Sunday, May 17, 2015

What's the difference between the Unzoo Movement and the other stuff like unstructured natural movement?

That was a question from Max of Movement Unleashed in response to an earlier blog post from me on An Updated Unzoo Movement Template. I said I might do another post to expand on this, so here it is...cheers Max.
(by the way, I fully acknowledge that Parkour already use a mixed method approach to some degree - for instance APK sessions range from classic push up conditioning to structured movement sessions, to less structured exploratory or creativity sessions)

The earlier post described how I was experimenting with different training methodologies in an effort to cover a broader spectrum of general preparedness fitness and experiences. I will clarify the differences a bit more here.

I currently do a weekly rotate of three different training methodologies. The first is Classical Functional Fitness. This is a pretty loose term in the fitness industry but I am referring to compound movements as opposed to isolated body part exercises such as bicep curls. This is stuff like CrossFit, boot camp training, classic old school strength and conditioning (S&C) training. It includes movements such as press ups, burpees, kettlebell swings, pull ups and so on. Here's some examples from CrossFit:
 And here's a classic CrossFit body weight workout example:

Cindy
5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes



In my opinion these are industrialised movements*  that are great as a way to focus on pure strength and conditioning. They are simple movements that are relatively easy to learn and perform and are therefore safe to use when engaging high intensity training. The strength and conditioning from this type of training will contribute to some degree of "Effective movement" in that it can allow you to complete a movement not trained for - a form of General Physical Preparedness or GPP. In a nutshell what I mean here is that I can get really good at pull ups and that might help me perform some more applied climbing movements effectively as in "I can do it", but it may not be efficient movement. So unless I engage in true natural movement, I am likely to be fit but a bit clumsy.

(*by industrialised I mean it's not natural human movement in terms of either the actual movement, the repetition volume, or the use of nature)

And then there's Unzoo Movement, which is just the name for my brand of Natural Movement training. I should have called this method Structured Natural Movement.

My version is not hugely different from other natural movement practitioners except I embrace only training outside (huge benefits people - no compromise!), and have an eclectic and exploratory/experimental approach to training. So even though I practice natural human movement,  I will borrow ideas from outside of that discipline and play around with methods, pretty much like I am doing here. Natural Movement training takes you from just doing effective movement to doing efficient movement. To carry on the example above, I might not actually be that great at high intensity pull up training, but be well versed in more complex climbing techniques and be able to climb more efficiently than a classic S&C practitioner.

Here's a standard MovNat MOD
Warm Up Mobility – 3 rounds
Rotational Rocking - clockwise x3
Rotational Rocking - counterclockwise x3
Forward Roll x3

Skill
Forward Rolls x20 - begin to roll faster, and from a taller position

Combo - 3 rounds
Rotational Swing Throw and Catch x6 - each side - 15lb object
Leg Swing Jump - 5ft - 2x2ft target
Rotational Rocking - 1 circle each direction
Chest Throw and Catch x12 - 25lbs

And here's a sample of an Unzoo Movement week; basically the same as MovNat but a bit more structured around the full movement-energy spectrum of speed, learning & practicing body movements (internal freedom), combining movements for flow and transition, adaptive movement to environmental/situational context (external freedom) and movement volume (stamina & mental toughness).



You can see that the types of movement engaged are very different from the standard S&C movements, and this practice leads to a more complex set of movement skills that are geared to more efficient natural movement patterns (employing the SAID principle of specific adaptation to imposed demands).

In the end I am trying to develop what Rafe Kelly calls "Movement Aliveness".
 aliveness is about being able to deal with more variables and to step outside of the preplanned and and be able to adapt, this means the capacity to improvise.

For that, it seems the best methodology is unstructured training in nature. But it needs the other two methods as building blocks.

Here's a bunch of quotes from Rafe's work that have influenced my thinking in this area:
  Essentially, complexity translates better to simplicity rather than vice-versa. The natural environment is much more complex. Movement as a paradigm is still incomplete without nature. Our bodies and our capacity did not evolve for flat surfaces, or simplified tools like barbells or even rings. We are meant to move over terrain, to move diverse objects, to move in coordination or competition with other living things.

Being a mover might give you patterns and attributes, but can you express them in broad contexts? Is your skin robust to sun, wind, rain, snow and sand? Can you swim in cold water, can you sprint sand, scree, or wet mossy rocks? Can your crawls solve passing under fallen logs or moving through dense tree branches? Can your jumping, and swinging, patterns deal with the pitch and sway of tree limbs? Go play outside. Move like a human.

Training is about increasing your tolerances, expanding the differences between the most you can do and the least, this goes far beyond the most force a muscle can produce, it goes into the motor patterns your nervous system can create and control and the situations you can apply movement too, it dealing with wet, dry, slippery, abrasive, cold, hot, dark, light, fear, anger, frustration, vertigo and claustrophobia. It’s balancing on a log barefoot while waves smash you and being and finding stillness. It’s being able to know if you can make a jump from a slanted tree branch under another overhanging branch to a final branch which will pitch and yaw when you land on it. What are the variables you can solve, what are your tolerances. And the secret is the things that were once unpleasant become joyous when

I place a big emphasis on what I call exploratory movement play in my training, prior to attempting high intensity or complexity movement I like to explore a space at a gentle pace, looking for flow and interesting movement. This gets my body warm, develops a kinesthetic map of the areas I plan to train in and gets my creativity going, it also develops improvisational ability which I find many movers lack. In order to truly claim mastery of a skill set you need to be able to express it in improvisation. Life is improv - until you can improv your skills are not alive. They move inside the circle of what you can do.

 And here's another piece on the subject from a different author:

In Defense of “Play” – Why All Adults Need Unstructured Practice
Training doesn’t always have to be structured and goal-oriented to yield results.We tend to get caught up in “getting the skill” or “getting a good workout,” and while those goals have their place, if we never take the time to explore movement without any specific goals in mind, we lose out on a sense of play and freedom. Unlike the structured approach we generally associate with formal exercise, play is a way to explore movement without any structure at all, much like we did as kids – figuring out all manner of possibilities for maneuvering ourselves from point A to point B.
I think each method is good and should be treated as different and part of the total. Classic functional movement strength & conditioning can feed your natural movement capacity. Here's another Rafe quote in support of this:
The formal practices, the joint integrity work, the barbell and gymnastics strength, traditional sprint and plyometric work these are valuable tools, bridges back to normal human capacities or even means to amplify specific aspects but if you don't go out and move like a human if you don't move your body through nature, your always missing part of your full movement capacity.
There was another quote from Rafe (which I can't find ) that paid homage to the role of Olympic lifting in generating bigger parkour jumps. And of course it's easy to criticise functional movement S&C as unnatural and inefficient, but sometimes that's actually exactly what you want! A burpee may be an industrialised movement, but its a fantastic conditioning tool. An American style kettlebell swing is specifically designed to generate more work than the more traditional Russian swing.


Structured natural movement sessions allow goal focused human movement in a natural context. Then going unstructured takes it to the next level.

Currently I am doing this by rotating the three methods each week. It's early days, but initially to me it seems that the weekly rotation approach is perhaps too long in each method (unless you were developing a specific aspect maybe).

So my next approach might be this; apply a variation of the theoretical template of the CrossFit training schedule to allow for better integration of the methods. Here's the CrossFit template:



 And here's my variation for a movement template:


"Other" in this schedule refers to other activity types, rest, rehab, play, sport, physical labour, epic adventures....


 In this version I cover the energy spectrum over the week, plus internal and external freedom, and vary the combination of training methodologies within the week.Who knows? It could be a really bad idea, but I will explore it and find out if I get closer to movement aliveness.