The Art of Movement Newsletter
Every Friday 'The Art of Movement' newsletter drops into your inbox with a quick, digestible read on a range of topics within the world of strength and conditioning, health, wellbeing, sports, injury reduction, performance, and anything else that pops into my head that I think might assist you on your journey in life.
Each edition includes my 'movement of the week, a quote the reader can appreciate, and what I hope to be a valuable insight into the world of health and fitness.
You know that old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again?” Well, what if the second time didn’t work either? What if you failed a third time? Maybe even a fourth? What would you do then? Would you give up or would you keep going until you finally succeeded? We see people giving up all the time. When something challenging and new comes their way, most people panic and run in the opposite direction as fast as they can.
Good quality pull ups are arguably one of the hardest training exercises to master. Depending on the environment you are in, you will see a wide spectrum of peoples ‘pull up capabilities’ - for example, I could be coaching a team of footballers, where maybe 70-80% can execute more than 1 pull up - but perhaps only 10-20% of this group are able to carry out more than 5 with proper form...
You cannot succeed at anything unless you understand the rules that govern it. This is especially true when it comes to training and recovery. These two areas must be approached with a strategic plan which, executed correctly, will help you to consistent long-term training success as long as you live.
It’s no secret that in order to meet your objectives, it is not enough to just go through the motions once or twice and call it a day; along your journey you need to find new ways to challenge yourself so that you can keep reaching new and improved levels of performance. This is known as variation, not only an extremely important training principle, but one with many caveats also (because there is such a thing as too much variation).
This week’s training principle is all about exercise order, and the importance of putting big, multi-joint compound movements at the right place in your workout. Too often I see people in the gym doing leg extension followed by squats (queasy feeling), arm extension followed by bench press (involuntary gag), or bicep curls followed by pull ups (little bit of sick in the mouth).
Ask Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo how they are so ‘gifted’. How they are so fortunate to be blessed with the skills they have which set them apart into a different footballing galaxy from the rest of the world… chances are they will probably be quite annoyed. The idea that these freaks of footballing nature got to the levels they did by accident, by some ‘blessing’ or footballing gift, is naive at best...
So earlier this year, I signed up for a half-marathon for the first time (having been roped in by my wife, my best mate, and his girlfriend). I say roped in, but didn’t really take much convincing. I’ve always been arrogant enough to think I’ve got a half-marathon in my locker, despite rarely doing much in the way of distance training - I categorically hate running anything over 10k (although I did used to run middle distance and cross country as a youngster). Football is where I get my miles in. I rack up around 10km in a 90 min game, and half of that during a bit of 5-a-side in the week.
However, as I would also say to a beginner, there is no doubt you can do the distance...
Lower back pain is hands down (alongside knee pain) the biggest injury concern I help people to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Thousands of research studies have been carried out over the last few decades for lower back pain, in order to unearth the root causes of injury, most efficient rehabilitation strategies and preventative actions to deter onset of lower back issues.
So here are 3 summaries of the scientific findings around lower back injury reduction...
In today’s modern health and fitness industry full of fancy looking ‘HIIT’ workouts, cult-creating training styles and fad diets, intentional and well-practised breathing is perhaps the single most underrated health hack (alongside getting 8 hours sleep). When you consider that we take roughly between 20,000-25,000 breaths EVERY DAY (my personal average is 13-14 breaths per minute, according to my Garmin watch) - that’s a lot of damn breaths. That’s a lot of scope for benefit when you’re getting it right, and recipe for disaster if you’re doing it wrong!
But what is meant by intentional breathing? What does it look like and how do we practice it?
A greatly important aspect of learning to lift weights is learning to appreciate time and timing, as well as attention to detail. A person who has never squatted before, but has seen hundreds of people do a squat before (maybe incorrectly on a number of occasions), may see a person standing upright, who bends their knees and sinks towards the ground, then returns to standing upright. But when attempting to squat, this might be the extent of their understanding...
This week I felt I was long overdue some football-based ramblings, which link to how professional footballers are prepared in the gym by their highly advanced sports science practitioners. During my time at university I have always been fascinated by the hamstrings (I wrote my undergrad and postgrad dissertations on them) - mainly because I used to pull my hamstring on a regular basis as a youngster. The injury completely frustrated my years in youth football, and so my studies led me to wanting to unearth why I was so frequently injured and how I could stop it from happening in my adult years.
Whenever we look at a training programme, a coach/trainer should always look at particular aspects including exercise selection, exercise order, volume, intensity etc. to assess whether the individual's needs are being met. Every single one of us requires this basic ‘needs analysis’ to ensure that what we are doing in the gym reflects our individual requirements, and this analysis may vary in its degrees of specificity from person to person. But the reality is everybody should be able to do this if they want to, qualified coach or not - we were just never taught it at school.
So I’ve had an interesting week. From a personal perspective perhaps one of the more significant weeks in my life - as after 8 glorious years working as a personal trainer for The Hogarth Club in Chiswick, I decided that at the end of the summer I will be moving on and going it alone, doing what I do on a purely freelance basis...
This week’s newsletter is going to focus on the importance of rest and relaxation in a hectic world which very often seems to get the best of us. I have had the recent fortune to be able to reflect on how important this is over the easter weekend, spending 3.5 days down in Cornwall with a few friends, going on some awesome coastal walks, breathing fresh sea air, being at one with nature, eating, drinking, laughing and sleeping in.
One of the FAQ’s I am regularly presented with is the quest for ‘strength’. People want to get strong, stay strong or be stronger, and for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it is simply aesthetic - to ‘tone up’ (so they say) and appear more lean and athletic. Sometimes it is to feel more confident and raise self-esteem. Some people participate in elite sport and have an urgency to reduce their injury susceptibility and maximise performance.
However, one thing is for certain. For all of these varying individual cases of desire to get ‘stronger’, each will have a wildly different understanding of what that actually means and entails.
The purpose of this week's article is just to provide that gentle reminder that we are all going to need on a regular basis in this modern world. That one that you always have to give yourself after scrolling through endless facebook and instagram posts, which give you that snapshot into the golden, glamorous, fun, sexy lifestyles of those we keep around us (or rather barely even know).
I’m pretty sure everyone knows how much sleep they should be getting. Everybody knows an ‘early night’ is a good idea before an important event the following day. However, not many people are aware of some of the basics that are absolutely crucial towards getting regular high quality sleep. So here are some of my top tips, and a little bit of the science behind them!
The mobility-stability relationship is a handy principle I refer to a lot when my clients present me with an injury or movement problem. This rule concerns the way that the joints around our body function, and what we generally need from them in order to give ourselves the best chance of staying injury free and moving efficiently.
The most important thing when you are working towards better health, fitness or wellbeing is (alongside goal setting and general consistency) is having a set of priorities. When you have priorities, it provides you with a mini-checklist of ideals you have committed to ensuring you put at the forefront of your week...