Thursday, October 29, 2015

The six best movements according to Mike

Nathan after his first experience with burpees.
Amy and I were talking about our different approaches to how we program workouts and why we choose the movements we do. I'm sure that if you've seen overhead squat or snatch in the warm-up in my class you've heard me complain that Amy chose them. And if you've been watching the main workout's patterns, I'm sure you've come to the conclusion that I love squatting.

So today starts a two- (maybe three- if Randy wants to join in) part series on why we rank movements differently. We decided to copy a pattern that the Whole 9 folks did a few years ago: if we were only allowed to do six movements ever again, which six would they be and then talk about why we chose those as the most important.

Deadlift. I put deadlift first on my list for two reasons: 1) it's a natural extension of something you do everyday: you're always picking something up, so being strong in that movement is good. And 2) you can lift the most weight with deadlift, so if your goal is to get the biggest stimulus of all the good stuff that building muscles brings, you might as well do it in the most efficient way. There's no better way to get strong (and all the other goodness that comes with getting strong) than picking up heavy stuff.

Squat. The squat is the most natural movement that humans do (or at least should be able to do). It should be first because it's central to human development (ever watch a toddler, they all do perfect squats without ever being told to), but since my goal is to make strong humans, I need you to get the stimulus from deadlift first. Getting up and down off the ground, getting in and out of chairs, it's all a variation of the squat. Good full depth, heavy squats will keep your hips mobile and healthy as you age. The only bad thing about squatting is that it makes it hard to find a pair of jeans that fit.

Power Clean + Push Press. I kind of cheated here by putting the clean and press together, but it's also fundamental to me, you need to get stuff off the ground and get it overhead, so I call it one movement.  I chose power clean because that's a great way to develop generating power from your hips.  The squat and deadlift will create strength, but you need the power clean to develop speed and increase your power production.  I chose push press because you really can't go heavy enough with a strict press, and the jerk is too technical.  The push press is the Goldilocks of the shoulder-to-overhead movements when it comes to weight lifted and skill needed.

Strict Pull-up. Again another fundamental movement: pulling yourself up. It also rounds out the upper body pull/press dichotomy. If you can do 5 strict chest-to-bar pullups you've proven that your shoulders are strong.

Heavy Carries. The first four movements are generally done with bilateral symmetry (you squat with both legs, pull up with both arms). Here's where we get our first unilateral movement. People in my class know that I'm big on unilateral movements, by forcing only one side of your body to work at a time, you don't let the strong side take over for the weak side. It's great at finding and correcting asymmetries. There's really nothing better for your trunk than a few trips to the stop sign and back with the 32 kg kettlebell.  Though you can really carry anything, I do have sandbags if you ever want them, they're hidden in the back. I'll have a whole rant coming later on why we don't do sit-ups, and why carries are the best thing for core strength than anything else

TGU. Rounding out my list is the Turkish Get Up. For all of my love of the kettlebell, this is the only movement I have on the list that uses it. I love the TGU because it's a great whole body workout while also forcing your to be strong in all kinds of awkward positions. Most people who talk to me know that I'm against the static stretching, we never stretch before or after class. So how do you become more mobile? You do work in positions that require mobility (for example, full depth squats are how we open our hips). The TGU develops really good shoulder, hip, and knee mobility while also requiring should, trunk, hip, and knee strength.  It's a one-stop-shop.

So why did I pick these movements over all the other ones I could have chosen? And why are Amy's going to be different than mine? It all has to do with context. My goal is to take normal people and make them strong. If you asked me what movements I would choose for a weightlifter, you'd get a different list, same if you asked what a powerlifter should do, or anyone else doing sport-specific training. But since my goal is to take non-professional athletes and make them strong and durable, these are the movements I believe give you the biggest benefit for your effort. Things on this list are easy to learn, have a low potential for injury, and can give you a big stimulus without spending hours in the gym. And if you watch what I do on a daily basis for my own personal workouts, you'd pretty much only see these movements - so you know I walk the talk.

Amy's list comes tomorrow (we'll be tracking the "likes" to see who wins...).
Test 1RM snatch (or power, or hang, or wherever you are in your progression learning the snatch)