How Do You Make Sure You're Executing Quality Movements?
1. Hire A CoachDepending on what you like to do, there are a variety of options here. The most efficient (if you have the expendable cash) is to hire a trainer. There is popular-- rather dumbfounding-- attitude in modern culture that you should be able to do everything on your own. FALSE. There are simply some things that you simply can't see, and problems may exist that you cannot diagnose on your own. Case in point: next time you're taking a walk in the park, have a look at the people that are jogging/running/limping past you. Most people think "hey I've got two legs...of course I can run." The real question is "Can you run well?" Nine times out of ten, the running mechanics of those poor folks are waaaaaaaay off kilter with how their body should move to sustain running as their exercise of choice. Conversely, were said person to hire a proper running coach, not only would the coach spot those faults immediately, but they would likely show that person a video of themselves running to help illustrate the atrocity in action. This holds true for every type of exercise, and without fail, there is a coach out there for whatever you like to do. Let go of your ego and ask for help if you really want to move forward.
2. Go To A TrainingFor just about every format of exercise imaginable, there are likely some classes near you that you can take. Most yoga studios, for example, have a plethora of workshops ranging in subject matter from making Mala bead necklaces to mastering a freestanding press handstand-- and you don't need to be a yoga teacher to take them. Likewise, any CrossFit box worth its salt will offer workshops on proper squat form, mobility or how to not destroy your shoulders doing kipping pull-ups. And honestly, if they don't, you might want to consider switching to one that does.
3. Look Online...CarefullyLet me be clear here: there are A LOT of dumbshits online espousing their expertise (insert Everyman Yoga joke here), but there are also some very valuable resources presented by high-quality experts. As a rule, this is a good opportunity to scale back a little bit in your ambitions. If you want to improve your squat, instead of Googling 'how to squat 400 lbs.', try looking up some videos about fundamental squat mechanics to first educate yourself properly. There is always more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to fitness, but there are definitely ways that you should NOT do things If you're hellbent on mastering the snatch or clean and jerk, don't be stupid— spend a couple bucks on a coach. Remember, we're focusing on quality here and if you honestly think you can master these movements based on a video you found online you need to get your head checked. To get you started, here are a few resources from highly reputable folks that should be able to help you with what you're looking for:
Yoga: Tiffany Cruikshank
Tiffany Cruikshank is a singular presence in the yoga world, fusing the old with the new. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine, an organization based in Northern California that seeks to meld the old and new world philosophies regarding the movement principles and spirituality of yoga to enhance the lives of clients. She is a bona fide celebrity in the yoga world, and not strictly because she is a good at handstands. She has an extensive background in alternative medicine and a concise knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology. In short, she’s a badass. The Yoga Medicine website provides a wealth of information and deeper resources including an excellent blog and information about Yoga Medicine teacher trainings. If you’re interested in learning more about the medical benefits of a safe yoga practice, look no further.
CrossFit: Kelly Starrett
Let me just make it abundantly clear that I am very wary of recommending CrossFit to anyone, regardless of their physical condition, strictly because of the fast and intense nature of what it entails.
Think about it this way: if you are weak, injured or uncoordinated in more or less any way-- and let's face it, most of us are-- the CrossFit environment and mentality could very likely lead to serious injury.
That's where Kelly Starrett or K-Starr enters the picture. Ol’ Kelly’s a bit of a lightning rod in the medical and fitness community these days, but he’s also one of the most successful CrossFit box owners and practitioners in the world. His website, MobilityWOD combines the principles of CrossFit with myofascial release (aka self-massage) and stretching/mobility techniques that will benefit a wide variety of folks, regardless of their exercise modality preferences. Starrett is also a practicing doctor of physical therapy and a bestselling author of several books, including Becoming a Supple Leopard and Deskbound: Sitting Is The New Smoking, both of which are directed at combating bodily degeneration from faulty movement practices.
I should point out that Kelly’s approach may not be for everyone, and it definitely leans heavily in the direction of the all-or-nothing mentality of the CrossFit crowd. Regardless, there is a great deal of very accessible information throughout his huge (and growing) body of work. If you’re young, healthy and active and you’re eager to ‘fix the machine’, this is a good place to start. Just be careful. Please.
Gymnastics, Movement, and Mobility:
Christopher Sommer, Gymnastic Bodies
Christopher Sommer is a longtime men’s Olympic gymnastics coach and the Gymnastic Bodies program is his long-gestating brainchild. Designed with fundamentals of gymnastics at the forefront, Sommer created the GB protocols to help clients develop a from-the-ground-up strength foundation that tackles strength and mobility as complementary elements. He views them not as mutually exclusive, but as two parts of the fitness whole— if you’re not mobile, you are not strong. As with K-Starr, some of these techniques might not be for everyone, so approach with caution. But if you’re looking to start at a base strength level and develop a very strong foundation that covers your entire body, this is an excellent option.
Ido is...well, he's Ido. He's a movement specialist who has built a name by immersing himself in a wide swath of different movement modalities and then imparting them into his own philosophy. Israeli born, Ido has a reputation worldwide as a movement badass, teaching people how to creep, crawl, balance, run, jump, climb and move efficiently without being constrained or confined by any single practice. In short, he's part of the reason I decided to create this blog. Check him out in this clip created by London Real; at very least he will inspire you.
Erwan Le Corre
Erwan LeCorre is the founder of MovNat, which like Ido is determined to reconnect humans with their innate movement capabilities. Want to clean a barbell or muscle up on some rings? In a "real" world environment you're more likely to have to 'clean' a heavy piece of wood to clear a path or muscle your way over a wall. Erwan wants to teach you how to move like your ancestors, and in all likelihood, you'll be better off for it.
General Movement Knowledge:
Gray Cook & Chris Mallac
Gray Cook is a highly reputable and respected physical therapist and the creator of the Functional Movement Screen protocols which are widely used in the fitness and medical community. His name is synonymous with movement…and he also wrote a book titled simply ‘Movement.’ His writing is a little denser, but if you’re in the Masters or Ph.D. stages of your quality journey, Cook provides a compendium of very valuable information that will help you expand your knowledge about bodily systems and movement from a more academic vantage point.
Chris Mallac is a British physical therapist and sports medicine specialist with an awesome and informative site called the Sports Injury Bulletin. Like Cook, this stuff is a bit more medically oriented, but if you’re interested in getting that depth he provides some helpful information about injuries and recovery that comes from a sound medical professional. He also has a variety of manuals available for purchase about various injury prevention strategies that he occasionally gives away for free to followers, and free stuff is always rad.
Mark Sisson is the author of The Primal Blueprint and the founder of the Primal Diet movement. While there are a ton of pros spouting off about the benefits of a strictly Paleo lifestyle, Sisson embraces the basic tenets of the Paleo diet craze and scales it back enough that it’s actually approachable for normal people. He’s an ex-Iron Man finisher and basically one of the fittest, most jacked old dudes around. If you’re interested in Paleo but don’t know where to start, this is a great resource. His website, Mark’s Daily Apple is excellent definitely worth your time to take a look at.
If you are taking or are considering taking supplements, you should take the time to have a look at Examine.com first. They are a group of academics who have collectively devoted themselves to creating an unbiased, independent and objective approach to researching supplements ranging from herbs to vitamins to steroids. Unlike many of the companies that create these supplements, they do not accept funding from any biased entity that may have intentions to mislead the average consumer (that’s you, Everyman.). For starters, take the time to read up on their take on Amino Acids (relatively useless), Creatine (relatively awesome) and Theanine (chill out, bruh.)
Precision Nutrition (John Berardi)
While Mark Sisson is riding high on the Paleo bandwagon, John Berardi and his crack team at Precision Nutrition have helped millions of people learn about how to eat right through a common sense approach that embraces moderation, bypassing faddy-style diets. Berardi worked through his Ph.D. training in nutrition at Western Ontario University and has since become a world-class expert, coach, professor, and writer in the world of nutrition. If you are interested in Masters Level study of nutrition but don't have the cash to drop on an actual degree, the Precision Nutrition program is quickly becoming the gold standard for non-collegiate study in this field.
Power Lifting/Strength Training:
Barbell Shrugged & Mark Rippetoe
Barbell Shrugged is funny. And it's also full of valuable and accessible information that will keep you healthy if your fitness drug of choice happens to be strength training or powerlifting (aka picking up heavy things and then putting them down again). The guys at Barbell Shrugged interview the top names in the fitness industry (including several people on this list) and release them as podcasts and videos available on the usual podcast platforms and on Youtube. If you've found yourself slogging through the meathead message boards on sites like bodybuilding.com, give these guys a try. They post daily, and they are truly awesome.
Mark Rippetoe is one of the old guard masters in the powerlifting and strength training community. He's the author of Starting Strength, which bears the same name as Mark (aka 'Rip's) website which you can find here. As curmudgeonly as he is insightful, Rip's dissertations on everything involving lifting will keep you doing it right, and not blowing out your back/neck/knees in the process.
Tara Brach is a psychotherapist and lecturer who has devoted her personal and professional practice to teaching meditation as a therapeutic tool to overcome trauma and to generally live a happier life. Her book Radical Acceptance is a manifesto for accepting who you are to enhance your quality of life through the fundamental teachings of the Buddha. Tara has helped people around the world to find a deeper understanding of themselves through methods of meditation based on Buddhist philosophy, including Vippasana and Metta (lovingkindness). If you are unsure where to start your meditation journey while sifting through the plethora of New Age nonsense online, Tara is a level-headed guide who provides ample resources to get into her philosophy and technique for free. Her podcast is an excellent entry point into meditation and the self-awareness and forgiveness philosophy that can (and should) be accessed by everyone through meditation.
The Rocky Mountain Vipassana Association
Dhamma.org (and the RMVA) is the group responsible for the mind-altering retreat upon which I embarked last month. You can read all about that starting here. The group offers similar trainings and courses around the world, and the website provides a host of resources that will help you to understand whether or not such a course will or will not work for you. If you're strapped for cash, all courses are donation-based but are rooted in Karma, so if you don't get anything out of it, you're still in for a peaceful experience that you're not obligated to pay for. However, if you are moved by your experience-- which you likely will be-- you can donate as much as you can afford at the time. If you donate, it just means another lucky person will get to enhance their lives a little bit, and in turn the cycle continues.
SO, there you go. This list is by no means exhaustive and I actually plan on formatting this as a dedicated page on the site in the future. Hopefully, some of these resources will provide a platform for you to supercharge a more fulfilling, more fit life. I'd love to hear about other resources that you guys have found helpful in the comments. Until next time, Namaste.
I'd love to hear about other resources that you guys have found helpful in the comments. Until next time, Namaste.