Virtually every physical skill can be broken down into a combination of 3 basic components: Strength, Flexibility, and Body Control.
And if you know what your goal is, it’s pretty simple to choose the best component to focus on with your training. For example, if you’re a rock climber who always has trouble getting your foot up to the next hold, you probably want to focus on flexibility for a while.
A lot of fitness programs offer results without respect to your needs, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not going to fall for false promises like “Shredded Abs in 5 Days!”
Nobody can promise you results without accounting for where you’re starting from.
The goal is meaningless unless you account for the starting point, which is why we emphasize assessing your current abilities so you know what you need to address to reach your goals. But once you find your “on-ramp,” it’s usually just a matter of following the road that goes where you want to end up.
(Well, it also takes a lot of hard work and consistency…)
Finding Your Path to Physical Autonomy
This article is going to show you our framework for plotting that course.
We’ll use our own training programs as examples, but the principles here apply just as well to other kinds of training. The main thing is to understand that you’ll need different things at different stages of your journey, so whether you use our programs or someone else’s, understanding how the road works will help you make the best possible progress.
Starting Out: Basic Movement Ability
You may be returning to training after a long break and need to rebuild your foundation. Or maybe you’ve been training for a while but you’ve got gaps in your performance.
Either way, you’re not going to get far without building some basic skills–learning core movement patterns like squatting, crawling, twisting, etc. If you’re new to training, you’ll need to build these from scratch, but if you’ve got a lot of experience, you might be able to breeze through this with a quick refresher.
At GMB, we use a lot of locomotive exercises to build these fundamental patterns. Elements is our intro-level course with no prerequisites, but it can also be used by more advanced trainees as a way to beef up their foundations in between (or alongside) other training programs. It’s also a great program for anyone coming back from an injury (after getting clearance from a doctor, of course!)
Elements helps you assess your strength, flexibility, and motor control, and build a foundation in those attributes.
Taking the time to assess where you’re at is a big part of our method of training–we call it the AAA-Framework: Assess, Address, and Apply.
Ideally, you want to master these basic movement patterns thoroughly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to make forward progress until they’re “perfect.” For one thing, nothing’s ever perfect, is it? And for another, the basics are something you never outgrow, so you’ll have lots of time to continue refining them as you move to add more specific training.
Once you’ve worked a bit with the basics and done some self-assessment, it’s a good idea to go ahead and address any restrictions that are holding you back from your goal.
Addressing Your Restrictions
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link (yes, we’re going to keep using mixed and conflicting metaphors). Likewise, your progress will probably be limited by one or two specific physical attributes.
If you’ve done Elements or spent some time working on basic skills, you probably have a really good idea of where your body needs more work, too.
At GMB, we break things down to strength, flexibility, and control, but none of these attributes work in isolation (it’s impossible to work on control without also working on strength to some degree). Still, if flexibility is the main thing holding you back, that’s where you should focus most of your effort. If you’re struggling with movement skills, you probably need to work on your control.
We have programs for each in GMB. They’re listed here in no particular order, along with some alternatives from other people. Choose the right combination that fits your needs.
Practical & Dynamic Strength Development
The traditional approach to strength development is weightlifting, and that’s a completely valid approach. However, most weighted exercises are limited to a single plane of motion, and they don’t always translate directly to movement.
At GMB, we focus primarily on bodyweight exercises that force your muscles to get stronger while coordinating and balancing in complex combinations.
Let’s say you’re a martial artist who needs a lot of coordinated, full body strength, and you’ve found your strength isn’t quite where you need it to be. That’s where Integral Strength comes in.It’s an 8-week program that gets you stronger through progressively more challenging exercise variations. This is the kind of strength that carries over into demanding physical skills and dynamic sports, as well as daily life.
Integral Strength is suitable for beginners, but is also good for intermediate-level trainees, as the exercises scale up to a pretty challenging level.
Increasing Flexibility for Easy Range of Motion
Most people assume that flexibility means being able to touch your toes or do a split. And if you don’t think you need to do that, you may not think that flexibility is important, but in our experience, most clients eventually run up against flexibility limitations.
Maybe you need more range of motion in your shoulders to hold a straighter handstand. Or maybe your tight hips are making it a pain to do household chores or gardening. If your range of motion is restricted, there’s a lot of things you won’t be able do without pain.
That’s why even those with modest flexibility needs can still benefit from some targeted stretching.
And “targeted” is the key word in our Focused Flexibility program.Many people who go through Elements find that flexibility is a major limiting factor, even if their favorite activities don’t seem to involve as much flexibility. The key with FF, though, is that we look at flexibility simply as a way to get into the positions you need. Again, we follow the AAA-Framework and begin by assessing your specific needs so you don’t waste energy on the areas that won’t directly help you.
Focused Flexibility works really well in conjunction with any other program (you can use the targeted stretches as a cool down), but it works great on its own too if your mobility needs a little more attention.
If you’re already very flexible and want to go further, you can email us about FF Specialized (not generally available to the public right now) or look at other resources.
Maximize Your Motor Control
Even if you’re very strong and have plenty of flexibility, you may well find yourself having difficulty with complex movement patterns or skills that require a lot of balance and finesse. Of course, you could just try to “muscle through it,” but that usually ends in either frustration or injury.
That’s where specific development of motor control comes into play.
Also, many people are drawn to the kind of movement-based training we teach, not because they want to learn a particular skill or exercise, but because they want to learn to move better in general.
Unlike Elements, which also incorporates movement-based training, our Vitamin course is not a “program” in the traditional sense. The goal is not to master any particular movements, but rather to master your body by practicing a variety of movements, and experiencing and exploring how each one feels in your body.We focus on a different movement each day so you get exposure to a wide range of movements, learning how your body moves and feels with each one.
Even if you only spend a few minutes on the movements (as few as ten, but we recommend 20 or so), your nervous system is being introduced to new patterns that create better balance, control, and kinesthetic sense. Vitamin is also a great warm-up or cool down for any other training.
At GMB, we see control as an attribute that deserves its own practice, free from application-specific training.
Likewise for flexibility and strength, you don’t have to limit the development of your physical attributes to the context of any particular sport or activity. If you want to do BJJ or Yoga or Capoeira or whatever, that’s great. But if you just want to get flexible, or strong, or move better, you shouldn’t have to take up a new sport just for that purpose.
Learn Complex Skills for Physical Performance
Once you’ve built a solid foundation of strength, flexibility, and motor control, you may want to take your practice further and apply those attributes to developing complex skills (and cool tricks!) using gymnastic-style training.
Gymnastic-style training has become pretty popular over the past few years, and for good reason–it’s a great way to build strength, control, and skills.
The goal isn’t to become the next Aly Raisman, but to apply and increase your strength, flexibility, and control to gain confidence for complex, skill-based movements. There’s no better way to learn that kind of control than by moving your body around an apparatus (even if that apparatus is the floor).
Solidify Your Strength With Parallettes
One of the tools we use to teach these kinds of complex skills is the parallettes, which are mini-parallel bars.
By learning to maneuver your body around the p-bars, you’ll build pushing strength in your upper body and strength in your core that is qualitatively different from the type of strength you could possibly build with crunches or sit-ups.
If you practice any sports or activities that require good pushing strength (e.g. American football or martial arts that involve striking or grappling), parallettes are a good tool to beef up your strength to carry over to your sport of choice. Plus, you may build some upper body muscle as an added bonus 😉
If you’ve been itching to learn controlled hand balancing and other inversions, Parallettes One is a good starting point into building progressively complex abilities.
P1 builds shoulder and core stability while keeping your joints safe and avoiding discomfort. Many people find it much easier to get comfortable with handstands and other inverted movements using the parallettes than on the floor.
It’s also designed to build skills progressively and incrementally, leading up to flow sequences, which nails down the control you build over the course of the program.
P1 is a beginner/intermediate level course that does require equipment (parallettes). Because of the intensity of this program, we don’t recommend doing any other training alongside P1, although Elements and Vitamin can be useful as a warm-up if you’re already at a pretty high level.
Master Controlled Skills With the Rings
It’s amazing how, just a few years ago, barely anyone had any idea what gymnastic rings were, and nowadays it’s not uncommon to find them in regular gyms around the world. Pretty neat!
Rings are one of our favorite tools for learning really cool movements while building incredible control.
Even super strong people can find the unsteady environment of the rings quite humbling, and they’re able to build strength they never even knew they were lacking.
Rings One is our intermediate rings course, and it’s most popular with climbers and anyone else looking to build upper body strength while learning gymnastic-style movements.
R1 builds control systematically, by first helping you build the strength you need for rings work, then working on skill development through incremental progressions, and finally, combining skills into flow routines.
By the end of the 14-week course, you’ll have incredible strength and control, and walk away with some pretty cool skills.
It’s not a beginner-level course (we recommend being able to do 5 pull-ups on a bar before beginning R1), so it’s not necessarily the best starting point for most people. If you’re still struggling with pull-ups, we recommend going through Integral Strength first.
Control Your Body Through Space
When you see someone move with graceful control, you know there’s a lot that goes into it–mobility, balance, coordination, the works.
But that kind of controlled movement isn’t only accessible to professional dancers; it’s something anyone can work on and improve. It just takes some dedicated effort and time moving your body around on the floor.
Floor One is perfect for building athletic power for skills like tumbling, hand balancing, controlled jumps, and single-leg balances. Though not an “apparatus” per se, the floor is a tool of sorts that can be used to build athletic power and abilities.
We start with the very basics and lead up to progressively more complex skills. By the end of the program, you’ll be doing things you never thought possible!
F1 is suitable for any fitness level, but if you’re particularly limited by your flexibility, it may be a good idea to spend some time on that before starting F1, as it does involve some amount of bridging work and other positions that require some flexibility.
And good news: F1 doesn’t require any equipment other than some open space on the floor.
Spending time working on a floor-based program will help you build balance and agility that carries over to just about any aspect of life, from balancing a stack of plates when clearing the table, to leaping over a big puddle after a rainstorm, to playing a game of pick-up basketball with your buddies on the weekend.
GMB Online Training Programs At a Glance…
|Program||Training Level||Goals||Length of Program||Equipment Needed|
|Elements||Beginner to Intermediate||• Build foundation|
• Start training
|Integral Strength||Beginner to Intermediate||• Build strength through bodyweight training|
• Learn skills (pull-up, shrimp squat, L-sit, and more)
|8 weeks||Pull-up bar|
|Focused Flexibility||Beginner to Intermediate||• Improve flexibility for everyday activities and training goals||n/a||none|
|Vitamin||Beginner to Intermediate||• Learn to move with freedom and confidence|
• Explore a variety of movements
• Create a habit of movement
|Parallettes One||Intermediate to Advanced||• Build pressing strength|
• Learn inverted skills and control
|Rings One||Intermediate to Advanced||• Build upper body strength and control|
• Learn gymnastic-style rings skills
|Floor One||Beginner to Intermediate||• Build athletic power and skill|
• Learn jumps, hand balancing, and basic tumbling
Figure Out Your Own Starting Point
While many people start with Elements and continue on from there, some people are more advanced or have specific goals in mind.
And everyone’s training journey will be different.
Each program is an opportunity to reassess where you’re at and decide where the next step in your journey will take you. It’s not a linear path, and there is no “going backwards.”
For instance, after going through Integral Strength, you can assess where you’re at and figure out what you want to address next. That might mean going working on Elements next, or it might mean doing Rings One or Focused Flexibility, or even Integral Strength again.
If you’re not sure where to start or where to go next for your particular goals, we recommend using the following handy quiz. And, of course, feel free to email us with any questions. We’re here to help 🙂