Every time you watch one of those fascinating animal documentations on Discovery Channel you might think, that the variety of animal movements are almost limitless. Animals crawl and meander, walk and run, jump high and leap far, do somersaults, back somersaults or roll to the side, brachiate, contort their bodies and much more. Most of us don’t really wonder about it or don’t even give a thought to this art of movement. However, others are plagued by joint pain and muscle cramps as soon as they see such scenes. And as this is not enough, watching animals moving around you easily get the feeling that they really enjoy doing it.
For us, this is almost unbelievable as the largest part of the population is not physically active at all or insufficiently. And those who are physically active often overdo it. It seems as we have forgotten everything that is in our genes and in our bodies. Either we are only able to do basic movements, like getting up, walking straight and sitting down, or we train our muscles excessively in monotonous and unnatural sequences. It is not unusual that some people have the flexibility of a concrete slab due to their big and stiff muscles.
When watching animals you can recognize that they move intuitively. They don’t follow a certain training plan that determines number of repetitions, breaks between sets and weight to be used. However, they are true artists of movement and model athletes. A monkey is swinging smoothly from branch to branch and a cheetah runs in perceived speed of light trough the steppe. This blog post will introduce you in the world of Animal Moves. Get to know what they are all about and why they should be incorporated in every training routine. The intention is not to create or to support a new, strange fitness hype. It’s more about understanding certain basic principles of Animal Moves and of our early ancestors in order to stay fit and agile as long as possible.
Natural movement intelligence
Honestly, how broad is the variety of our daily movement patterns? Most of the day, we spend sitting or lying. That means: zero activity. During our actual activity time our movements are limited to walking straight and not too fast. And if it happens that we really have to run after the bus or to take the stairs to the third floor, adrenaline shoot through our bodies and we feel like an Olympian who should get a prize for his outstanding performance. At this point, we don’t even talk about movement patterns that go beyond simple walking. Or when was the last time you did a somersault, a cartwheel or walked like a crab as you did in elementary school?
Not only animals move naturally without any instructions. The same is true for our early ancestors living in stone ages. Activity was a necessity in their daily lives just as eating, drinking and sleeping. Why? Because it was indispensable to life. However, modern adults can protect their lives in other ways than through running away or fighting. We get our food in nearby supermarkets using cars. We impress sexual partners with other qualities than athletic. The result? We lose our natural movement abilities, our natural movement intelligence.
From discoverer to observer
For everyone who thinks comparing us with animals is inappropriate (it isn’t!): Also as children we had this natural drive to learn how to walk, to climb everywhere and to run as far as our feet carry us. Not later than in our adult years we totally forget about it. We develop from an active discoverer, who embraces the world through activity, to a passive observer. We watch the moving world conveniently sitting on our butt. Physical activity becomes a must-attend appointment in our schedule. If at all, we train exactly the same movement at fitness machines over and over again. Every exercise, every weight and every break is meticulously timed and recorded. This has precious little to do with the natural interplay between our muscles, tendons and joints. And beside of all that, what is actually about having fun during exercising?
Free your body
What would the world look like if animals would think and act like humans regarding their “training routines”? From early on they train their muscles while playing. It is necessary to ensure that they survive in their adulthood. We can often watch birds running on the ground, and indeed, flying costs a whole lot of energy. However, no bird that is able to fly would come up with the idea: “From today on, I will never fly again, but run on the ground instead.” No monkey would sit on a branch and think: “Nope, no brachiating today, since I have already trained my back and arms yesterday.” And also no human child would stop its attempt to walk after the third try to cry out for a protein shake in order to optimize muscle growth. All these movements and whole body exercises are vital.
As soon as the basic functions are working fine humans tend to stop doing holistic and compound movements. We keep our bodies on a pretty short leash. With all the training plans, meal timing and compartmentalization of movements we imprison ourselves. Though, for our Stone Age ancestors activity was the key with which they discovered the world. Nothing is so naturally connected to freedom as our two legs. Why we limit ourselves that much, seems contradictory. Our body is a miracle of nature. It is capable of such a huge variety of movements that you can really call it a shame if we don’t use this potential.
Animal Moves – Learning from animals
What’s the advantage of arms like tyres if your legs are barely able to carry your body? What’s the advantage of legs like trunks if a lack of core strength leads to postural defects and pain? And even a body that looks muscular from top to toe is useless if it is lacking the endurance to carry the muscles under harder conditions like running up some stairs. Furthermore, the natural movement intelligence is often missing. This means, that the single muscles never learned how to work together. Thus, the body cannot unfold its full strength and movement variety.
Animal Moves belong to the concept of functional training and thus follow a holistic approach. That means, that it is not about building up isolated strength which is useless in everyday life but it incorporates a broad range of abilities. Besides strength and stability this includes also mobility and flexibility, coordination, endurance and speed. That’s also how it is among animals. Even a strong bear will leave a stream without catching fish if he lacks power and coordination. Or let us have a look at big cats. Speed is one of their most important assets but without skill and strength they will starve.
To train like animals also means that your “training” is never identical. For example a koala, while it climbs in trees it has to deal with thick and thin branches. Some of them are closer together than others. That’s an important difference to gyms. Here we train at machines which lead to almost identical movements every time we use them. Thus, we are not able to use our skills and abilities flexibly in order to react to diverse requirements effectively. For instance, we train biceps curls for years with the palm of our hands facing up. If we turn the dumbbell 90 degrees we have to use much lower weights, since our strength is not enough, even though the movement is very similar.
Why Animal Moves are real all-rounders
Just as other functional training concepts Animal Moves follow a holistic approach. Thus, this bodyweight training (training without equipment and only with your own bodyweight) trains a broad range of skills. All movements are natural and functional. This means that they are useful in our everyday life and they exploit the maximal potential of our movement abilities. We create new training stimuli during each session because movements aren’t identical or isolated. For example, while doing exercises in all-fours position the position of our hands is always a bit different. Due to varying ankles and forces Animal Moves stimulate all muscles and require them to work together.
A big advantage of animal moves is the strengthening of small, deep muscles, especially around joints. The weaker these muscles are the more strain is on our joints. In the long term, this can lead to pain and drastic limitations caused by wear of the joints. Holistic training concepts like Animal Moves can prevent these damages.
Furthermore, Animal Moves aim at performing movements in their complete range of motion and thus increasing mobility. Mobility is not just about flexibility, but rather about the interplay between muscles and joints. High mobility not only leads to better performance but also prevents hardening and paints of our muscles.
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