Get Fit Like a Wild Man: A Primer on MovNat

by A Manly Guest Contributor on September 12, 2013 · 40 comments

in Fitness, Health & Sports

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre.

“A pattern that had been familiar throughout history is that after a war is fought and won, the tendency is for society to relax, enjoy life, and exercise less. … It appears that as societies become too enamored with wealth, prosperity and self-entertainment, fitness levels drop. In addition, as technology has advanced with man, the levels of physical fitness have decreased.” –Lance C. Dalleck and Len Kravitz

In the late 19th century, Dudley Allen Sargent – virtually the founder of physical education in America – warned that without solid physical education programs, people would become fat, deformed, and clumsy. Sound familiar?

Fitness has become accessory to the life of the modern man. It is up to each of us to exercise or not. Most people don’t, and being out of shape has become both ubiquitous and commonly accepted. It has become okay to be a physically soft, inept grown-up. Superficial, cosmetic improvements in body shape remains the primary motivation to the few who exercise, and globo-gyms are filled with “mirror-athletes” — people obsessed with their own reflection.

But looking fit and being fit are not necessarily the same. Being fit is being capable of performing physically in the real world with effectiveness and efficiency, and especially when the situation and the environment are challenging.

Enter MovNat. MovNat (natural movement) is a physical education system and fitness method dedicated entirely to developing such capabilities.  A “movnatter” believes that there is more to building the body than just building muscles, and that there is more to building a man than just building his body. Traditional physical training once combined physical and mental strengthening into one integrated whole and emphasized the vital necessity of preparing for the practical demands of life. Today, MovNat perpetuates this mentality and philosophy. Natural human movement is not an option. It has always been, still is, and will always be a biological necessity. In a world crowded with an increasing number of disempowered men, the timeless endeavor of real-world preparedness is once again becoming a fundamental component of the art of manliness.

The History of Physical Training

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If you think that fitness started with aerobics and body-building, Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger, think again. The history of physical training and education is made of a long line of ancient peoples, tracing back to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, and later on, the Greeks and Romans. Preparedness for battle was the principal purpose behind physical training. Following the Dark Ages of the medieval times, the Renaissance era prompted a renewed interest in the body, health, and physical education, especially in the work of Mercurialis.

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Starting with the Industrial Revolution and up until the early 20th century, a series of important pioneers of physical education — Johann Bernard Basedow, Guth Muths, Friedrich Jahn, Gustavus Hamilton, Archibald MacLaren, Francisco Amoros, Georges Hebert – built the foundation of physical training: gymnastics and calisthenics. And not the modern versions which focus on acrobatic moves or strength conditioning.

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Instead, early gymnastics and calisthenics prioritized practical skills, with effective applications to the real world: running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, lifting and carrying, throwing and catching, swimming, boxing, wrestling, horse riding, stick fighting, and fencing. Below, you’ll find three examples of men who sought to retain natural body movements as a means of physical fitness:

  • In 1815 in Germany, Friedrich Jahn, the “Father of Gymnastics” developed exercise clubs called the Turnenvereins, which were outdoor exercise facilities with apparatuses designed for running, jumping, balancing, climbing, vaulting, etc.
  • In France in 1819, Francisco Amoros, a military man originally from Spain, organized the Normal Gymnastic Civil and Military School. He developed a system of gymnastics that also included work on apparatuses and calisthenics. In 1830 he published a book titled A Guide to Physical, Gymnastic, and Moral Education. His system became known as the “natural-applied” system.
  • In 1905, Georges Hebert created a similar system called “Physical, Virile and Moral Education by the Natural Method.” Similar to his predecessors, the whole method relied on the practice of natural and utility exercises such as walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, carrying, etc. He advocated a “reasoned return to nature” to be beneficial to the “weak and degenerated” civilized man.

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The main point is to realize that what we know as fitness or working out is quite a new thing. It’s become a large industry offering a confusing plethora of varied and diverging concepts and programs that everyone is free to pick from and is pervaded to the bone by marketing gimmicks. For many centuries, men have been using simple, no-nonsense methods. They have dedicated themselves to developing their body and mind by honing their natural movement skills. They have been keen to prepare themselves for the practical demands of the real world, by moving and performing physically in useful ways. It is a radically simple, yet highly effective approach.

Principles of MovNat Training

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While the MovNat methodology incorporates concepts of bio-mechanics, kinesiology, and exercise science, it is also the modern version of these ancient physical training methods.  Discover some of our essential guiding principles below.

Prioritize Practical Movement Skills

Natural human movement comprises locomotive skills such as walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, or swimming; manipulative skills such as lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching; and combative skills such as striking and grappling. In today’s comfortable world we are losing sight of the practicality of these skills, yet their value cannot be ignored whenever a life-threatening situation arises. You might have to run for your life, or climb, swim, fight, lift, etc. These abilities can save not only your own life, but that of strangers and loved ones as well. George Hebert said, “Be strong to be useful.” Do you want to be strong and useful? Then prioritize practical ways to move.

Get Real and Aim for Effectiveness

Our take on effectiveness is not limited to counting sets and reps. Effectiveness is the ability to get the job done within a variety of contexts, including a great range of environments and situations. Maybe you can do pull-ups, but have you ever tried climbing on top of a thick, rounded and elevated horizontal bar (or tree branch) from a deadhang? If you’ve never checked on your actual ability to be effective at something practical like this, then how can you possibly know if you can? Do you know the different ways it can be done? Don’t just assume your capability. You want to train your effectiveness in varied environments and situations and regularly put it to the test.

Develop Efficient Movement Skills

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Managing effectiveness is great, but physical competency for practical performance requires more than that. Let’s say you tried, and did manage to climb on top of the bar or tree branch. How many attempts did it take? How much time did it take? Were you hesitant, maybe afraid? How much energy did you expend, and how safe was it? Could you do it several times in a row without losing efficiency? Effectiveness is the ability to perform a task successfully regardless of the cost; efficiency is the ability to perform a task successfully at a high level at the lowest energy cost possible, and with the greatest level of safety possible. Anyone can run, jump, climb, etc., to some degree, but not everyone can do it skillfully. By emphasizing efficiency and developing specific physiological adaptations, you can acquire a level of mastery that goes beyond what is purely innate.

Cultivate Adaptability

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We’ve mentioned the pull-up, which is a practical movement as well as just an upper body strength conditioning drill. It is actually a discrete component of an upward climbing motion; it requires strength and limited motor control. Now this is the bad news: your effectiveness and efficiency at any given climbing action are absolutely NOT guaranteed by just training pull-ups. This is called the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. By only doing pull-ups on the same regular pull-up bar, you become adapted to this specific demand, but not adaptable to other climbing patterns or environments. In short, pulling up is climbing, but climbing is not just pulling up.

Let’s say you can do regular pull-ups (prone grip, chin to bar, no kipping), hanging from a regular pull-up bar. Now find a thicker (say, 4 inches wide), smoother bar, like some of the metal structures used for swings at the playground (like Brett has already shown us!). Can you do as many pull-ups as you normally can do at the gym or at home? It is likely you will do significantly less reps because of a lack of grip strength. Say that as part of your regular workout program you can jump 50 times on a two-foot high plyobox. Today, you have to jump only once…but over a 12-foot-wide and 12-foot-deep gap, with a 3-4 step run-up, and you must land on a narrow surface with barely enough space for both your feet. Could you do it?

Apply the same reasoning to other types of movements and contexts. How much of your fitness training transfers to a variety of practical challenges? How adaptable are you to different environments? No amount of extra strength conditioning will compensate for a lack of specific strength conditioning or motor control.

Train Mindfully

The mind of today’s man is constantly distracted by various sensory stimuli. While using exercise machinery at the gym, it is likely you will listen to music, watch TV, and think of something else. Your body is in one place and your mind in another, trying to escape the boredom of the fitness chore.

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MovNat is different for three reasons. It is based on real movements, not muscle-isolation. Second, the practical nature of what you are doing is obvious: “I’m jumping over this obstacle, I’m climbing on top of this bar.” Finally, the movement is adaptable. If you jump, you may have to accurately land on a restricted surface, in a stable way. Your mind cannot wander, because there is a practical task at hand within an environment that can’t be ignored and that you must adapt to. Both your mind and body have to be in the same place, at the same time. This is mindfulness; pure presence in the moment, where you are, doing what you’re doing. In today’s hectic life, mindfulness has become a rare skill, and a priceless experience.

Awareness, alertness, focus, and responsiveness are all part of the art of mindfulness, and no physical competency is possible without it. Mindful practice is your opportunity to simplify and reconnect the mind to the body, to the environment, and to the moment.

Ensure Progressions and Safety

It is common to see people, after years of neglecting their body, trying to reverse the negative physiological effects of decades of physical abandon by brutalizing their body back to fitness in a matter of weeks. This culture of immediacy and instant gratification deserves a severe backlash.

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This is why progressions and programming are an essential part of the MovNat system. You will practice the “side swing traverse” before you practice the “elbow swing-up,” and the “tuck pop-up” before the “muscle-up.” You will train simple balancing walks on a 2×4 board at floor level and maybe someday end up safely walking across a fallen tree above a deep canyon. You will build skills, strength, conditioning, and mental toughness gradually. Practice mindfully, progressively, and safely.

Spend Time in Nature

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Modern man, just like his ancient ancestors, needs to regularly spend time in nature if he wants to be optimally healthy. Nature is the original habitat where he was able to emerge as one the most successful species on Earth. Indoor, controlled environments are very useful to get people started moving naturally in a safe and scalable manner. But the revitalizing effect of nature has been repeatedly proven by science. Moving naturally in nature is extremely beneficial to physical and mental health. Try it!

How to Get Started

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Re-explore

A simple way to get started with MovNat is to re-explore your potential for natural movement. If you think about the different ways you move each day, you’ll realize they are not very varied and stick to a fairly rigid pattern. Get out and find or create opportunities to move naturally (running, jumping, crawling, balancing, climbing, carrying, etc.).

This approach is simple and effective, but keep in mind the essential difference between natural as done spontaneously but not necessarily effectively, efficiently, or safely, and natural and done effectively, efficiently, and safely. Without guidance, you may not even be able to feel the difference between good technique and bad form, and take risks you are not prepared for. Knowledge, technique, mindful practice of efficient movement, and the respect of progressions (volume, intensity, and environmental complexity) are the keys for a successful transition from the innate but inefficient, to efficiency and competency.

Learn

Since we’ve used the example of pull-ups vs. practical climbing, as an example of the learning process, how about trying the easiest way to climb on top of a horizontal bar (or large tree branch) from the deadhang position (also known as the “sliding swing-up”). “Easiest” doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy, and it can be quite challenging to the beginner. This simple test might show you that what is spontaneous is not always effective, and what is effective is not always efficient. Use the guidance below to boost both your effectiveness and efficiency!

  • Find a horizontal bar or tree branch about 6 to 8 feet above the ground that is strong enough to support your weight and not move. The thickness should ideally be between 2 and 4 inches. Make sure the surface underneath is clear of any obstacle you could stumble or fall on. You may ask a friend to spot you for additional safety.
  • Start from the split deadhang (arms apart, hanging like a limp noodle), the body perpendicular to the bar. Secure a firm grip with both hands, hanging still, and keeping both arms fully lengthened.
  • Without pushing off the ground with your feet, generate a forward swinging motion by lifting both bent legs up and to the front, then down and to the back.
  • When you’ve gained enough momentum, swiftly lift both legs up as you’re swinging forward and pinch the bar between the feet. The foot pinch requires accuracy; look up and focus on making sure you will effectively secure the “foot grip.” If you lack abdominal strength and lifting your feet at bar level is too difficult, you can try assisting by pulling up with your arms.
  • From this “sloth” position, pull from the feet and hook one leg over the bar. The leg is strongly supported by placing the hollow at the back of your knee (“popliteal space”) on top of the bar, not the calf.
  • Release the inside hand (left hand if your left leg is hooked) and bring the crease of the elbow (“antecubital space”) over the bar, or the forearm directly.
  • Pull the outside arm up and place the forearm on top of the bar. From there, slide the armpit of the inside arm forward on support on the bar, then place the other armpit in the same position. At this point, your bodyweight is securely supported by 3 points of support, the back of the knee and both armpits. The opposite leg is relaxed hanging down in the void.
  • Pull the free leg all the way up (fully extended or slightly bent) and swiftly swing it down to generate momentum (“bodyweight transfer”). The swift motion of the leg will elevate your center of gravity by lifting your bottom up. Keep the lats and hooked leg tight to maintain a secure position.
  • As your body is being elevated, both armpits move up over the bar, arms sliding forward, allowing you to pull from the inside of the upper arms.
  • As you start pulling from the arms, immediately lean sideways and forcefully push off the back of the knee of the opposite leg, allowing the body to fully extend in length across the top of the bar.
  • End up stable on top of the bar, bodyweight supported by the flank and the inside of the opposite leg. Reposition your body, for instance in a straddle stance.

Below is a video to help you better understand these movements:


We hope you were able to be effective and manage to climb successfully!  We also hope that you were able to increase your efficiency by rehearsing the movement several times and improving motor control. If you’ve had issues performing the movement, the reason could be a lack of technique, a lack of strength or mobility, or a combination of those. Training firsthand at a MovNat affiliate gym or with a certified trainer will certainly help you understand what and how you need to train to make progress. Once you have acquired this particular technique, bear in mind that there are six other ways to climb a horizontal bar. If you are interested in developing this kind of physical competence, join our community and come train with us, or why not become a certified MovNat trainer yourself? This could be great way to bring MovNat back to your community and help it become more physically capable! Plus, practicing with others is just more fun!

Do you want to look fit, or to be fit?

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If your current fitness program does not challenge and increase your practical and adaptable physical competence and practical performance in the real world, then I encourage you to modify your approach. Isn’t it time to reclaim a nature that has been domesticated by modern life, re-discover your boyhood desire to explore, and find your inner wild man?

Becoming and staying physically capable is not a mere option among the many different individual pursuits available to us in the civilized world, but an evolutionary necessity, a biological duty, and a practical reality.

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Natural Movement, as a fitness concept, started with Erwan Le Corre exploring the forests of the world. You can read more about Erwan here & here. Before founding MovNat, Erwan spent a lifetime pursuing a true fitness. From France to Brazil, Jujitsu to Georges Hebert, he studied and synthesized ancient fitness methodologies into what is now known as Natural Movement Fitness. MovNat is the result.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leonardo September 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

More than a 100 years ago, there were people thinking that society was lame and weak. Yet, they would not believe how worse it has become…
It scares me to think of how worse it can get if things don’t start to change like… yesterday!

2 Christopher Provost September 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

This is an excellent post! I am 43 now and two years ago, I vowed to regain the fitness levels I had in my twenties. I started entering obstacle course races (OCR) and found them to be not only beneficial physical challenges, but fun! Since May 2012, I have completed the Run For Your Lives, Warrior Dash, Spartan Sprint, and Tough Mudder, plus completed numerous 5K races and one mini triathlon. I’m signed up for another Spartan Sprint in mid-November. I’m probably more physically fit than many people half my age, but I always find room for improvement. While I used to weight lift in a gym when I was in high school and college, I mainly focus on bodyweight exercises and natural movements now. Thanks for giving me more motivation to keep on this track.

3 Logan Shea September 12, 2013 at 10:40 pm

This is an excellent article and so are most of your fitness articles. Although, I find all of your articles about fitness increasingly hard to read and digest with a clear mind when, in every single article relating to the fitness world, you or your guest writer opens with bashing body building and physique training. Why should someone working to better themselves, no matter what the means are, be looked down upon? I am a young man looking to get into the Bodybuilding world and your articles always subject myself, and my entire community to scrutiny and hatred. Not to mention, many great minds, and great people have been born out of the success of bodybuilding, Steve Cook, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and CT Fletcher (while some might find CT, very offensive and contradictory, I personally love his ideals) are just a few of the men who have inspired other people to get to the gym. In short, what does it matter if someone works out to look good, as long as they are working out everyone should be encouraged.

4 Martin September 13, 2013 at 12:53 am

Excellent article, I agree with your ideas about how people in the gym train to be muscular and not necessarily for effectiveness (though training in the gym is of course much better than not training at all.)
If I want to incorporate this in my training I would have a slight problem though. The only nature around here are the Rub’ Al Khali desert and several smaller deserts, with a severe lack of tree branches. What kind of exercises would fit in such a program when you live next to the desert?

5 Spencer September 13, 2013 at 8:43 am

You live in the Arab Peninsula Martin?!?! Go you haha. That sounds to me like you’re either military or ballsy. I’m sorry I cannot be of much help in solving your problem though. If you have access to a jump rope, stool/ box/ bench, and maybe a kettle bell you could probably get a very good crossfit workout going.

6 Native Son September 13, 2013 at 8:50 am

Just a trifling bit of “Devil’s Advocacy”. These quite effective routines take time. While not advocating short cuts, one may argue that the typical modern man does not need the level of fitness required of an up-armored heavy infantryman. Further, most men, having given hostages to fortune (wives and chidren) simply won’t have the time for such an intensive work out.

7 Claude September 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

I love this kind of training. Working out outside is much more invigorating and its actually fun, instead of a chore. It feels more like playing that working out. Kids are also more motivated to participate too.

8 Jonny September 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

Loved this article, especially the points about mindfulness and getting into nature. When we spend so much of our lives stuck in air conditioned boxes, distracted from the world by tv and smartphones, it recharges the manly spirit to get out into the wild and just enjoy the experience.

9 Yaseen Noorani September 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

This is one of the best articles I’ve read on here (and that is saying something!). I’ve never really liked the idea of going to the gym to lift weights just to go on and wear tight t-shirts to show off. This showed the real reasons for training and has motivated me to train myself with this in mind

10 Christopher Massey September 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm

@Native Son

I would tend to agree with your statement, but you make time for what you want to do. This work out style is intriguing to me and I would rather do a workout that is intensive and that I have to focus on than some targeted gym workout. I hate just running or going to the gym, but it’s what I have. I do not live in a rural enough environment like I used to and this is a great chance to get back to that style of living, simply by doing a workout.

11 Allan September 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm

This is exactly why I keep wanting to move back to my family ranch, with a stream, woodlands and fields. Real trees, not these sissified things they plant next to parking lots in apartmentland. Too bad the uncle that owns it thinks it should be torn down. I learned to love splitting wood by hand, tossing large stones in the creek, building things with my hands – things you can’t do apartmentland.

This reminds me of a thought I had the other day. I recall a year or so ago, visiting the playground with my wife. It was just us, so I didn’t mind being just a kid on the playground. I hauled myself onto the top of the monkey bars like I used to, all the fun stuff. I’ve never been sore like that from the gym. I keep telling the wife that when we get a home, we’ll build a GREAT playset in the yard.

Adults playing without kids can scare some parents, I guess.

12 mid September 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm

“A pattern that had been familiar throughout history is that after a war is fought and won, the tendency is for society to relax, enjoy life, and exercise less.”

Citation needed.

13 Gregory Bolton September 14, 2013 at 7:00 am

Great article, I’ve read and saved some articles on Ewan Lecore. I try to embrace all aspects of fitness. To Martin, you should look for any large rock structures in your enviroment and do some rock climbing. That could provide the challenge you are looking for.

14 John Bohlig September 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

Excellent article. I’m a construction worker: I lift , bend ,twist, push, and pull for a living.

15 Erwan September 14, 2013 at 10:44 am

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback.
Logan, nobody bashed anything or anyone. Physical training for the sake of improving physical looks is fine, and you are absolutely right that in the end, what really matters is personal satisfaction. When I say that today’s primary concern and reason for “fitness training” is physical appearance, it is not “bashing” body-building, it making an objective observation. This observation about the current state of the fitness industry allowed to emphasize the difference with the past, and how our predecessors used to primarily approach physical training from the perspective of real-world preparedness. This being said, the desire for a strong and athletic looking body has always been a natural endeavor, or at least a subject of pride or satisfaction. Why would that ever be a bad thing? You choose your modality (how you get that kind of result), and what really matters to you in life. Thanks for your input!

16 JP September 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

Thanks for this article! Definitely going to a workshop!

17 Jesse September 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Saw a great example of bodybuilding versus functional strength today:
http://www.dumpert.nl/mediabase/6562565/a177a2ca/pro_bodybuilder_vs_pro_armworstelaar.html

18 Ruben September 14, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Hey, this seems like it would become my greatest hobby instead of just a way to get fit. I have one problem though. I live in the Netherlands, and I cannot find any place that has such types of workouts. Any suggestions?

19 Jane September 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Have you read Tarzan of the Apes lately? It’s a fabulous classic that will motivate anyone the get their jungle workout on. I have to admit that Tarzan is the only fictional character I have ever had a crush on. What’s not to love about a man that kills tigers with his bare hands and eats them raw?

I have six Tarzans and Janes at my house that tumble on a mat and swing from the closet rods every night. My 8 year old beats everyone, including her 15 year old brother, in pull ups so now she just needs to keep up her strength as she grows. The rest of us have a lot of catching up to do except for the 1 week old. He is right on schedule, practicing his gripping and stepping reflexes several times a day. He’ll be swinging through the trees before we know it.

20 Mr. X September 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm

What a great article. Well done AOM.

21 Mr. X September 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

@Ruben. Instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you, why don’t you start this group? :)

22 Paul September 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I have had trouble sticking to workout routines all through my 29 years because I always failed to see ‘the point’ in working out other than ‘health’. Now that I’m coming up on 30 and noticing small declines in my physical ability, I’ve started a real regimen—forget ‘the point’; I’d rather be healthy and live that way.

This article, though, showed me that there’s actually a movement for human movement; I just never knew how to think about it. I’m definitely going to start changing my weights workouts to more natural movements for one (ie. lifting a barbell from the ground to above my head instead in a set of movements of just doing bicep curls) and on my runs I’m going to check out nearby playsets. There’s always kids at them and I don’t want to look like a pedo, but maybe early in the morning…

Thanks Erwan/Brett/Kate! This article gives me an even better reason to keep up the regimen.

23 Martin September 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Gregory, thanks for the suggestion. I actually am now resorting to climbing the sides of my apartment, it came with a built in climbing route basically. Running through the desert is also quite the exercise, but you can only do that at night or early in the morning (same goes for climbing the buildings). During the day you risk severe sunburns and related problems.
Spencer, I am a research scientist working for an energy company here in the United Arab Emirates.

24 Erwan September 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

@Ruben, we don’t have affiliate MovNat gyms yet in the Netherlands, but we do have certified trainers. Another way to learn is to come to one of our workshops. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can train anywhere, anytime, solo or with training partners, or even get certified and teach our techniques and method.

25 Noel September 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

This all sounds very interesting and appealing to me. I love the idea of functional fitness. I have had much frustration with the gym/weightlifting environment and the intimidation factor there. I have always hated it, so I stopped trying to force myself to go. Lately I’ve been doing mostly a routine of alternating days of running 3-5 miles and doing bodyweight exercises in my basement and backyard in the morning before going to work and being trapped at a desk.

Like Ruben, I found it somewhat disappointing that the only way to learn the MovNat basic techniques was to sign up for an expensive workshop or retreat in some far away city. Even the option of hiring a personal trainer who is certified (assuming I could find one as there is no directory of such trainers on the MovNat website) I’m sure would cost a small fortune. This seems to be one of those things that is meant only for the wealthy. I know that I could just start doing this stuff by myself, but I also know that if I was to start scaling walls or leaping between boulders across a fast moving river like I’m seeing people do in the video I’d break my leg. I don’t mean to be a killjoy here. This really does sound great, but it’s not going to make a big difference, except to the small handful of people who can afford it, until the training is more accessible.

26 Erwan September 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm

@NativeSon, Moving in natural, practical, effective, and also efficient ways is certainly not the monopoly of the military. It is actually a universal birthright. The practice of MovNat can be as simple as a 15 minutes daily practice in a backyard or nearby park, where many basic natural movements can be performed at a low level of intensity. Of course, it can also be a 40mn to 1hour session at a local indoors affiliate gym several times a week (or at a local gym that has implemented MovNat techniques and routines), last it also can be a half-day or entire day of adaptable movement in nature on a weekend. You see MovNat is not a one-size-fits-all program, but a system which can be easily customized to personal needs.

27 Erwan September 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

@Martin, that it is indeed a slight problem, but not a real issue. Training in nature is fantastic for the body and mind, but not every natural environment is suitable, the reason being that not every natural environment provides variety and scalability. This is why customized, controlled-environments (indoors or outdoors, or combining both) can be very handy, and as a matter of fact our affiliates provide controlled-environments that provide environmental variety, scalability, and safety. This is especially important and effective to beginners (but not only). Back to your specific issue, what you need to move and train is a specific environment, but not necessarily a natural environment, makes sense? For instance, you won’t find much to climb in a desert (except rocks, depending on where you are), but can you access horizontal bars, vertical poles, ropes, platforms of some kind? That’s just an idea. For balancing, so much can be done on simple 2×4 boards, for lifting practically anything that’s heavy enough goes, etc…if you observe your surroundings, if you are enough creative and opportunistic this way, you will find opportunities for practical and adaptable movement training about anywhere. Last, attending you are stationed in a particular place long enough, you can create your training place with such simple elements. I hope it helps. Good luck!

28 Noel September 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

Okay, I take some of what I said yesterday back. It looks like there is an extensive library of YouTube videos
http://www.youtube.com/user/MovNat/videos
that could keep you busy for quite a while. Sorry for the whining.

Nevertheless, I still think it would be useful to have a “getting started” video to give complete beginners somewhere to start from. Also, as I mentioned before there really needs to be a directory of certified trainers/gyms on your website.

29 Andre September 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hey,

That school of thought sounds familiar to me. I am doing parkour, and the roots of parkour are pretty much the same. The origins of parkour, was the “ecole naturelle” an obstacle course for soldiers. Many parkour movements are intended be efficient and . Also check out rosstraining.com: A boxing trainer who trains only with bwe exercises and homemade equipment. He is from the same school of thought.

30 Michael September 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

@Ruben, another thing you might consider is parkour. I’m not sure about any communities in the Netherlands, (speaking from the Great Lakes area of the US) but it seems that MovNat and Parkour both share an emphasis on natural motion and an almost playful training regimen. Not perfect, but it might be worth a try!

31 Erwan September 25, 2013 at 9:11 am

@Andre, no offense but the origins of Parkour are not “the ecole naturelle, an obstacle course for soldiers”. A small group of friends in their teenage, living on the suburbs of Paris, started Parkour. The inspiration was mostly twofold, first the “Methode Naturelle” background of the father and elder brother of David Belle (known as the founder of Parkour) and secondly stunts they would watch in action movies. Because of lack of in-depth knowledge about the old methodologies, they trained the way they could, mostly in urban environments, and pushed their skills to great level, though in limited areas of movement skills. Thanks to the internet, Parkour has become a world wide trend. What you are talking about I guess is the “physical, virile and moral education by the natural method”, also known as “Methode Naturelle” in short. Originally, it was developed in the French navy in the late 19th century, then taught to civilians and spread to the general population before WWI, finally used to train infantry during WWI and leading the creation of “parcours du combattant” (assault course). As for Parkour, it has mostly retained the jumping, climbing and balancing aspect of the original practice, some running and some crawling, but not other essential aspects of overall physical competence training such as long distance running, swimming, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and fighting skills. Some parkour practitioners are realizing these deficiencies and trying to incorporate such skills through supplemental training in addition to their general parkour training, and that’s a great thing. So, while it is good to learn some stuff on the internet, not everything you read is accurate, and it is also good to know history by studying through other sources, such as archives, real people, and/or actual books ;).

32 Erwan September 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

@Noel, please check out movnat.com (our journal) or our Facebook page for MODs, i.e MovNat Of the Day workouts, there’s one workout everyday for beginners, intermediate and advanced movnatters. That’s a good way to get started, but beyond that you’ve got to train first hand with us (our workshops, at one of our affiliate gyms or with one of our certified trainers) or become certified yourself so you learn about our techniques and programming principles. Thanks!

33 Joe September 27, 2013 at 1:23 am

This is great! Just today I was thinking about how abs are so popular, yet I couldn’t think of a natural way that they would be developed because I’ve only ever known how to do simple exercises, especially machines at a gym. What a different outlook I would have if my work out involved real goals like being able to climb a tree or rock wall, instead of just doing pull-ups to build muscle for muscle’s sake. Thanks!

34 Bastiaan September 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

@Ruben, I’m in the same situation were there is no option towards following any of the courses movnat offers (1, because I live in Belgium and 2 because at my fairly young age I do not own the wealth for such expenses). But I do not see this as a limitation in practicing according to the same mindset as movnat. I started running barefoot on my own, soon found out I wasn’t such a loner after all because there were already companies merchandising minimalistic footwear etc. During some research on that matter I stumbled across movnat. Scanned the internet for every bit of information I could encounter on the subject and started going for walks outside as a study break observing my surroundings and the possibilities for climbing, throwing, balancing etc. Took it slow at first and learned through videos and whatever the internet had to offer and after a month or two I felt like a monkey in a playground whenever I stepped outside. In combination with a mild paleodiet I went from your average wussy to a thoroughly trained primitive man in no time. Couple of friends are even training along now because they see the results. My point is that even though Erwan makes a big point about the dangers of not being well instructed (I had some minor injuries), even he learned through experimenting and observing others and so on. In the end its about moving naturally and I think we’re still very much genetically programmed to do so when we put ourselves out in the wild often enough even when we’ve been conditioned to move differently all our lives. If u want I can email you an english amateuristic translation of George Heberts’ book: “physical, virile and moral education by the natural method”. Finally, I really advise you to give it a try cause it changed my way of living and my view on it all for the better.

35 Kamil October 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Thankfully Ive had a great child hood, and this is a great contribution to it. I grew up jumping over things, running, climbing trees (for bird eggs. Kids will be kids) and very often daring with my friends who would do what. I kind of grew up with risk and risk taking, and it has benefitted my life greatly:

I still keep this attitude with me today, not to go into detail but the last time I applied it was going into my first amateur fight during my stay in colombia. Those , excuse my language – f*ck it moments, of just jumping into the moment without thinking, usually bring, some of the best memories to life. For example going on a scary roller coaster ride ect. I allways say,- take risks, but only the ones that are worth it. Stupid risks are unecessary and totally stupid. If you walk close to a border that is high up you say – whats the worst that could happen? I could fall, is it too high? Am I able to land more or less safely? If the answer is yes, then it is a risk worth going for ( in my opinion). I raise my son with this awereness, and a few people have told me allready he looks very alert and awake to be his age. He is 3 and a half and he usually does things all on his own, and manages balance and the know how on where to go. Which is why some adults have approached me saying, please watch him, as if I wasnt and as if a kid his age wasnt able to do that. I say I appriciate your concern – but it is OK, I am aware of where he is its just that we do this everyday. – Oh, so everything is OK then? – Yes. :)
TAKE RISKS, THAT ARE WORTH IT.

Nature is the ultimate mind cleaner for us humans I think. I wish they had a training place like this close to where I live, for the simple reason that I love this type of training.
But where I train now is also really good. And ofcourse I add my own nature runs to the training scheme.
This article made me aware of how much I like this, and of how much I do it. For example if I see a a thicker tree branch choose to balance walk over it, challenge myself to how many stairs I can jump up on going up the stairs and ect.
Good stuff.
Take care fellow men.

36 Erwan October 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

@Joe All natural movements will engage the abs in a way or another, but broad jumps, rotational rocking or leg-overs (climbing) can be seriously “brutal” to abs. S&C naturally takes place when training the particular (practical) movements you want to become skilled at. This is why and how (MovNat) practitioners can develop muscular (but not necessarily bulky) and harmonious physiques.

37 Erwan October 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

@Kamil great feedback, thanks for sharing.

38 tagbadger October 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Great article. You should look into the Indoor Obstacle Course Test at the United States Military Academy. That is a 100 year old test that values these exact principles , and man is it tough! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzBPt0WQg7k

39 Wuan Thong Onn December 21, 2013 at 5:51 am

Most inspiring article!
I am going to be 60 next year and have worked out in gyms a big part of my life. After reading this article, I took a 400 km train journey from my residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to neighbouring Singapore (the nearest MovNat affiliate) where I participated in an 8 hour workshop under the guidance of Gordon and Ana Woon. Great stuff and so applicable to everyday life! Now, as I move around, everything I see ahead of me is something I can exercise with.

Thank you so much for this posting. After almost 60 years of moving, it is a revelation that there is still so much to learn about the correct way to move!

40 BodyweightReallyIsBetter February 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Very cool article. Too bad the reality is the only people who will come across it are those who actually care about themselves and have an awareness. For all the others, stick a fork in em’, they’re done! When I look around and see what’s going on, not just here in the USA, but the world as a whole, it’s pathetic. We are so detached from nature it’s unfathomable. Does the average kid even know what a rock and a stick is? Between technology and our coddling-mentality, our kids are becoming so stationary, it won’t be long before we’ll have to oil up their joints like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Perhaps worse of all, it won’t be getting any better, just worse. As for the more select few of us, we will continue to look for ways to improve our overall fitness, as the world around us turns into blubber. VERY sad.

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