New to fitness? Start with some human-specific training.

Most of you reading this have probably been exposed to the terms “training specificity” or “sports-specific training.” This means that training shouldn’t be random—it should always intend to bolster some specific aspect of athletic performance.

But a lot of people at the gym or jogging on the street—or even purportedly training for some athletic event (I’m talking to my 20-year self here)—are far from anything resembling sports-specific training. When you look at the structure of their training, you’ll find no rhyme or reason for it other than it being some canned and mass-produced (and watered-down) version the training program for some or another elite athlete . . . if that.

Recreational runners aren’t mini-elites. In terms of exercise prescription, they’re a different animal altogether. Their training doesn’t account for their poor aerobic base, or that pelvic floor dysfunction, or that knee valgus collapse.

Deep underlying problems are left unaddressed (and alternately, great strengths are being passed over).

I see this all the time: just about every basic running training program that I see (with some notable exceptions such as The Pose Method) gives you a particular combination of easy runs, intervals, long runs, and strength training. Where’s the mobility component? Where’s the stability training? Where’s the skill development?

You could say that these programs don’t include stability, mobility and skill development because they aren’t aware of the client’s capabilities—but they aren’t aware of the state of their aerobic base either (or any muscle imbalances that could injure the body during power training, for that matter).

The fact that just about every running training program (for beginners!) neglects these basic components, while these same components form the foundation and daily warm-up session for competitive athletes is nothing short of criminal.

I believe that this double standard is a big contributor to making beginners stay beginners (and the competitive stay competitive).

My frustration with this topic stems from mistakes that I’ve made in my own training—and frustration with the fact that nobody ever took me aside and told me “hey dude, this is the first and most important thing you should know.” I had to go looking for this stuff because I realized that my workouts were missing a basic logic.

Which brings us to the question: So what comes first?

Let’s take it from Gray Cook, movement expert and founder of Functional Movement Systems (FMS): “We need to do mobility first because that’s the way we got here. We didn’t show up doing side planks in the crib. We had mobility.”

In order to be truly effective, any basic training program for general fitness has to hit all of the following steps—but especially the first (read: foundational) ones in a basic, general way.

  1. Mobility
  2. Stability
  3. Skill
  4. Strength
  5. Power
  6. Endurance

The differences between these may seem too subtle to matter, but subtlety has always been the province of success.

Each of these steps is going to get its own post. Understanding these steps isn’t just in describing what endurance or strength means, or how to go about training mobility or stability, but why skill comes before strength, or endurance after power.

For a hint of this, look at Gray Cook’s words: it doesn’t just happen to be a good idea for mobility to be the first thing we train (or the first component of our warm-up). That’s how it works because that’s the sequence in which we develop lifelong movement competence as humans.

As you’ll see in future posts, the implications are deep, and they reach across the different perspectives from which we can understand the body—temporal (developmental), metabolic, neurological, mechanical, etc.

These issues don’t just make for interesting discussions. These symmetries, processes, and logics (and how well we attend to them and understand them) often account for the difference between silver and gold.

2 thoughts on “New to fitness? Start with some human-specific training.”

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