and years and years, I just saw people throw themselves up against the wall and try to hold it until they got strong enough or confident enough to try to balance. But we’ve always, or and by “we,” I mean you, because all our handstand coaching comes from you, you’ve always taught people to practice facing the belly against the wall instead of the back, which a lot of people found different or uncomfortable or weird or didn’t see the point in.
Andy: But the difference between belly to the wall and back to the wall is this is something that we’re practicing because with your belly to the wall, it allows you to focus on a straighter line, on better alignment, which is setting you up to be able to have a straight line when you’re not on the wall. Right? So it’s a very simple thing where we do it one way as opposed to the way that a lot of other people were doing it at the time we started doing this.
Andy: And now, more people are doing belly to wall. It’s all because of us. They just copied us. We invented it. We invented both walls and bellies. So everyone else can suck it right there. But you see a lot more people doing this because it clearly works, right? You’re building not just your time on your hands and you’re aware of being upside down.
Ryan: And to go even further with that, the is another thing too. And this is coming back to the cartwheel. Why do we …
Andy: You’re actively improving the straightness of your line so that it’s easier to hold. So sure.
Ryan: One of the reasons we have cartwheels is because that is the weight portion on the hands. And the more comfortable that you can be able to perform the cartwheel, it’s going to take away that fear factor when you’re working away from the wall. So these are also little things too that we’re always looking at, considering, and trying to refine to make it easier for all of you who want to do the things that you want to do. So, yeah, there you go.
Andy: Cool. So let’s kind of wrap things up. Just to summarize some of the key points here, we choose a lot of specific details. We and every other coach on the planet chooses those specific details that we are going to focus on with exercises. And the best way to do something is always going to be dependent on your context and your goals. And it has nothing to do with where somebody wants to claim a movement originated from. That doesn’t matter unless that context and goal is the same as yours.
Andy: And this is one reason why it’s really important to seek out coaches who have experience in multiple kinds of training rather than just somebody who maybe is very gifted in a single sport but only knows that sport or only knows martial arts or gymnastics or weight room or only knows kettlebells or whatever. Those are fantastic things, but you’re only going to be able to learn a little bit of that.
Ryan: Other thing too, form, good form. We’re looking at good form.
Andy: You’re going to be able to learn a lot from that coach but maybe not so much apply to other things outside of that.
Ryan: Good form is dependent upon what you’re doing and your goal, comes back to just what Andy was saying as well. And so, for example, pointing your toes. When I ask a person to point their toes in the handstand, it’s not simply because we’re trying to look good and get points. There’s an actual reason behind why I ask you to point those toes. And you can check out the handstand tutorials and our articles for that. But good form is dependent upon the goal. And so what might be bad form elsewhere might be good form because we have a different reason for doing it. So, yeah.
Ryan: Then the other thing too, the cues, like we were talking about. Focus on the cues that are going to help you to move towards that particular goal. Not a lot of cues. You don’t need them. In the beginning, I just suggest one. Coming in, if we’re in a seminar, maybe you’re looking at one of our articles, something like that, we’re going to give you multiple cues. Why? Because we’re trying to cram a lot of information down your throat right now. But when you’re practicing, focus on that one, single cue that’s going to do, or pardon me, that’s going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Andy: Yep, absolutely. And overall, for GMB, our values are longevity, autonomy, fun. And so that’s what we think is important. So we really recommend that you focus on the details that you choose to make primary on your safety, on setting you up for what you’re trying to do, and also on just being really aware of what your body is doing. Those are the things that we’ve found build this autonomy and fun and help you be able to do this for the long haul. So that’s what’s really important to us.
Andy: So just to wrap up with a really quick tip, this is something that when Ryan and I were putting this together, we started thinking, well, maybe it would be good for people listening to this to apply this logic to what you’re doing right now, what you’re doing right now. I think it’s very underrated to be detailed and clear about stuff.
Andy: So what I would suggest is just get a piece of paper and write down every kind of exercise-related activity that you do, maybe in a single session or maybe over an entire week. It doesn’t matter. But just write them all out. Okay? So that’s one. That’s your list.
Andy: Then to the right of that, next column, write why you’re doing that. And I don’t mean a paragraph about, “Because it’ll make me whatever.” Just what specific goal is this contributing to? Is this for strength? Is this for mobility? Is this for motor control? Is this practice for a sport? Whatever it is. Okay?
Andy: And then you can either write this out or in the next column or just at least think through this. Be really clear with yourself on how this particular activity is contributing to that goal. And what I think you’ll find here is that some of them don’t. And some of them might even move you away from that goal. And so this is where you need to pay attention.
Andy: So then maybe look at how can you make that activity suit that goal better? What are the details that’ll do that better? Right? So if you’re doing handstands to work on your shoulder strength, maybe the detail that you need to focus on in your handstand is pushing against the floor, pushing hard, and really trying to put all your energy into elevating your shoulders when you’re upside down. That’s how you’re going to get the most shoulder strength value out of the handstand practice. Right? How can you optimize that activity for the goal itself?
Andy: And then so that’s what you want to get out of this. For each of those activities, pick the one thing that’s going to make that activity optimal for the reason you chose it. And then at your next session or when you wake up in the morning or whatever, you’ve got kind of a check list that you can look down and say, “When I do my handstand, this is what I need to think about. When I go for a walk today, I want to be focused on my breathing because that’s one of the things I’m trying to get out of this. When I do this, I want to focus on this.”
Andy: And that way you can kind of give yourself your own sort of mental cue for each of these things. But write it down because otherwise you’re going to forget stuff and it’s just going to be kind of useless mental masturbation. But write it down and be really clear and try to pick one thing, because you will find stuff that you’re doing that is not contributing.
Ryan: Nothing too much to add there. I think it’s wonderful.
Andy: You’ll find stuff that you’re doing in ways that is not nearly optimal for your goal.
Ryan: Yeah. I’m going to go get optimized here in a little bit, focus on my …
Andy: So that’s it. All right.
Ryan: I give you a pass on it. It’s good.
Andy: I know. I said “optimal,” and I feel bad about that. But that’s all right. I’m going to go have an optimal latte right after this, perfectly steamed, exactly 3.6% fat in the milk.
Ryan: They’ve got to write that in there, yeah.
Andy: It’s vital that that be correct. It has to be chilled to 11 degrees centigrade before steaming. You cannot mess this up, or I will raise holy fucking hell in your coffee shop.Yes, yes.
Ryan: Yeah. Until next time.
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