The human body is capable of doing a wide variety of movements, in a variety of environments. But my guest today argues that most modern people only do a few movements each day, commonly find themselves stuck in sterile surroundings, and that these confinements are sapping our physical and psychological health.
His name is Erwan Le Corre and he’s the founder of the MovNat physical fitness system and the author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom. Today on the show Erwan explains what natural movement is, and our amazing human potential for walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, swimming, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and self-defense. We then discuss the cultural forces that have disconnected us and our children from our ability to perform these natural movements, and have turned us into “zoo humans.” Erwan and I then dig into the benefits of engaging with natural movements, from improved mental and physical health to a greater sense of freedom. We end our conversation with Erwan’s actionable advice on how you can easily incorporate more natural movement into your daily life.
- What is “natural movement”? How does it fit in with MovNat?
- The “zoo human” predicament
- Movement poverty, and how it’s come about
- Why you should work on these movements, even if you don’t “need” them
- The psychological problems that come with movement poverty
- What are the cultural forces that have prevented people from developing natural movements?
- The physical and aesthetic benefits of natural movement exercises
- Specialization vs. general fitness
- Overcoming the “weirdo” factor of practicing natural movements
- How our over-parenting culture is hurting kids’ physical development
- What you can do today to start incorporating natural movement into your life
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- My first interview with Erwan about MovNat
- The History of Physical Fitness
- Get Fit Like a Wild Man: A Primer on MovNat
- 10 Physical Skills Every Man Should Master
- The Zoo Human by Desmond Morris
- AoM series on male depression
- You Are Not a Zoo Animal: How to Reclaim Your Primal Health
- A Review of the MovNat Workshop
- Take the Simple Test That Can Predict Your Mortality
- Which Fitness Program is Right For You?
- To Succeed in Work and Life, Be Mr. T
- Ernest Hemingway as a Case Study in Living the T-Shaped Life
- When High School PE Was a Man-Maker
- The Importance of Roughhousing
- Get Strong by Greasing the Groove
Connect With Erwan and MovNat
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Recorded on ClearCast.io
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. The human body is capable of doing a wide variety of movements in a variety of environments, but my guest today argues that most modern people only do a few movements each day, calmly find themselves stuck in sterile surroundings. And these confinements are sapping our physical and psychological health. His name is Erwan Le Corre and he’s the founder of the MovNat physical fitness system and the author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement, Reclaim Power, Health and Freedom. Today on the show, Erwan explains what natural movement is and our amazing human potential for walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, swimming, lifting, throwing, carrying, catching and self defense.
We then discuss cultural forces that disconnected us and our children from our ability to perform these natural movements and have turned us into zoo humans. Erwan and I then dig into the benefits of engaging with our natural movements from improved mental and physical health to a greater sense of freedom. And we end our conversation with Erwan’s actual advice of how you can easily incorporate more natural movement into your daily life. After the show is over, check out our show notes at A-O-M dot I-S slash natural movement. Erwan joins me now via Clearcast.io. Erwan Le Corre, welcome back to the show.
Erwan Le Corre: Thanks, Brett. I’m so happy.
Brett McKay: So we had you on the show, it was few years ago to talk about the MovNat technique, and you’ve got a new book out, the Practice of Natural Movement, Reclaim Power Health and Freedom with Natural Movement. And this book, it’s a beautiful book, but it also distills everything you’ve been teaching people about natural movement for several years now. For those who aren’t familiar with this idea, what is natural movement? And then from there, let’s talk about how your idea of MovNat, the MovNat technique fits into natural movement.
Erwan Le Corre: Natural movement is the term I’ve coined to explain what it is for humans to move naturally, and we could use a metaphor. We could imagine how wild animals move in nature. Let’s say a mountain lion for instance, what’s a natural movement for a mountain lion. And obviously that would be a set of movement skills that that feline uses in order to hunt and hide and avoid threats and do everything the mountain lion needs to survive and even to thrive in a wild environment. So what would that be for humans. And we have a set of skills that are instinctual and universal that all humans can do, and those skills are all kinds of ground movements like crawling, rolling, getting up, getting down, hiking, walking, stepping in every way possible and running diverse locomotion skills.
You have also climbing and balancing and then you can also manipulate objects, lift and carry and throw and catch. You can also defend yourself. You can wrestle, you can strike and of course you can also move in water. So humans are incredibly versatile when it comes to their movement abilities, natural movement abilities. And that set of skills that holds that entire scope of universal movement abilities that humans possess is what I call natural movement.
Brett McKay: That’s natural movement. And I think we all know. This is stuff that we do when we’re kids. We’ll talk a little bit about that here in a bit.
Erwan Le Corre: Yep.
Brett McKay: And they’re instinctual, they’re natural. But you also have this thing called MovNat and I think sometimes people confuse the two. And I think you did a good job distinguishing how MovNat is different from natural movement.
Erwan Le Corre: I like to say that natural movement is the practice, it’s the movement behavior as a fact as a reality, as a biological duty, even now I like to call it that way. And MovNat is the method. It’s the method of designed to help us harness that potential. It’s a little like okay everybody’s got an innate ability to defend themselves. Right? To be able to try to avoid strikes, or you have an innate ability to wrestle to the ground. Something like that. That doesn’t mean your fighter, but that doesn’t mean you’re skilled at it. But if you go to in an academy, or some place where they would teach you skills, then you become a skilled fighter, and then you turn those innate abilities into actual mastered skills by learning techniques. Exactly the same applies to all our other natural movement abilities. We can turn them into skills, but to do that you need a method. And that’s what MovNat is about.
Brett McKay: A lot of people need MovNat today, this very regimented technique to teach these movement, these natural movements because for a lot of modern people, they’ve forgotten to do these very basic, universal instinctual movements.
Erwan Le Corre: Not only they’ve forgotten it, so that means that that’s where we all start natural movement. When we’re kids, we start crawling, we start standing and walking. Prior to any instruction, prior to being taught what’s the proper way to exercise, we have a crazy effective instinctual program within us, within ourselves, within our DNA, again, universally, regardless of ethnicity, gender, all those considerations. You look at all kids around the planet, and they all start their movement journey the same way.
And it’s true that then we forget it because of a number of cultural influences that drive us away from those behaviors. And that actually never let us fully develop that potential, that physical potential and movement potential in the first place. So it’s not just that we need to reawaken to those movements. We literally for most people, literally, need to learn what they were never enabled to acquire and develop in the first place, because it’s a process that was interrupted, that was obstructed. That’s a fact.
Brett McKay: You call this these cultural pressures that prevent us from even developing some of these natural movements that are very basic, you call it the zoo human predicament, right?
Erwan Le Corre: Yeah. Well, that’s a term that was coined by a zoologist called Desmond Morris who wrote the book called the Human Zoo where he examined the behaviors of people living in cities. And then you realize that in those man made environments, you also have man made behaviors and that include a complete lack of movement, not complete in the sense that of course there’s still day to day movements that we do, but compared to the movements that we would normally do especially natural environments in the past, and when I talk about our past, we’re talking about hundreds and thousands of years of life and survival in one environment. Then compared to that reality of the past, movement, behavior today is extremely shrunk, it’s extremely minimal, but in that sense minimalist in terms of movement is not a good idea. It’s hurting us. We have become really inept. And that’s one aspect of what I too called the zoo human predicament. It’s not good. It’s just not good.
Brett McKay: Yeah. It creates a movement poverty. The only movement you might do is get up from a chair, walk to another room, walk out of the car, sit in the car, walk out from the car. That might be the only movement you do, but then you are not doing things like jumping or climbing or maybe jogging or hanging from something, which are things that your body is also capable of doing.
Erwan Le Corre: Movement poverty, it’s in fact a modern prejudice that’s self inflicted and also culturally inflicted, but that very few people notice that they are, it’s a reality in their life. So like you said, I wrote about it in my book, what people’s physical behavior is made of on a day to day basis, most people, is simply to sit and stand and sit again, and stand again, and walk a few short steps and that’s it.
There’s no variety. Where’s the jumping? Where’s the crawling? Where’s the balancing? Where’s the hanging and climbing, the hiking, the stepping up, stepping down, stepping over, stepping through on diverse terrains? Where’s the lifting, picking up heavy things, gathering them? Throwing or catching? Where’s all of it? Where’s all the variety of movements that used to be part of our day to day reality as humans, and in a modern lifestyle, those movements are gone. And so that movement poverty, what happens is that physiologically it has adverse effects on your physiology, on your function, but also on your cognition, on your wellbeing, on your levels of energy, and ultimately on your quality of life.
Brett McKay: Right. And but the nefarious thing about it, it sneaks, like you can be okay with movement poverty for good stretches of time. You don’t need to jump. You don’t need … We’re not hunter gatherers carrying loads across logs or whatever. But, even in this modern world, there might come a time when you might have to do something like it and because you haven’t done that for a long time, you injure yourself. Like these middle aged guys who they go through the life, getting up, standing up, walking to work whatever, and then they bend down to pick something up in the yard, and they through their back out. Right? And it’s because they haven’t been practicing different movements and once they try to do something they haven’t been doing, they injure themselves.
Erwan Le Corre: Exactly. It happens all the time, especially because those movements are natural. So everybody expects that at any time they can do them spontaneously, and then yeah. You can easily get injured. And that’s number one the reason is it’s because you never practice those movements actually. Your body is not ready for them. Maybe part of your brain, neurologically, you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I got that. I got this.” But when you do it, your tissues are like, “Excuse me, sir, when’s the last time you’ve done that? And we’re not happy with this.” And then you feel pain, you feel something is tweaked.
You’re wondering if that’s it. “Oh, that’s it. I’m 35. I’m old now. I’m too old.” When that’s not true. I’m pushing 50 and I’m super dynamic, I still can jump and climb and run and do all these movements because I’ve never stopped doing it. I’m not obsessed by it. I’m not doing it like crazy. I’m not training every day, but I’m definitely in a phase of continuous maintenance of my skills, of my strength and condition to be able to perform those movements any time, including, without warm up. So, physiologically, I’m staying ready. And I’m not doing that by doing some unrelated programs, unrelated movement or drills.
I’m staying able and ready and prepared for such movements and such efforts by regularly practicing those exact movements and efforts I want to be ready for. That means that in my physical practice, there is everything is involved, climbing is involved, jumping is involved, running is involved, lifting and carrying is involved, running and diving is involved. All of it is involved. And that’s the only way that you stay ready because we’re talking about real world performance, real world capability. You cannot assume that you are ready.
So if tomorrow whatever happens and you’re like, “Oh, I have to jump down that little obstacle. It’s nothing. Just like 20 year ago,” and boom. And that’s it. You just f-ed your knee because you never verified that you were still able to do such things, such movements, such real movements and because for too long, you have been physically idle, maybe you’ve been lacking sleep chronically. Maybe you’ve been eating foods that are super inflammatory. A number of lifestyle patterns that you have not taken care of physiologically they hurt you. But number one reason why you may hurt yourself trying to do those movements is simply because you never do those movements.
Brett McKay: So, yeah. There’s a physiological consequence of movement poverty, injury, things like that, but there’s also a psychological consequence of movement poverty, whenever you just do the same thing over and over again, there’s a lot of people who are lacking vitality, they just feel depressed and monotone about their life. And you are, natural movement can also be a remedy or part of the remedy of that malaise.
Erwan Le Corre: Well the mental part of practice is very important. Let’s not forget that in the first place, your body does not do anything by itself. You have a brain to operate your body. The brain is in command. And what’s the brain? The brain is your intention. It’s what you’re seeking, what you want? What you want to do with your body, what you expect from it, what you expect from your training, all of that matters a lot. The great thing about natural movement is that when you train, you don’t expect some kind of indirect outcome to the time and effort that you put into your training. Right?
It’s straightforward, it’s instant verification, instant gratification. Not necessarily that everything you do makes you happy and that you’re satisfied, but it’s instant gratification in the sense that so you jump over an obstacle, they’re trying to do it effectively, you’re trying to do it efficiently. You’re trying to get better at it, more and more skilled, more and more relaxed, more and more accurate. That’s not a physical thing. It’s all mental. It’s about being mindful.
So that reconnects with the here and now. That’s the beauty of it. Not only that, all the movements you do with MovNat are practical. It means you don’t have to scratch your head and wonder, “Well, what was the functional benefit of this or that.” If you can’t see it as you do your movement, then it’s very likely that whatever drill you’re doing is actually not functional. It’s that simple. So when you jump an obstacle, when you climb, you’re going to get on top of something, you’re going to balance across something.
There’s an interaction with the real world, even if it’s in a gym. Even if there’s some of our gyms, they’re custom made for that kind of practice, or that could be in your back yard, or that could be in the local playground, that could be in the woods. But there’s an interaction with the real world that can’t be denied. And not only cannot be denied, it’s the core of the practice. And in most modern programs, that connection with the real world is completely removed. And it makes training less realistic. As you train and that’s a problem because, man, to feel good, to feel that you’re doing something real, you need to do something real.
And so there’s more to this. There’s a little bit more to this, Brett. It’s not only that you will experience that realness in real time as you practice, but it will also give you instant feedback as of where you’re at in term of your competency, in terms of your capability. Real time, when you jump over an obstacle, it doesn’t have to be you know, something dangerous, it can be done in a way that’s progressively, that’s safe and progressively difficult but nonetheless, you may have to deal with some of your fears. And then you have an instant feedback of how you did it. Where you still, where you’re afraid, what happened in your mind, how did that translate into physical behavior, maybe symptoms of physical symptoms of stiffness, of rigidity, of lack of inaccurate timing and things like that.
There’s a number of manifestations, physical manifestation because of your mind is not streamlined as you do the movement. So all this is the mental aspect of practice that in many ways is removed from the programs that’s really there in MovNat. And what it’s going to give you is a sense of reality which is really missing in our virtual era more sense of reality, the here and now, because you can’t think about anything else but what you’re doing at the moment you’re doing the movement, you’re fully in it. Because you’ve got to adapt in body and mind to the very variables, the context that you’re dealing with. And then ultimately it gives you self confidence, it gives you self esteem, it gives you an ability to anticipate. It gives you there’s many, many benefits to your mind that go beyond the physical side of training. And that’s very important.
Brett McKay: I also think it’s just fun. These movements are fun, crawling on the ground is fun, hanging from a tree limb is fun, balancing on things. This is stuff you did as a kid. And it’s been maybe 20, 30 years since you’ve done anything like that and you do it again, it makes you feel like a kid again.
Erwan Le Corre: Yeah. Those natural movements, they are definitely reminiscent of what we all universally experienced as kids when we were kids, we were again. There was no idea, no notion of what’s proper exercise and how to isolate muscles and count repetitions and go through a structured programs. And I’m not saying that there are no benefits to such approach actually. It’s actually also part of the MovNat method, it can be absolutely structured, but we don’t remove those movements that are just natural to us. And that’s why they are instinctual when we’re kids, we crawl, we jump, we balance, we hang, we do all these movements. And it was indeed a lot of fun because it was freedom. It was freedom and it was also naturalness, means that the program. Capital T-H-E, the program, the original.
And everything else is an invention, it’s manmade, it’s based on whatever science studies, anatomy, and whatever analytical understanding of the human body and how it should move and how it should best exercise, but that’s not what the original program by design is. And by design we’re also talking about the design of the human body, but also, the experience of a long, long line of people, of human beings before us living that natural life in the wild.
I’m not romanticizing this. I’m not saying, “Hell, let’s all go back to that.” All I’m saying is that there’s a reason why we instinctually move natural in all those diverse ways of crawling, kneeling, squatting, hanging, jumping and landing and so forth. There’s a reason why we do this. It’s because that is what is necessary to our very survival at least in our past circumstances. So now everything seems to have become optional, but from an evolutionary psychological perspective, the drive to do it is still there. From a biological perspective, a necessity to do it is still there. Always have always will. There’s no way you can erase so much experience, so much memory just because we modern humans have decided to change our ways of life to make them more convenient.
It’s great that we have many conveniences, but we can’t lose what we have acquired and if we dismiss that, then we suffer. There are numerous consequences for dismissing those natural movement behaviors. So, of course when we reintroduce those movement behaviors again in our lives, it’s a lot of fun. It’s liberating. It’s exhilarating. It’s like whoa. Why did I ever stop. And you may wonder why did we ever stop because truly, what have we created that beats that, that’s better?
Brett McKay: So, let’s talk about, you’ve been talking about there’s different cultural forces that have stifled natural movement. I think one obvious one for people is just the way we work. It’s very sedentary, you go to a desk and then you sit and you’re doing very abstract work on your computer, but besides that, what are the other cultural forces that have stopped people from fully developing natural movements that they have?
Erwan Le Corre: Well, there’s so many. It started with the idea that we’re not animals. And indeed we’re an amazing species, we are unique, but at the same time, we’ve culturally and that’s for a longtime, forced ourselves to separate ourselves from nature, and even from the nature in us. Like not going barefoot, always clothing ourselves, elevating ourselves with chairs and not sitting on the ground, not being in touch with nature physically. That hey, don’t crawl, it’s dirty, nature is dirty, dirt is dirty. The word dirty comes from dirt, so dirty and so dirty is a rejection of dirt. So rejection of earth.
So rejection of the very, of creation, of whatever you call that of the universe, of the earth, of the very material that we originate from physically speaking at least, we to say that we come from nature, that we come from earth, that we’re made of it, we’re made of dirt. That’s not a romantic idea, it’s just a fact. It’s a scientific fact. And when we try to separate ourselves from that environment, from those elements, from those forces, from those energies, we pay a price, because we don’t feel good because we need nature, we need the fresh water streams, we need the wind in our hair, we need to feel the ground under our feet, we need to look at real light, breath real air, we need that to thrive. There’s no way around this.
So that’s number one. And then ultimately, economically, we’ve created technologies, we’ve created jobs that do not necessitate us to be physically active, to produce and so that’s what we do, that’s what most people do every day. And we all need a job, but at the same time, the unfortunate part of this is that like you said, those jobs, they are abstract, they force us to sit all day and to look at screens.
Now what nobody’s working all day. We have some free time. The problem is even that free time, people still keep sitting and looking at screens. And even when people go exercise which is very commendable, well, let’s say they do that three times a week, so that’s three hours. All right. Three hours a week. They’re going to go exercise. They’re going to go exercise in gyms that are artificial environments. They might sit in between sets and reps and whatever. They might sit and chat, maybe look at their phones. So, if they’re going to be physically active only half of that time. So that’s one hour and a half.
That’s 90 minutes. And maybe at least half of that type of exercise is going to be spent sitting because you sit on machines, do exercise trying to isolate your muscles. So, that’s 45 minutes there are maybe done exercising in a non sitting position. Maybe you’re running on an elliptical or something. And maybe you’re still watching some TV screen something. So, even the way most people exercise is still artificial. But in any case, even if you truly are physically active in term of training, 45 minutes total, grand total, in a week, even an hour and a half, that’s what? 2% of your wake time in a week, 2%. What is the rest made of? More sitting, more standing, more maybe walking a few short steps.
That doesn’t impact your physiology much. That doesn’t do that much good for you. So what you need is a completely different strategy because to really thrive physiologically and we talk about physiologically the way movement behavior is going to beneficially impact your physiology is also going to beneficially impact you neurologically. If you want to do that, if you want to achieve that, you need a completely different strategy. And you also need a strategy because like we’ve said, there are cultural influences that work against you and you need a strategy so that you can basically resume a movement behavior that otherwise is gone.
That not only nothing in your day to day life necessitates that you do that, that you jump, that you run, that you climb that you crawl. You don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do it to procure food to stay alive. You don’t need it. You can skip it, you can dismiss it, your call. But when you do that, you throw away a lot of who you are as a human being. You dismiss a lot of your potential, a lot of your potential energy and ability in your life. You basically dismiss a lot of life in your life by doing that. So, that strategy is to reintroduce in day to day movement physical behavior a lot of those lost forgotten movements little by little.
More variety, more volume, more frequency. So we’re not talking about super hard grueling physical ordeals for a half hour and one hour three times a week. We’re talking number one, with frequent micro sessions of movement whenever possible. Before work, during work if possible, during lunch break, after work, on weekends, add movement to your life, step by step. Reintroduce that lost variety of movement that used to be there in our ancestor’s lives.
Brett McKay: I mean, one of the other cultural forces you’ve talked about and written at length about is just even our idea of physical fitness today. And you wrote an article about the history of physical fitness and we have on artofmanliness.com put a link to it, but you talk about you go back a 100 years ago, thousands of years ago, physical fitness, physical training was very designed to help people do what they needed to do.
So a lot of the physical training came out of the military, so go back to Roman times, or even Greek times, you can find records of them doing training that was designed to help them make better warriors. But as we get to the 19th century, 20th century, physical fitness took a shift away from that for very practical functional idea of physical fitness to what you call the whole point is aesthetics. Do you look good naked, basically?
Erwan Le Corre: Yeah. Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with looking good naked, actually it’s one of alleged expectations of physical training, not only there’s nothing wrong about it. It’s awesome if you can develop a good looking body and feel great about it, that’s great. My point is modern fitness programs have almost in their entirety evolved to be obsessed with that and to only focus on that exclusively, so not only it’s a priority, it’s an exclusivity. There’s nothing else you’re truly looking at.
And yeah. Definitely that’s a generalization, but it’s still for most people, when they think of exercising, the number one right away thought is how is this going to make me look? I want to look better. I want to look good. Hey, that’s great, but you want the image when you’re not interested in the function. How’s that? Because until now, until modern times, I mean, seriously, in the past in the time of my grandparents and everybody else before them, before them, like if you were to walk around trying to show off your amazing body, people would laugh at you.
But if you were to be able to show some real world capability like being able to lift something really heavy, to run a long distance, to climb a high tree, very high, just something like that. People would be like whoa, the guy’s strong. The guy’s capable, the guy’s tough. That meant something. It didn’t matter what you looked like. It mattered what you were able to do. It mattered what was your capability.
That would give you respect. That would make you be appreciated by your community, by other people. Not the size of your biceps. Not the shape of your chest because that alone is not an indication whatsoever of what you’re actually capable of doing in the real world.
I go to regular gym, I take these guys out of an environment and they can be … And I’m not saying that in a cocky way, it’s just a reality. Most of these people are they’re going to be destroyed just running for 15 minutes, especially if you take them on wild terrains. And we’re not even talking about having to clear some obstacles in the way. Because they never trained for that. So they just trained to have big muscles. A guy who does buddy builder is not a guy who does power lifting or Olympic lifting, or strong man training. It’s completely different. It’s at least if you do all the three that I mentioned last, you’re looking at some real results of actual capability, at least one aspect of it, it’s not the whole complete scope. It’s at least one aspect of it.
They don’t really care about how big they look. They look at how big they can lift or carry, how big they can manipulate, because at least there’s that mindset of it means something. It’s real in the real world. It’s useful potentially in the real world. If you apply that mindset to every other skill, and aspects of strength and conditioning that you may need to be truly capable to operate in the real world, then you want to add a number of training to your training. Number of practices to your practice.
Brett McKay: Yeah. I mean, I think specialization, there’s nothing wrong with specialization of that’s what you’re going to do. If you decide you want to be a power lifter and you want to compete, then you’re going to need to specialize, but for most people, you don’t need to dead lift 800 pounds, right? But you do need to have some strength. I do power lifting, and there was a point in my training where I was doing barbell training where my coach said, “Look, you’re generally strong. You can take life on and you can it will allow you to live and do things you want to do. You have to decide now if you want to specialize and just do this and you’re going to risk, the risk for injury is going to go up. It’s going to hurt and whatever. You’re going to have to not focus on other aspects. You have to make that decision.”
And I made that decision because I wanted to do that. I wanted to compete. But I think a lot of people they see that and they’re like, “Well, I want to do that but also run faster mile. I want to be able to do this.” It’s like you can’t do that. You have to make a decision. But if you just want to be overall generally healthy, you have to have this variety of movements in place.
Erwan Le Corre: Yes. Exactly. And you know, Brett, as your choice and it makes you happy. And you’re good at it and I know that as long as you feel that you’re satisfied and that your body can keep up with it, then you should absolutely do that. Specialization can be great. It can enable people to achieve their own greatness. And provide a ton of satisfaction with just one sport, one endeavor, one, like we said, one specialization. And also specialization in sports have contributed amazingly to the understanding of human bio mechanics and best training protocols to achieve particular results in a particular aspect of human performance, but the same way your coach told you or you said, not everybody is going to be capable of lifting 900 pounds. Absolutely correct. Not everybody is going to be able to lift 450 pounds. And that’s okay. My point is, the overwhelming majority of people don’t need to be great at any of those particular specializations. They don’t need to specialize.
Most of us just don’t need to specialize. If somebody’s health overall is not really that great, if somebody’s physical capability overall is not especially great, you don’t need to pick one sport. You don’t need to pick one specialization and to put all your time and effort in that when you could re thrive by embracing what we originally we do or supposed to do as humans, which is to practice all those diverse movements. Again, the same way we’re kids. When we were kids, we were smart.
We just follow the program, the natural design program. We did all of that, and it made us super strong, super capable, super and super happy, full of energy every day. It’s not just because we were young, it’s because we were doing this. Because look. There’s tons of kids today that don’t move natural a lot because they’re given scenes from a young age and they sit all day looking at screens. Do you think that those kids have boundless energy and they are super happy and all? No.
And yet, they’re young. So it’s not about youth. It’s about behavior. The reason why we felt young and we felt energy, was because we were following the program that natural movement program that’s built in in all of us and that we just forgot and need to reactivate. So you know, Brett, even if you are specialized in because you want to achieve that greatness and that particular field that you love, you don’t have to pursue performance say in jumping or crawling or climbing, or balancing in all of those movements. But it doesn’t mean that if you practice some of them a little every day, that it will not help you to be even more thriving physically, and to even better prevent injuries. And why not even support greater performance when it comes to that power lifting specialization.
Brett McKay: That’s true. I’ve continued. So I’ve been doing MovNat seminar and I continued to do incorporate MovNat into just my daily life. Like, I’ll do a ground routine where I’ll be doing some crawls and backwards and forwards a crab call, tripod transition, things like that that just they’re fun, they feel good. But some movements, particular they’ve helped me with my power lifting I feel like. I’m very tight in my chest and in my shoulders, so that crab call or you’re on your butt and you’re …
Erwan Le Corre: Inverted crawl, we call it.
Brett McKay: That really opens up my chest. That feels good.
Erwan Le Corre: It does. Yeah.
Brett McKay: Another one, like before I shoulder press, just hanging from a bar, that’s a natural movement technique. I’ll just hang from a bar and that really opens things up and I’ll do some swings from side to side. So yeah. It’s definitely you’re able to incorporate the stuff along with the specialization. In fact, I just had a podcast interview with a guy, just wrote a book about the importance of breadth. Even if you’re a specialist, it’s important to have a breadth knowledge and he talked about this idea of a T shaped individual.
And it’s usually the most innovative people in science or in technology that they specialize in something in an area, but they continue to nurture or develop other practices outside of that. So he talked about a lot of Nobel prize winners are, they’re more likely to be artists, singers, musicians, compared to the general public. So those are examples of people who specialize but the same time are diversifying. It sounds like you’re saying the same thing. You can specialize but you should probably still diversify because that can actually improve your specialization.
Erwan Le Corre: Right. Exactly. And in fact, you only diversify in the sense that you have specialized in the first place. You know, it’s just like a mixed martial art. You only have to mix them because they were specialized in the first place. Originally the martial art of the sunrise was made of all of that. They were trying to sort and other weapons and then they were also trained empty hand kind of still so they would do elements of Judo, element of Jujitsu, elements of karate, elements of Akido, it was all there.
And so, then everything branched out and became specialized and then ultimately you bring that all back into one whole approach and practice and then you have MMA. So you only need to diversify when you’re specialized, but nobody’s specialized originally. Nobody’s a mono mover. That’s again, that’s one of the cultural influences of this mono world. Pick your field. Pick your specialization. You got to choose one, you can’t have them all. Why not? Why not? Because I’m not going to be reaching a level, a competitive level. And so what? It’s not about being at the level of the elite, of the level of those who actually, because you can’t only reach an elite when you specialize.
So you take any of those highly feat athletes in whatever area, but they’re going to suck at the rest. Or they’re not going to be that good at least. Because originally, you have natural movement and all the specialized sports they call come from natural movement. And not the other way around. So you see, when you have a practice like MovNat, they’re not saying, “Oh, wow. They’ve mixed lifting with some stuff and then there’s some running and you mix those sports together and then you have what’s called MovNat.
Excuse me, but originally there’s natural movement where if you want to survive in the wild, you better be able to climb the tree, to jump over the obstacle, to run the distance, to lift and carry heavy things or people. And to do all those things because if you can’t do it all, you’re in trouble. You’re not going to make it. That’s the reason why we have that movement potential, that’s not thanks to specialized sports. All of specialized sports were enabled by the fact that we have a natural movement memory and potential in us. So you look at whatever sport soccer. Okay. What are you dong? Running. You look at tennis. What is tennis? Well, it’s a striking movement.
It’s basically a throwing movement. It’s a throwing by biomechanics that was used for hunting stuff. Okay. Well, then instead of having a spear in your hand, now you have a racket. And of course, there are other modifications. But you’re basically running and throwing at the same time. And you’re also somewhat catching with the racket as you throw. You can interpret or analyze any modern sport through the scope of what movement pattern are involved that were originally used in the wild for our survival.
And that well, really change or the way you look at those sports, so you look at any manipulative specialization that it is, Olympic lifting, power lifting, you look at all of that and you make the same conclusion that what you’re trying to replicate is not just physical, it’s basically a practical mindset to achieve a practical outcome that serves the purpose of just staying alive and thriving.
Brett McKay: So, another cultural force. So there’s the idea that you have to specialize, that’s a cultural force. There’s an idea that the fitness industry, the focus should be on aesthetics only and not being able to move and be useful and to be, yeah. Useful in the world but another cultural force that I think prevents people from doing natural movement, things like the climbing trees or hanging from a branch or whatever, is that people think it’s weird. It’s like well, you don’t do that when you’re 25 years old. You could have done that when you were 10, but you’re a grown up now. Don’t do that. You look like a weirdo.
Erwan Le Corre: Yeah. Reminds me of that song by Super Tramp. The what is it? The logical song?
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Erwan Le Corre: It’s yeah. You’re taught to be reasonable, sensible, cynical. It’s a yeah, it’s another cultural influence that’s pretty negative. Is that you’re not supposed to do that. And you’re not supposed to do that because you’re not supposed to be that. That’s too much freedom. That’s too much … Yeah. That’s too much freedom. It’s I don’t know. It’s like if you have a wild animal or maybe a tame animal in a cage and they see their wild counterpart, walking around outside, that’s probably going to bother them because the wild counterpart has the freedom they don’t have anymore.
So, you know it’s just like when people are trying to limit you. They want to limit you because your ability to do something is a reminder that they’ve lost it for themselves. So it bothers them. So in order to not be bothered, instead of saying, “Hey, maybe I could have the same freedom. Maybe I could unleash myself a little, give myself a little of slack and just becoming more free and greater. And have more fun. How about I do it too.” No. They’re going to be like, “Hey, if I can’t do it, I’m going to prevent you from doing it.”
It’s a basic negative kind of psychology thing. And so, a lot of and that’s very pervasive in today’s society. And it’s an unsaid, unseen, kind of limitation. We even have learned to self impose those limitations. Oh, I can’t do this. Why? Why? Tell me why? I don’t know. It’s not done. I don’t know. Well, you don’t even question why it’s not done, why is it that you can’t do it. Because you were made to believe that you can’t do something. Those are cultural limitations we’re talking about. So, yeah. An adult is not supposed to be climbing a tree. A person is not supposed to be barefoot. Those are … This doesn’t hurt anybody, right? Does it? Actually it makes people stronger. Makes people happier. Makes people healthier. It makes people more free. And that’s a beautiful thing. So why do you want to limit that?
What happens with those self limitations is that say if you want to do that. If you want to go to a park. You want to do those movements, then before you know it, you have that inner voice, that’s not even your own, that’s telling you, “Hey, what are people going to think?” Really, who cares? Actually what bothers you is not what people think, or what people may think. What bothers you in your head is what you assume people are going to think. It’s what you think of people may think that limits you. And you know, what? That’s not on people. It’s on you. What do you want? Do you want to be free?
Do you want to have more freedom starting with freedom of movement? Do you want to achieve that physical capability that’s real, that’s useful in the real world? Or do you want to stay confined to limited goals, even when it comes to fitness. To go to the gym and just be like I just want to increase the size of my biceps and maybe a little broader shoulders, maybe bigger chest and that’s it. Try to not skip leg days. I’m sorry. That’s I’m just going to say it the way it is. That’s a limited goal. You can achieve amazing bodies, not necessarily bulky but muscular and lean and that actually can do real thing in the world by trying MovNat.
Brett McKay: The idea that you shouldn’t do those things, that you should climb trees and crawl around on the ground. That starts when you’re a kid for some people.
Erwan Le Corre: Yep. Yep. Yes.
Brett McKay: Especially with boys. Hey, quit roiling around. Quite rough housing. Settle down. Don’t climb that tree, it’s dangerous. We read about schools getting rid of recess so they can focus on test scores. Or they found that recess is too dangerous and so they’re trying to reduce viability so they change playgrounds so these weird plastic bubble looking things that aren’t any fun.
Erwan Le Corre: It’s criminal.
Brett McKay: Yeah. So it begins then. So you even have kids who are leaving school physically inept.
Erwan Le Corre: It’s criminal. It’s just going to kill the kids even more. It’s going to kill their physiologically to begin with, because there are windows of physiological development and if you miss them, it’s hard to catch up later or it’s not even possible to begin with because your tissues need to grow strong and healthy and develop in a certain way at a certain age and what it takes for that is not just proper food, like eating nutritious food. It’s also proper movement, it’s also those movements. You can’t not have them in the day to day life of a kid. And that’s why you see now young kids, they’re already, their bodies look dysfunctional. It’s not just that they are overweight. And I’m not saying that with sadness, because it should never happen.
To me that’s criminal. That’s a real prejudice. It doesn’t matter that the kids there are whatever the social background. That isn’t the problem. It’s a cultural thing that happens to all of us so what they do in schools where they remove recess or they remove any opportunity for the kids to move, because they’re going to hurt themselves and the schools are afraid that they’re going to be sued and this kind of thing. What kind of society’s that?
It’s criminal because we’re going to raise entire generations of kids, boys and girls because girls also can and deserve and have the ability to be very capable physically. You know, that’s not a gender thing. I mean, I have a girl, she’s nine years old. She’s crazy capable physically. And I’m not even really training her. But I have enabled her just like I do with my two boys, to do things that huge, vast majority of parents do not let their kids ever do, jump over obstacles, climb trees, do all, run barefoot, do all these movements. So, it’s almost like we’re bringing a different species or something.
Brett McKay: Now, and not only will there’s other physiological consequences, but there’s also mental and psychological consequences, with I think it’s ironic what they found what researchers have found on schools that actually incorporate a lot of movement through the day and give the kids more recess, test scores actually go up compared to kids who are just in the school underneath fluorescent lights in their desks sitting still. Those kids are actually doing worse than the kids who are getting outside and playing and having fun.
Erwan Le Corre: Exactly, Brett. Now you’ve got me fired up. Yes. Because the brain that solves all the movement problems, and you have movement problems to solve especially when again, you interact with complex environments. So basically, if you jump, to jump. A jump implies you lunge your body. You properly to be airborne, then you are airborne then you land. Okay. So, that alone is a very sophisticated process. Now if you add to that the fact that your brain needs to calculate the exact place where your feet are going to land to actually land accurately and safely, and there’s a gap. And there’s potential danger. And the surface where you’re going to land is not even even. It’s not even maybe stable. There’s a lot for the brain to calculate. And that calculation is not done by counting, by doing equations in your mind.
It’s really done by the amazing piece of technology of bio technology which is the brain. And it happens in milliseconds. And so you’re going to jump. And your brain is wired, it’s geared, it’s entirely structured and designed for that, number one. Not for formal education, not for academics. You have a brain for complex movement within complex environments and complex contexts. Contexts made of the environment, all the variables of the average demands of the environment, and the situation you’re dealing with.
When you move through those unpredictable environments, that’s nature basically, you’re a fortune teller because you move from point A to B and that when you are at point B that becomes your point A and there’s the next point B. And the next point B becomes point A and then there’s a next point B and so on and so on and so on. You keep moving. And your brain is a fortune teller, your brain can’t tell how you’re going to get there.
That’s pretty amazing, how what foot is going to step where, what hand is going to be hanging from where and where you going to end up. And it’s pretty unbelievable. You can’t even have robots do the same. And so the same brain that’s originally designed for that natural movement is the same brain that’s going to do your mental math, that’s going to do your abstract thinking, that’s going to memorize whatever. You know? That’s going to learn all those other aspects of your condition are enabled because again, you have a brain for natural movement in the first place.
So there’s that evidence and that’s the reason why when you train natural movement, when you do MovNat you will score better in school, when you move your brain functions better. We even have a scientific study actually that proves that. If I was done with MovNat movements and that prove that it boosted working memory which is how fast and how well you process information.
Brett McKay: Another aspect or principle of natural movement that you talk about in the book is the environment. We have a poverty of movement, there’s also in a way because of our modern life, we have a poverty of environments. We see the same very smooth frictionless surroundings, whether it’s in our home or our office, and so there’s a lack of diversity that prevents us from I guess, exploring the full range of movements that we are capable of doing.
Erwan Le Corre: That’s another one of those other cultural influences that have to do with not directly with behaviors themselves. So when we said, “Hey, don’t move. You’re going to get dirty. You’re going to break a leg.” That’s influencing your behavior. That’s impacting your mindset and ultimately it becomes self limiting. So what you’re talking about here is the cultural influence that stems from the environments we’ve designed for us to live collectively, modern environments that are very boxy, very flat, very linear, very stable, very predictable, and basically very still. They’re convenient, they’re comfortable, but from a movement perspective, it removes a ton of opportunities.
So when kids grow up in those environments, what’s interesting is that for at least some time before the second aspect of that cultural indoctrination is taking place where it is in their mind that they’re consciously or unconsciously they end up telling themselves, well no. I can’t move. I can’t do that. It’s going to be loud. My parents, adults around me are going to be annoyed so I should just behave and be still. But before that sinks in in their young psyche, it doesn’t matter to them that those environments are unnatural. Doesn’t matter to them that those environments are artificial. They will move naturally no matter what. They will crawl under the table. They will climb up the table or the chair and jump off if you let them. They will climb up your curtains if you let them. They will vault over the couch.
They will crawl up and down the stairways. What I mean is that the behavior is there naturally, the natural movement behavior is there regardless of the environment and that’s similar what animals do. If you bring a raptor in a city, they’re not going to turn into a pigeon. If you bring a wolf into a city, or in an apartment, they’re not going to start behaving like a chihuahua just because the environment changes. Because their mindset has not changed and they’re still very willing to be the wild eagle and the wild wolf that they are.
You can’t tell them to be something else. You cannot tell them to be a tamed species with a tamed behavior. They have that freedom. They have that strength. They have that innate power. It’s not been removed from them and it manifests into their physical behavior. So what we’re talking about is that that mindset that normally enables us to become strong and capable autonomous human beings is taken away from us in many ways, as young children and natural movement is a big, is a huge part of it. Because you take away the movement, man, you take away all the fun, you take away all the freedom. You take away all the potential for strength and capability in your life and self esteem and self confidence, and even again, cognition, how it boost your cognition. So, it’s a huge, huge amount of you that’s being taken away from you. It’s not good.
Brett McKay: Well, so, Erwan, we’ve been talking about very high level, about natural movement and the benefits and what prevents us from doing those sots of things. Let’s talk specific. Let’s say someone’s listening to this and they want to get started. What’s something they can start doing today to start incorporating more natural movement into their life?
Erwan Le Corre: There are very simple ways you can start to reintroduce that lost variety of movement and frequency of movement that I’ve been talking about when you look at your day to day movement behavior. And you realize that it is truly made of very simple overly basic movements and positions such as again standing, walking a few short steps to a next seat and sitting a lot. And that you do that from morning to evening basically. That’s the case for most people.
There are simple strategies to address that but first off, you need to really make that realization that there’s movement poverty in your life. And you want to make your movement behavior richer. So, let’s take a simple example, for instance, how do you brush your teeth? Why don’t you brush your teeth in a deep squat, because otherwise when do you ever deep squat. And today in modern populations, a lot of people have lost their ability to deep squat at all or to be comfortable holding that position for say longer than 20 seconds. So, there’s simple example. Can you brush your teeth in a deep squat? Can you read a book or look at your smart phone in a kneeling position? Otherwise, when do you ever kneel?and that could explain why it is that they’re not comfortable in a kneeling position.
You see, before looking at some fancy or very specific say programs for mobility that you’re going to be scratching your head, thinking when will I be able to find the time to do that and to commit to that? But if you lack mobility, maybe the reason is because you’ve been lacking natural movement, all that variety of natural movements and if that is the cause to your lack of mobility, it’s very likely that’s also the antidote. So all you going to do is to find every opportunity you can to add and to bring back those lost natural movements in your day to day life.
It really doesn’t have to be complicated. Do more kneeling. Do more squatting. Get up and get down to the ground to the floor. Whenever your home, whenever you have some free time, that’s where it starts. And by the way, yeah. Those movements are we call them ground movements, they are yeah. They’re not spectacular. It’s not like powerful jump where you have a challenging landing and if you miss you could really hurt yourself, that kind of thing. That’s also part of the MovNat training by the way, but that’s not where you start. You don’t start climbing high on a tree if you’re not ready for it. You don’t start walking across a fallen tree over a stream of raging waters with a possible risk in consequences and danger. You don’t do that. That’s not where you start.
Look, most people they not only they cannot deep squat, they are completely unable to get down to the floor and back up to standing position without using their hands. So I invite our listeners to just try this right now. You start from standing and you find a way to get to a sit position without placing your knees or your hands on the floor and then to get back up. Number one, can you do it? Most people will realize that they cannot do it. And those who can do it, might find themselves actually stiffening, holding their breath, being off balance, being slow, being uncomfortable, which are signs of lack of efficiency, which means that it’s not fluid movement, it’s effective, you managed to do it but it’s hard to do. It’s not comfortable to do. Or maybe not unpleasant to do. Maybe you felt some pain, some stiffness, some problems doing it.
And so you see if you can’t do those simple movements, then how much of your function have you already lost? And if you’ve lost those fundamental aspects of your function, what does that mean to your movement freedom? What does it mean to your quality of life. So before you try to do some of those say iconic movement that MovNat is known for. You’re going to lift and shoulder a heavy log, walk on uneven terrains, you’re going to climb a tree, you’re going to jump from rock to rock, you’re going to do all those beautiful, powerful skillful movements, that’s awesome. That’s what you have in mind to be able to do one day, but if you want to self assess a little, just see where you’re at doing those simple movements. And if you find yourself being a little in trouble, being challenged with movements you felt were going to be easy and then you realized, well, it’s not so easy. That’s because you haven’t been doing those movement in so long.
So that’s where you start, a deep squat. Bring one knee to the ground or to the floor, then kneel then get up, get down, then use your hands, use no hands. Crawl on all four, do a few steps forward, a few steps backward. Roll on your back, hang from a wall, hang from a tree branch. If you have a back yard, that’s wonderful. Maybe you can we do a lot of awesome movements just using two by fours. It’s I’m the one who introduced that simple tool, two by four. It’s just like a few bucks. Just bore one just put it down on the floor in the back yard and as you watch a show or something, you can do balancing movements. So there are very simple strategies like that to get started.
And you can again, self asses and you can do that on your own and then if you find yourself being not so skillful, not so comfortable. And that’s maybe a good time to look in to my book or come and train with us because we’re going to teach you how you can do exactly the same movements and even many more movements with much more technique, much more movement quality, much more efficiency because that’s what we teach.
Last thing I want to say is that you see, natural movement is truly universal, it means that everybody can do it to some extent. And everybody could at least try to jump and actually jump but that doesn’t mean you’re going to do it well. Anybody can get down, get back up, and there are diverse ways to do that. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to do it well. It doesn’t mean that you are going to be successful at all of your movements and what we’re going to teach you is efficiency in natural movement. That’s what we teach. That’s what the movement method is about.
Brett McKay: What I love about that it’s so easy. You don’t have to set aside time for like MovNat time. You can just do it throughout the day in your normal life. So some of the things that I’ve done that I’ve picked up from various MovNat instructors is whenever like yeah. When you’re reading a book or working on your lap top for example, instead of sitting in a desk, put your laptop on the couch and sit on the floor. Right? And do different positions. I like the side bend sit.
Erwan Le Corre: Yes.
Brett McKay: When I’m and also I’ll sit on one side and move to the other. It’s uncomfortable at first because you know I haven’t sat like that in a while and as soon as I’ll move to a deep squat while my laptops on the couch. Another one, yeah. Just hanging, like having a bar that you just grab and you just hang for a little bit. And I’ll either two by four, we have a two by four in our house, it’s like a four foot long two by four and just walk on it, balance, kneel in a balance position, stand back up.
Erwan Le Corre: That’s excellent, Brett. And you see, it does not take time off of your occupations because you can do it as you do what you want to do. It doesn’t cost any money, it doesn’t cost time. It costs very little energy actually. It’s not like well it’s not really exerting you. And but it’s beneficial. It’s so effective, it’s so beneficial. It’s beneficial not only to your physiology, it’s beneficial to your work because some movement will activate areas of the brain make it more alert and that transfers to you being more productive, more sharp, more clear in your work.
Brett McKay: Well, Erwan, where can people go to learn more about MovNat and your book?
Erwan Le Corre: Well, that’s MovNat.com. M-O-V-N-A-T dot com. And the book is available on Amazon and other like Barnes and Nobel so in a way title again is the Practice of Natural Movement. And that book is a lot of people say it’s an amazing book. Also that it’s a text book. By that they don’t mean that it’s complicated. All they mean is that they’re surprised by the sheer volume of information that I shared in that book. And there’s about less than 20% of the overall material that’s dedicated to what can be called a manifesto, it’s the philosophy behind natural movement that’s in 12 principles.
And it’s important to really deeply understand because it’s really packed with insights as of why we want to practice movement to approach our physical training that way. So it’s a very important foundation but what that means that 80% of the book is really the how to it’s 100% practical. It’s really entirely there’s no fluff in there. There’s no nerdy information that you don’t even know what to do with. It’s really practical.
It’s every bit of information in there is about teaching you how to move better, how to do these movements, how to make progressions, what are the details of a particular technique depending on a particular environment. So if we’re talking about jumping, we’re not talking about one or two jumps. We’re talking about several jumping techniques and the same goes for getting up. And the same goes for hanging and climbing and all of those other skills. So it’s almost like an encyclopedia. Some call it the bible of natural movement, but really what it is is it’s the MovNat method because natural movement is not a method. MovNat is a method. Natural movement is the concept that I have delineated and make popular in the last decade. Before that nobody knew what it was or they would have some random explanation for people were asking me, what is natural movement. So had to define that but the book is really the book about the MovNat method. It’s how do you relearn all of this.
Brett McKay: Very good. Well, Erwan Le Corre, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Erwan Le Corre: It’s been a real pleasure, Brett. Absolutely. And by the way, I really love what you do. Really sharing amazing wealth of information and inspiration for men who want to reclaim, you know, what it is to feel strong but also healthy and good to reclaim all the goodness of being a man.
Brett McKay: Thank you so much, Erwan. My guest today was Erwan Le Corre. He’s the author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement. It’s available on Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. And you can find out more information about MovNat at MovNat.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/naturalmovement where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well that wraps us another edition of the AOM podcast. Check out our website at artofmanliness.com where you can find our podcast archives. There’s over 500 episodes there and we’ve also got thousands of articles we’ve written over the years about natural movement, MovNat, physical fitness, how to be a better husband, better father. You name it we’ve got it. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take a minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member you would think would get something out of it. You should give them a text message for example. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay reminding you not only listen to the AOM podcast but put what you’ve heard into action.