You’ve probably heard us, or others, talk ad nauseam about “the basics.” But what are the basics? And why are they so important?
Many people want to just jump ahead to more advanced skills, but without a strong foundation of basic skills, the chances for success – in this case, actually achieving the advanced skill without getting injured – are greatly diminished.
Andy, Ryan, and Jarlo had lots to say about the questions we’ve received. Here’s a snippet of what Jarlo had to say about the basics:
The basics for bodyweight skill are an appropriate amount of strength, an appropriate amount of flexibility, and an appropriate amount of motor control. Everything that we want to do, adding on to that, has to come from that base.
In this episode, Andy, Ryan, and Jarlo give a detailed overview of what “the basics” are, and why they’re so damn important.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this episode:
- (01:00) What the hell are “the basics”?
- (05:06) What do you need to do to build up your base?
- (06:17) Ryan has a particular challenge with explaining “the basics” to kids, in his gym in Japan.
- (06:56) You never get away from the basics. You’ll always have to do them, and revisit them.
- (14:25) If it’s so obvious that wrist strength is necessary for the planche and other moves, then why do so many people still have trouble with it?
- (23:02) What’s the point of a bear crawl? Is it just so you can crawl on your hands and feet? No.
- (23:26) What can the bear help us to achieve?
- (28:40) Basics are important. Do your shit right.
Andy: All right. Breaker, breaker, one-niner. Get your ears on for the GMB Show. Over the next 20 minutes, plus or minus, we’re going to be talking about how you can get strong and agile and get your body ready for the things that you actually enjoy without having to do too much stuff that sucks.
My name is Andy. Here with me is Ryan Hurst, our head coach, program director and the illustrious and elusive Jarlo Ilano, MPT, OCS, probably some other acronyms to his name as well, who basically is the smart one.
So today we’re going to be talking about basics, right? We talk about basics a lot. Everyone talks about basics a lot. Basically anyone worth a damn is going to tell you that basics are important and I say this all the time. Oh, basics are important. You got to stick to the fundamentals.
What the hell are the basics? So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. What are the basics? What is basic? What does that mean? Maybe we will get into a little bit about why it’s important and how it affects later things. But mostly just drilling down into what are basics instead of just saying they’re important without saying what they are, because just saying something is important, if you don’t know what that thing is, doesn’t really help, right?
Ryan: Nailed it.
Andy: All right. Well, so Jarlo, what do you think? What are some of the basics? What does it mean mostly?
Jarlo: OK. So if we’re talking about any specific thing, fitness, becoming a doctor or becoming a dentist, whatever, there’s fundamental – there’s a fundamental thesis underlying everything within that profession, right? So say – let’s just go with the doctor thing.
If you’re a doctor in Western medicine, you have to know anatomy, physiology, all of these things, a little bit of basic science before you can go on and specialize into whether you’re going to be a heart surgeon or it might be orthopedic surgeon, ER doctor, whatever. So the basics for them are the four years of medical school where you become a generalist.
So basic science, basic fundamentals of care, all of those types of things, those are the basics, right? When you go into something like – that we’re doing which is actually a bit easier than four years in medical school, we can say fitness, right? In our particular brand of fitness that we’re teaching people, it’s bodyweight skill, learning to move our body with strength and motor control. Then the basics on that seem to be an appropriate amount of strength, appropriate amount of flexibility and appropriate amount of motor control, right?
So everything that we want to do, adding on to that, has to come from that base and basic, apply the base that you can grow from. So it can be specific to anything.
If we go ahead and say – like the other – a few weeks ago, we did the push-up, the definitive kind of push-ups because everybody kind of glosses over it. Like a push-up is just a push-up. Then you can go on and you can …
Andy: Everyone does push-ups.
Jarlo: Everyone knows how to do a push-up.
Andy: Everybody knows how to do that.
Jarlo: Lie down on the ground and push up. But again, there are some really detailed things to make sure that you start off correctly. Maybe your elbows are in, your hand position, all that stuff. Like for anybody out there who hasn’t checked that out, go on to our blog.[Music]
Andy: We should mention briefly that the reason for this is because – what’s the point of doing a push-up? The point of doing a push-up is to get stronger so you can do other things that maybe aren’t push-ups. There’s no point in just doing push-ups so you can do more push-ups, right?
So why do we say that there are certain things that make a push-up better? It’s because they allow you to get to the goal, the outcome of push-ups more efficiently and more effectively, right? They increase the strength.
Jarlo: Yeah, safely, right? The last time we talked, we talked a little bit about this before, that you have to hit some sort of arbitrary number, someone to follow their ass [0:04:44] [Phonetic] of how many push-ups you need to do before you can go on and do something else, right?
Jarlo: Yeah. I think it’s 42.
Ryan: Forty-two? Is that it?
Andy: Sorry, 42. Yeah.
Ryan: That’s just because that’s how old I am, right?
Jarlo: But if you think about the basics and the root of it, it’s a base. So how much can you do or what do you need to do to form your base as a platform to go and spring off to something else? For that, you need to have a certain awareness of what you’re looking for.
So you need a coach. You need to do a little bit of reading. You need to experience it. There is a lot of what we’re doing that we’ve done through trial and error over the years. So we’re saving you some time if you heed our advice.
I mean everybody asked for tips. Well, there you go. We’ve done the trial and error stuff. We’ve seen a lot of different things over the years. We’ve seen how people are doing it. There are lots of great things with what other people are doing.
But this has been really effective for us and so our basics – basics is a qualifier. It depends on what you want to do. So like with Ryan with – he’s doing in his gym. He has identified I think at least five things as your basics and then you guys drill them.
Jarlo: From the beginning.
Ryan: Exactly. I’m lucky because with kids too, it’s great because it’s not like an adult where I can say, “Do this exactly,” or “Do it exactly this way,” or something like that and they get. So with kids, it’s even more difficult because you have to explain it in a way that they get it and they can do it right away.
So like you said before, we were doing the trial and error. We’re figuring out what works and figuring out really the simplest way for everyone out there to get it.
So this is my laboratory of sorts so that I can do what we want to do there in GMB.[Music]
Jarlo: I think another thing about the basics and the fundamentals is you don’t ever get away from them.
Jarlo: You don’t ever get away from – you might not need to spend like half an hour on them. You could. It would be great to be able to do it. But you want to at least revisit it every time you practice.
I was over in Vegas with my teacher from martial arts camp. It has been a month ago now and one of the things he figured out over the years, once you have a group of students, you kind of take them through your curriculum and then eventually you go through the whole thing. You go through step one and step two. Then you get to the point where you guys – they figure it out. You’re ready and everybody wants to kind of do some cool, new stuff every time, right?
But if you do that and you forget those other ones that in the past you may – you do them and you know them. But you got to still practice them.
Jarlo: So in the classes, he always has a warm-up. So for the warm-up, you do the basic techniques.
Jarlo: And then that’s it. I mean you only have to spend five minutes on it. You don’t have to spend the whole hour on it.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly …
Andy: And the thing is it’s really easy in a seminar environment to like take a bunch of people and show them a bunch of flashy shit and be like, “Oh, holy shit! This is amazing,” right?
That’s so easy but if you don’t – if you have people that are well-versed in the same basics, then that can be a learning experience. If you have people that are not well-versed in the same basics, people that don’t have that same level where they’re speaking the same language kind of, then they might each get totally different things out of the seminar or nothing. So it’s really important that those be defined.[Music]
Andy: I kind of want to veer back to something that you said. So in fitness, for the branch that we’re in fitness, the basics are strength, mobility, and motor control, right? That’s to be able to use your body as desired, right?
But if you’re in weight loss or something, the basics are going to be nutrition, caloric expenditure, and …
Jarlo: Mindset, right?
Ryan: Yeah, lifestyle.
Andy: Yeah, that’s basically it, right? I mean there are other things that factor in, but that’s basically what it would be. So even in like fitness, there are still different basics depending on what your outcome is.
Andy: So that’s really important to know. You have to – the basics are not a fundamentally agreed upon thing. They depend on what you’re doing really.
Ryan: And what your goal is, yeah.
Jarlo: And it’s something that’s not really made up, right? Before we talked about there are no universal patterns of movement. But there are concepts that hold true across the board.
Jarlo: Right? If you need to go and you need to be able to get in a certain position, and you can’t get into it, then you need to be flexible and you got to spread it out to be able to get to it, right? I mean you can’t argue that.
How can you argue that – if I can’t find that nice position to get the right form, you’re never going to be able to stretch out to get that, right?
Ryan: You’re done, you’re done.
Andy: Yeah. I think to make it arbitrary would be everyone must be able to perform a handstand for 30 seconds.
Andy: That would be an arbitrary basic, right? Now there are a lot of great reasons that training to do a handstand for 30 seconds would be beautiful for most people. But it’s an arbitrary thing to say that this is a basic standard that everyone needs.
Jarlo: That’s the thing. That’s not a basic because there are things that you do to be able to get to that point.
Jarlo: Those are the basics.
Andy: Yeah. The basics are going to be consistent across different skills, but a particular skill itself could be the basis of another skill. But it can’t be a true, real, like defining, underlying basic of your approach.
Jarlo: Absolutely. That’s why I just really hate the concepts of some arbitrary standard. Lots of people want to be able to do that because it’s nice.
Jarlo: People want to be able to go and like, oh yeah, tick that off. It’s comforting, right? It’s comforting to be able to tick off these things.
Andy: Yeah. You can get your handstand merit badge and move on to the next thing.
Ryan: That’s right. You’re done.
Jarlo: That’s essentially what it is, right? You are a Boy Scout, Ryan. You’re a Boy Scout. You got this merit and that’s it. You got the merit on your whatever.
Andy: Dude, after Civics, you don’t think about that stuff ever again.
Ryan: That’s right. You’re done.
Andy: You get the badge.
Ryan: Screw that. I did it. I’m done. Let’s go camping. Yeah.
Jarlo: Those are basically just things to make people feel better.
Jarlo: And there’s nothing wrong with it. But it doesn’t mean that you have to follow that path and you have to be able to do it. If you don’t do it that way, then you might as well quit. That’s just terrible. It’s terrible thinking. It’s bad thinking.[Music]
Jarlo: So let’s go a little bit more into the specifics for people. Like Ryan, let’s say – a lot of people are talking about like planches and front lever position, all of these things.
You could go through this really quickly. What do you think your basics for one of those skills are or whatever you want to talk about?
Ryan: Well, let’s just talk about the planche real quick. I think the basics is wrist strength, period. I mean a lot of people talk about straight arm strength and yes, that’s very, very important.
But even before that is wrist strength and finger strength in my opinion. Just to give an example, I’ve seen a lot of people who have the straight arm strength to be able to do things. They’ve got the muscles. They’ve got maybe their core. But their wrists are so weak, that they’re not able to really start working on being able to hold things.
The funny thing is, is wrist strength should be one of the things that they should already have had through working with push-ups, through working with anything else. But people neglect it and therefore they’re actually holding themselves back.
Sure, they might be able to do push-ups and things like that. But maybe they do it in a way, turning the wrist out. They have a particular habit of doing something that hasn’t led to strength. So therefore they’ve kind of glossed over or just skipped through the basics in order to go and get that shiny new skill, so they can tell their friends that they can do it.
Andy: Yeah, that’s the problem with thinking that the goal of doing push-ups is to be able to do 20 push-ups or be able to do more push-ups or whatever.
But the goal of push-ups is to prepare your body for the things that you want to do later on.
Ryan: Right, exactly.
Andy: Right? If the planche is one of your goals, you need to be making sure that you’ve got the should alignment, that you’ve got the core tightness, that you’ve got the hand position correct, that you’re going to be building that strength and mobility for the things that you want to be able to do later.
Ryan: Yeah. I mean wrists, yeah, I mean it’s – OK, that’s obvious. Well, why don’t people spend enough time on it then?
Andy: Well, I hear there are so many people – why is wrist strength one of like the five most common requests we get people asking for help with?
Andy: Wrist strength and flexibility. If people already had it, they wouldn’t be asking.
Ryan: Right. Well, it goes back to what you were mentioning with your teacher and his classes, Jarlo. We do the exact thing in every single class we have over here. The warm-up is the same. It’s the same because it hits everything that we need to do for whatever we’re going to be doing.
Then after that warm-up, which includes wrists, which includes shoulders, which includes hips, after that, they focus on three movements. They focus on the bear, the monkey, frogger. The thing is, is the kids are always like, “Oh, again! We got to do a bear, monkey, frogger.”
But the cool thing is because they’re doing that, they’re able to do the other cool shit, which they don’t really get but the parents get. So when the kids get older and hopefully they stick with it, they will realize, “Yeah. Because I did this, I’m able to do whatever,” and it goes back to the wrist strength for the planche or whatever hand balancing type thing you want to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s the planche, the single-arm lever, the double-arm lever, the handstand. Anything where you’re on top of your hands, bear crawl, bear walk, whatever you want to call it, the monkey, the frogger. You’ve got to have that wrist strength.
So spending more time strengthening your wrists is actually going to help for so many different things and you’re going to see immediate improvement by just doing that. So the basics, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the basics.[Music]
Andy: Let’s make it even more specific and Ryan, if you wouldn’t mind, so we’ve got strength, mobility and body control. Let’s talk about each one of those three points with a very specific example. We do handstands all the time, so let’s not do handstands. We’ve done handstands to death. Let’s do maybe just a bear crawl.
Ryan: The bear crawl, OK.
Andy: It’s very simple. It’s a locomotive pattern that is in literally every system of movement on the planet. We invented it. They’re all copying us.
Ryan: TM, copyright. We invented it.
Andy: But anybody who’s ripping off our bear crawl, this is how you would apply the basics to that just for your reference.
Ryan: OK. So let’s look at the very, very basics. So you said bear crawl. OK? But we need to even step further back. Take a step back and look at can we get our knees and our hands on the floor first, and sit with our shoulders over our hands and our hips over our knees comfortably. That is what we’re looking at. That’s the very basic thing.
A lot of people who might be listening to this are thinking, “Oh, yeah, I can already do that.” But were you able to do that when you got back into fitness?
That’s what we’re talking about is looking at – thinking about a person who might just be coming off of the couch or coming back from their injury or something like that and seeing, “Can that person get on the ground with their knees and their hands on the ground, in that position comfortably without pain?”
That’s the first thing. That’s the basics. So from there, pushing their rear end up into the air and creating what I call the A-frame. So this position where your hands and your feet are equal distance because you started with your shoulders over your hands and your knees over – and your hips over your knees, pushing your butt up into the air. Can you get into this position without discomfort, with good flexibility and have the strength to be able to do hold that position?
So for example, what are your shoulders doing in that position? You might not have the flexibility to do it so that when you’re actually performing it, your shoulders come forward because you’re not able to open up your arms.
Maybe you don’t have the flexibility in the back of your legs so you can’t straighten your legs. Maybe you can’t get your heels down to the ground because you don’t have the flexibility in your ankles. You know what? That’s perfectly fine. All you do is this is an assessment.
We’re just trying to figure out exactly where you are with this basic, basic position. So you can start working on making that better. So before you even start walking, before you focus on the strength component, before you focus on the motor control component, you’re looking at the flexibility, the mobility issues that you have going on in the restrictions, and trying to work on making those better, so that you can start putting that into motion. So that’s the basic for the bear walk or the bear crawl.[Music]
Ryan: And this is what gets me, to be honest, is that people – like anything, they see – oh, yeah, I want to be able to do this movement. But a movement has to start with something static to see if you’re even ready to begin working on the next – or the very first progression of it.
That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the basics. So going back, you’re looking at the A-frame, the flexibility component of it.
If you can do that, and you can do it – I like to say comfortably and this is tough because – what is comfort? OK? It just basically means that there’s no pain and you’re able to do something that even though it might be tough, you might break a sweat doing it, it just means that you’re not going to screw your shit up when you’re doing it. That’s comfort. OK? Not getting injured.
So we start putting it into motion. When you’re putting it into motion, now we’re starting to work on the basic strength component. But the cool thing in the motor control, because you have to coordinate that movement, right? But a cool thing is, is we’re also focusing on flexibility because as you’re going in motion, it’s forcing you into these positions and so basically your body has to adapt to that.
By going too fast into this, by trying to do more advanced movements, then for one, you’re skipping past the basics. You might be working to the point where it’s too much, overstretching yourself possibly. Maybe you don’t have the strength. You end up falling or something like that and therefore you injure yourself.
But if you go back again to the very first thing that I just talked about, that A-frame position, after you’re able to get your knees and your hands on the ground, and look at your flexibility. The cool thing is, is day by day it can change.
So today you might be able to get your heels on the ground because maybe you were doing something else and you’re warmed up. I have no idea. But then the next day, you might be tight.
So by going back to the basics every single day and looking at where you are that day, you can then adjust your workout for the rest of the day if with the bear crawl.
So lots of stuff going on here, tons of stuff, and this is the kind of stuff that we talk about all the time in GMB, right? We’re always looking at this is where you start and this is the reason and the basics are X, X, X.
Ryan: Going even further and I just want to say one last thing. So, once you get all of that down, once you’re able to walk and do the bear crawl or the bear walk, then you can start exploring and trying new things. Bent arm, bear walk. You maybe bend your legs and bend your arms, making sure to keep your elbows in.
See what happens with your hands. You’re going to find new things because generally when people – as soon as they bend their elbows, they’re either going to flair their arms or when they bring their elbows in, the hand is going to shift up off of the ground, because they don’t have the flexibility yet in their wrist and their fingers to be able to have their hand flat on the ground. Maybe their fingers come up, because they don’t have the shoulder mobility just yet to be able to get in that position.
So then that’s going to actually allow you to go back to the basics one more time, look on where you need to focus on, range of mobility, and get even better so that you can start doing other cool shit.[Music]
Andy: Yeah. So somebody might be listening to that and be like, “OK, Ryan, great. Maybe I can’t do your perfect bear crawl but I can get around. I can crawl on my hands and feet. I can do that all day. I can crawl.”
But that gets us back to the same thing with push-ups, right? Like what is the purpose of doing the bear crawl? Is it to show that you can crawl on your hands and feet? No, not at all.
Ryan: That’s it. No.
Andy: You can do a bear crawl with poor basics. You can do a bear crawl, something that looks like a bear crawl with poor motor control, with poor flexibility or with poor strength, right? You can’t do something similar. But you’re not developing yourself through that and you’re not taking it to the next level in teaching yourself anything. You’re just kind of dicking around on the floor.
Ryan: So what do we want to do with – what can the bear help us to achieve? OK? So if we don’t focus on those basics, if we just try and do that, and we …
Andy: You will never get in touch with your animal nature.
Ryan: Exactly, because it’s primal. It’s all about being primal.
Jarlo: Your spirit animal.
Ryan: Your spirit animal will not blossom.
Andy: Your spirit animal is Mr. T.
Ryan: Mr. T! But really, I mean looking at going back, what can you do with the bear – it’s just a freaking bear walk, right? No. To me, what I see is I see single-arm holds. I see bent arm stand because we’re focusing on having our arms bents when we’re walking. Better flexibility, so that we can get into other movements. There are so many things that stem from the single bear walk.
But if you’re just walking around in your hands and you don’t understand that, don’t have flexibility, well, good luck trying to do any of the other cool shit later.
Jarlo: Yeah. That’s a part of everything. Like once you have your fundamental movements that you’ve identified for whatever you’re doing. For us, we have them and that’s what’s in our system. Once you found that in whatever you’re doing, you’re going to be able to be mindful about that every time you practice.
So there’s that part of that critical thinking. Are you just going to go ahead and walk around on your hands and knees or are you going to be able to get benefit from that 15 minutes that you’re doing it? You might as well be on a treadmill watching TV, right? [0:24:51] [Inaudible] like I’m working a little bit more on my conditioning because there’s a camp I want to go to in a month and a half.
Ryan: Boy Scout Camp, right?
Ryan: Sorry, go ahead.
Jarlo: Yeah. There’s a martial arts camp I want to go to at the end of July and I could go and I could run for like 20 minutes and go – you know, do sprints and do intervals and all that. That would be good. But what I’ve decided to do is I’ve decided to work on these locomotives with good form.
Might as well. It still takes me the same amount of time. But I’m going to be able to do it and focus on a little bit of different thing. I put my heart rate monitor on and it’s the same. I got the same amount of conditioning work on there, that cardiovascular work. But I’m actually able to work on some different things at the same time.
So that’s just another example. You can do these things for a certain goal and they’re your basics, so that those fundamentals can transfer on into other areas.
Ryan: Yes. Yeah.
Ryan: That’s such a good point. I mean just like you said, running on the treadmill. That’s going to get you pretty good at running on the treadmill. Might help for when you want to go run outside but working the skills that – the bear crawl that we’re just talking about, it’s not just about getting better at the bear crawl. That’s not it. It’s not about just getting better at doing more push-ups. No.
We’re trying to look at what comes next. What are we working towards? What are we able to accomplish by focusing on this for later?[Music]
Jarlo: And that’s the thing too. You don’t really say with your kids that you’re doing your class. They don’t need to know that.
Ryan: They don’t.
Jarlo: They need to know how to do the bear correctly, the monkey correctly, and it automatically prepares them for the stuff going on.
Ryan: Right. Like you said, they don’t know. Yeah.
Jarlo: So this – and like in hindsight is intuitive. You’re like, oh, yeah. Once you’re able to do like these bent arm levers and the bent arm stand, you’re like, “Oh, yeah.” I know you got that from – in the last seminars you were at, when you were over in Australia. You were already working with people that could do lots of really good things. They were already strong enough.
So you would think that going through these patterns, they would be like, “Oh, it’s too easy.” But then they have that light. You know why? They’re smart, critical-thinking people.
Jarlo: They’re like, “Oh, yeah!” They had that bam! Why didn’t I think of that?
Ryan: And good point too because what happened, we had some great movers in there.
Jarlo: They were good.
Ryan: Then I started out and I said, “OK. We’re going to do this.” We start doing it and they start to go, “Wow, I’m not as flexible as I really thought in this. I’m not as strong as I really thought.” Then later, as we progress – and I said, “OK, the reason we’re doing this is because we’re working towards the bent arm stand.” Like you said, they all went, “Holy shit! Yeah! That makes sense.”
But if I were to tell them that in the very beginning, they would be so focused on trying to do the bent arm stand before focusing on the basics that they would miss the whole goal of what we’re doing. Yeah.
We talked about a lot of stuff today. Andy, anything you would like to add to this.
Andy: No. Basically, just that – you know, know what your basics are for what you’re trying to do. There are basics like this is a basic movement. But the real basics are always the underlying themes that tie together the movements you do and the way you do them in order to achieve what your goals are, right? That’s the true basic of anything that you’re trying to do.
So know what that is. You don’t have to dwell on it while you’re practicing but that’s the reason why doing something with a particular form is important.
So yeah, knowing them is good or just trust your coach and do it the way that he or she tells you to do it. But, yeah, basics are important and I think we’ve discussed a good bit about why and how that works. So yeah, do your shit right.
Ryan: Do your shit right. That’s right.
Jarlo: That’s good for you. Brush your teeth.
Ryan: All right. Thanks for listening. Yeah, brush your teeth. You could tell we’re dads. Yeah. All right. Thanks for listening everybody and we will catch you all next time. Later.[For more great info, join our posse at GoldMedalBodies.com and be sure to check us out on iTunes and YouTube.] [End of transcript]
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show: