Want to Improve your Performance? Be Great at these 5 Fundamentals
Every great coach and personal trainer will preach about being great at the fundamentals for improving movement and performance enhancement. Too many people overlook the importance of these movements and head straight to the 'sexier' more impressive exercises, which unfortunately increases injury rates and limits physical potential down the line. So what are these fundamental movements and why should we all be looking at them?
The first and one of the most basic and essential movement patterns we must look to master and improve is the squat. We naturally start when we are babies without being coached yet have perfect form, so why do we loose this ability as we grow into adults?
Like anything if you 'don't use it you tend to loose it' and this is exactly what happens as we age. We tend not to perform a deep squat motion very often in our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, which means our ankles, knees and hips don't go through that specific range of motion very often, hence they stiffen up. Babies are at a slight biomechanical advantage as they naturally have a slightly deeper hip socket than adults which helps with a baby squat (deep squat), but this doesn't mean as adults we shouldn't be able to perform this basic movement.
To perfect the motor learning of the baby squat you will need suitable mobility and stability at the ankle and hip joints plus good core strength, which requires a balanced, functional approach to training. Once mastered (or at least improved) you will start to see improvements in many aspects of your training, including; olympic lifting ability, control in step ups, single leg squat movement, deadlifts, jumping ability, landing ability, general agility, balance, co-ordination plus much more.
The second fundamental movement is the hip hinge. This is where you have the ability to be able to pick something up off the floor by keeping your back in neutral by pushing your hips backwards and knees soft (just off straight). It is different to the deep squat lift from the floor, as the legs stay straighter throughout the movement with your chest horizontal to the ground.
Once you have perfected this movement pattern you will improve your deadlifts, single leg lifts, ball picks ups, toe touch, kettlebell swings/complexes, worm walks, bent over rows plus more. This movement is also vital for good spine hygiene throughout the day (see 5 DIY Strategies for improving back pain) and will significantly reduce the chance of injury through good lifting technique and mechanics.
Perfect Push up
The third fundamental is the push up or press up. This is probably the most well-known upper body exercise in history and this is because it's a fundamental movement for health and performance. The 'simple' push up is actually not that simple - done well it requires great core strength, shoulder stability and motor control during the movement. The majority of athletes and clients we train don't have a very good push up, which highlights the relative complexity of the movement in terms of physical ability much more than people realise or give it credit for.
If you master the push up with great form, your ability to perform almost every push and pull exercise improves, not to mention your core exercises and planks. The push up is a big 'bang for your buck' exercise where it challenges many aspects of physical ability and transfers easily to many other movements and exercises that enhance health and performance. Perfect the perfect push up and feel your training and health go up a notch.
The ability to perform a good pull up is a sign of upper body strength and joint integrity. Although this movement can seem quite un-natural and not very useable in current daily life, if we look a little closer at the source of where this movement stems from then we get a clearer idea of why its so important.
Just look back at when we were all cavemen living in the jungle - we had to have the ability to be able to climb well, hang for time, swing from trees etc. This ability to be able to pull ourselves up, hang and swing kept us alive and away from predators, so we had to perfect this movement. This by itself makes the pull up a fundamental movement that we should all be able to perform with good technique let alone the performance benefits it brings. The exercise challenges many aspects of upper body control including; grip strength/endurance, shoulder stability, back muscle strength/endurance, core bracing ability plus good mobility in the chest and shoulders.
Adding all of these benefits up, plus the human evolutionary reasons sets the case for the pull up being a fundamental movement that we should all be looking to include and perfect in our workout routines.
The final movement is crawling. When we talk about crawling we immediately think of babies and movement techniques when growing up. The reason babies learn to crawl is for their bodies to develop the strength and mobility needed for the eventual sofa surfing and walking patterns they will do a few weeks/months down the line. This highlights the importance of crawling and how this fundamental movement is one stage in the step by step process to the end goal of walking.
Obviously once we can walk and run we no longer need to crawl to get from A to B, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't go back to our movement roots now and again to tap into our bodies natural motor patterns of learning. To crawl requires our bodies to use a holistic movement approach working upper body and lower body timing and sequencing, upper body strength, lower body strength, reactive core stability, whole body balance and co-ordination of joints.
For those of you who have ever tried crawling for any period of time, you will also know how good it is for your overall conditioning and fitness levels. The whole crawling movement is very versatile and is also a great low impact alternative to other higher impact CV activities. By using more of these crawling patterns throughout your training you will improve the many areas of physical fitness needed for good health and improved performance in many sports and activities.
Build your workout routines around these 5 movement fundamentals and you will cover off many of the most important physical abilities you need to function well. You will also reduce your injury occurrence and move more freely with less effort, which is what its all about!
Thanks for reading,
Stay healthy, keep moving,