Poor attention to exercise form increases risk of injury and reduces the effectiveness of your workout.
From playing a pick-up basketball game with friends after work, to not killing yourself helping your friend move his ridiculously heavy and unwieldy couch up 4 flights of stairs, strength and speed are obviously essential.
But so is learning to move well, and strength is just a part of making that happen. It’s not the whole picture.
Being able to move with precision and grace requires adequate ability in these areas:
- Body awareness
And not just each one of those parts separately, but the coordination and integration of the three.
So what’s stopping you from this even though you exercise as much as you can and work hard?
Below we’ll talk about three of the main reasons and how to adjust your training to improve your athletic ability.
#1 – Measuring Your Strength Against an Arbitrary Standard is Holding You Back
This is the exercise equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses,” and it’s something most people involved in fitness have to deal with at one time or another. Our innate competitive natures can be very strong, and once we get started on an endeavor, we end up comparing what we can do with everyone else.
It’s easy to get caught up in this competitive mindset, especially when you are a bit past the pure beginner phase and have started making good gains with a consistent and steady exercise routine.
You start seeing the possibilities and potential of your body and this spurs you on.
Overall, this is a good thing, as a little competitive fire helps you to keep training and work harder. Chasing other people’s performance or another (arbitrary) standard can keep you interested and motivated to train harder, but it can also keep you from moving on from it.
Sometimes these standards are reasonable and sometimes they are not, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll soon find yourself stuck training for more and more strength just for the sake of it.
If strength for the sake of strength is what you want, that’s fine, but it isn’t going to help you move any better.
At some point you will have to decide if you really do want to just get better at certain things such as weight on the bar, or increased reps in simple bodyweight moves such as pull-ups, dips, and pushups. Or do you want to take it beyond that and get better in moving your body in a variety of different movement improvisations and patterns?
Here’s What You Can Try Instead:
At a particular stage in your fitness, you really will be strong “enough”. It may not be as strong as a champion weightlifter or as fast as a high-level sprinter, but it’ll be enough to do the things that make you happy and interested.
As an example, take Parkour and freerunning.
You do have to have a certain minimum level of strength and power to perform certain moves. You’ll need strong enough legs to make a big jump, or you’ll need arms that are strong and steady enough to vault you over obstacles.
But after that point it becomes more important to hone your skills by practicing accuracy and precision in your choice of movements. This is especially so when a misstep can cause you to fall on surfaces much harder than an exercise mat.
Of course you should work on getting stronger and gaining power and speed, but instead of getting stuck on that path, make your own standards and have them correlate with the activities you want to get good at.
#2 – Physical Limitation or Restricted Movement is Holding You Back
Does this sound familiar?
- Your body fights against you when you try to move in a way that’s slightly out of the ordinary.
- You have pain when you push your body beyond it’s typical patterns.
Our movement habits can keep us in these same restrictive patterns because we just simply never venture beyond certain ranges of motions in our normal daily lives.
We crawl out of bed, get ready in the morning and jump in our car. There we sit for close to an hour in traffic, only to get to work and sit down in our office until we’re ready to clock out.
Not a whole lot of movement variety there.
It’s no wonder that when the weekend rolls around and you want to be more active and move your body, it can betray you with stiffness and awkwardness. Your body just isn’t used to it.
Here’s What You Can Try Instead:
This is where stretching comes in. It might not be as sexy as getting stronger, but being able to move your body into different positions with ease is a big part of athleticism.
Imagine a rock climber ascending a nice section of a rock face, only to find that a toe hold is out of her reach. Not because it’s further away then the length of her leg, but because she couldn’t stretch her leg far enough to get it.
This is a real example of how improved flexibility can be very useful.
Figure out where you’re stiff and you may see that it’s holding you back in ways you probably never realized. But once you address it with some targeted stretching, you’ll be amazed at the doors it opens for you in terms of movement ability.
#3 – Trying to “Get Your Sweat On” is Holding You Back
Like anything else, movement is a skill. It can be learned and perfected with time, effort, and PRACTICE. Many people simply work on a move until they “get it,” but the real skill is developed in the process of making the movement “pretty.”
Doing as many push-ups as you can (often with terrible form) is a great way to make yourself tired. But does it actually make you better at anything? Not really.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well, so stop judging your workouts by how tired you feel when they’re over.
Here’s What You Can Try Instead:
Focus on perfecting your form during each movement and watch your increased abilities transfer to your movement patterns in your day to day life.
Practicing a skill doesn’t have to be done until you puke, and that’s not the best way to do it anyway. Think of training as practice and aim to get better in your movements rather than just getting tired.
In this video Ryan talks a little bit more about this concept of skill training that goes beyond just trying to get as strong as possible.
As Ryan elucidates, movements like the pirouette-to-back-scale are great examples of training for the intent of moving better, rather than just getting stronger. Often, the former leads the latter, but it doesn’t always work the other way.
It’s Time to Start Prioritizing Better Movement
Look at people who move through life with grace, poise, and confidence in their physical presence. They exude mastery over themselves and their environments, strong enough to be able to do what they want, with flexibility and creativity coming along for the ride as well.
What separates great athletes from others who aren’t doing so well?
It’s their focus on moving as beautifully and gracefully as possible, rather than on merely getting as strong as possible.
Mike Fitch from Global Bodyweight Training is a great example of a masterful mover, and he’s someone we hold in high regard. Mike and Ryan partnered up last year to teach a seminar on moving gracefully with bodyweight flows, and we’re now making those materials available to the public.
Start Moving with Precision
Floor One brings the basic skills of athletic movement together in a comprehensive, systematic program that’ll let you move like you never thought possible.