During a training session this past Wednesday a client of mine asked me the following:
What would you call what we are doing with you?
I think it's a fair questions. I mean it's in our nature to try to categorize and label things. It sure as hell makes it a lot easier to communicate to one another when we have similar reference points and ranges and share a similar language to describe things.
However for myself I tend to think of what I do as "physical preparation" and what the preparation entails is all dependent on the goals of the person I am training.
For that reason I really don't like putting myself into a category, system, or methodology such as Yoga, Crossfit, or Powerlifting.
I think the best approach is to look at physical preparation the same way as Bruce Lee looked at Martial Arts when he created Jeet Kune Do and that approach can be best summed up in his following quote.
Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.
Every system, school, and methodology has something to offer and if you close yourself off to that you will miss out on drills, techniques, exercises, and approaches that could be the tool you are missing or a more efficient and effective tool than the one you already have. This is especially true in the world of physical preparation which while the science of it is young the art of it is old and filled with a lot of hidden treasures.
This is one reasons why if you look at programs I write for myself and others you will find something that is kin to a physical training smorgasbord.
I take what I like from each discipline, system, or methodology and I apply it in the way that best fits my overarching principles and beliefs.
Yes I have a bias towards certain things, but I don't let that bias blind me and keep me from continually looking for new and possibly better ways of doing things.
All this is to say that one of the concepts or ideas that I have really held on to in the last year and tried hard to find ways to incorporate into my existing practice is the idea of "flow," but in a more structured manner than how it was initially presented to me.
I first came across the concept by following people like Ido Portal and Erwan Le Corre who are amazing athletes and present "flow" as more of a flexible, adaptable, and playful approach to movement and training. As in you just grab some open space and "flow" which entails moving your body through space in the most creative and dynamic way possible. It's extremely fun to watch some do.
However while this kind of "flow" is fun to watch and experiment with myself I couldn't really see how it would be useful for me as a coach when most of the people I work with our uncomfortable enough in the gym to begin with let alone with me encouraging them to crawl, slide, and jump around the gym in an unstructured and informal manner.
That being said I still saw the benefit this kind of practice offered and began to experiment with the taking "flow," making it more structured, and incorporating more traditional physical preparation exercises into it.
What has come out of this experimentation has been the integration of "flow" like complexes and circuits of more traditional exercises into my training approach.
I primarily use these flows as warm-ups because I think while in the last ten years the industry has done a great job moving away from isolation, single-joint, muscle oriented strength training to more movement-focused, integrated strength training our warm-ups have become increasingly more segmented which I don't think is a good thing.
In practice these drills are really just several warm-up drills sequenced together by flowing transitions. Here is an example.
These flow drills can also be used in lower-threshold conditioning and recovery-based workouts, but I find they have the most benefit as warm-ups for these five reasons.
1. Because movement variability.
We never do the same thing in the same way twice no matter how much it may appear that way.
This is good and is likely our biggest ally against repetitive overuse injuries.
Performing flow drills gives us the opportunity to encounter variability in our movement and learn to deal with it and find ways to move through the sequence. The more variability we have in our environment and movement and the more options we have developed to deal with them the less likely we are to be injured.
2. It's neurologically priming.
Warming up should be about turning everything on and tuning in your nervous system to what is happening both internally and externally so that you can get all the feedback possible to perform at your best.
The neurological system is stimulated and primed when we call upon it to execute complex and coordinated movements which is exactly what these flow drills are.
This means your neurological system will have to get involved and be stimulated by these drills hopefully leading to better performance when you go try to lift heavy things, move quickly, or move heavy things quickly.
3. It makes you hot and sweaty.
They don't call it "warming up" for nothing.
It's important that if you are going to be pushing your physical limits to drive adaptation you want to get the blood pumping and your body temperature elevated before hitting maximal efforts.
4. It's efficient.
Who doesn't want to save time in the gym?
I mean a traditional segmented, dynamic warm-up in which there is a drill to activate, mobilize, and prepare every muscle and joint in the body can take forever and it is completely unnecessary.
Using a flow approach to warming-up you can save yourself a ton of time by hitting 2 to 10 of the same drills all at once for multiple reps in half the time because the are all linked to another another and the transition time is removed.
5. It feels like play.
Warming up is kind of boring and after training long enough you just get tired of taking that 10 to 15 minutes to do it everyday.
But by incorporating more flow based warm-ups you make it fun because honestly a lot of this stuff has you feeling like some kind of ninja in training.
Not to mention it's challenging and engaging.
Warming up beings to feel a lot more like exploration and play than a chore.
I really hope you will give these drills a try to see if you can't find a way to incorporate them into your own physical preparation.
There really isn't a right or wrong way here. You are only limited by your own movement abilities and creativity.
However to get you started let me share with you some of the drills I have come up with.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training