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Chris Ross 02-18-2014 06:31 AM

movnat style training - opinions
Hi folks

So I have been contemplating making a change to my training for some time now towards a more Movnat inspired approach.

For those unfamiliar here's a link (WFS safe):

I recently attended one of the Movnat 2 day workshops and was very impressed as the methodology instantly made sense to me.

In a nutshell, whilst I find Crossfit enjoyable and useful, I have come to the conclusion (after quite a few years of training), that the gap between the 'functional' aspects of CF and the actual 'practical' application of CF style training and fitness is quite wide. All this so called 'functional' training but never really applying it to anything other than more training or competing in CF.

So my intention would be to partake in the following forms of training, still taking a 'generalist' approach (which is common to CF and Movnat):
- [B]walking[/B] (for distance, hills, hikes and general strolls)
- [B]running[/B] (short and fast, long and slow, hills, dunes, and trails
- [B]crawling and quadrupedal movement[/B] - on flats, hills etc
- [B]climbing[/B] - indoor and outdoor rock climbing, bouldering, poles, ropes, playground equipment, trees
- [B]grappling [/B]- I already do BJJ on a regular basis
- [B]balancing[/B] - beams, rocks, balance while carrying loads,
- [B]swimming[/B] - short and fast, long and slow, underwater, varied strokes
- [B]lifting and carrying [/B]- farmers walks, firemans carries (people and objects), waiter walks, for distance, on balance beams, some cleans of odd objects and pressing

My main focus would be to completely move away from 'set and reps', work 'for time', and other conventional and for me, boring and repetitive, fitness formats.

Basically I would just try and combine the above elements in some form everyday. Just play, try new movements, new challenges, actually do the [B]real practical human movements[/B] we're all trying to get better at instead of trying to bust out 50 DLs for time or some couplet or triplet in the belief that it will assist me to perform the aforementioned skills should the need arise.

As an example that lead me towards this change in thinking I recall a bunch of people at my local CF affiliate training for Tough Mudder by doing nothing but CF. None of them spent any time a) getting prepared to run the 20km, or b) practicing the skills that would be called upon on the course such as crossing monkey bar bridges, climbing over 10foot walls, crawling for distance on slippery terrain or climbing a cargo net. All of these skills were completely absent in their training.

The Tough Mudder example aside, I wanted to know whether other folks here have thought the same thing and what kind of results could be expected from abandoning the pursuit of 'fitness' and instead pursuing skill, efficiency and enjoyment through the practice of basic human movements patterns (assuming that fitness will be one of many by-products).


Chris Ross 02-18-2014 03:50 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
216 views and no one has an opinion on this topic?

Ppl on this forum used to have an opinion on [B]everything[/B] :)

Matt Thomas 02-18-2014 03:57 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
I view most of your examples as part of the "learn and play new sports" aspect of CF. I feel like this has been forgotten. Because CF is its own sport people train exclusively for CF now instead of branching out and experimenting with new things (in general).

I personally don't think it's a good idea to drop traditional methods of training to build strength, endurance, etc. However, there's no reason you can't do regular BB work and add in balance work, parkour style movements, rope climbs, or whatever else you want. I think this stuff should go into the practice portion of your workouts.

That's my opinion.

Matt Thomas 02-18-2014 04:02 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
A few more things after watching the video (which I have seen before).

I like the style of training, but it's basically broken down to weighted carries, throws, running, and bodyweight work. All this can be trained in a gym and within the context of a well rounded strength and conditioning program.

What makes this more "nat" than normal training? Because he's doing it in the woods? But what if you can't yet do a cool muscle up on a tree branch? Must I go out to the tree branch ever day or can I work on my pull up strength and transitions in the gym to improve it?

To reiterate: Get stronger, get faster, practice the things you want to be good at.

Chris Ross 02-18-2014 05:25 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
thanks for the reply. To answer your question:

What makes this more "nat" than normal training?

I guess my answer to that is that the movnat style of training is more about actually doing the aforementioned movement patterns, as opposed to doing some limited version of them (eg. pullups) for sets and reps in the hope that this will translate over to actually being able to do something like climbing.

Here's a few examples of what I mean to get the flavour of my point across:

1) As stated I practice BJJ regularly. Of all the really good BJJ people i know, and some i don't such as Marcelo Garcia, they spend almost all of their time actually doing BJJ because that's what they want to get good at. Not running. Not lifting weights. Getting better at BJJ by doing BJJ. Even one of the best young guys in the US, Zak Maxwell (son of kettlebell guru Steve Maxwell) only does 2, yes 2, sessions of supplementary training (strength or conditioning) per week. The rest of the week he trains 2 x day 6 days per week on BJJ exclusively. This guy is a world class jiu jitsu player.

2) I used to spend quite a bit of time around rock climbers, some of them quite good. Very few of them would do pullups or chin ups. Instead they would get better at climbing by climbing. Sometimes they would choose routes that emphasised certain fitness qualities such as one that required a dyno power move or lots of core involvement but it was never a sets and reps kind of thing. Much more free-flowing. Picking a challenging route and going for it until they had it worked out. Even training done on campus/finger boards was rarely structured.

3) A few months ago I was at a local park with my CF mate. Strong guy, good CFer. Some kids were playing frisbee. The frisbee ended up in a tree about 8 metres off the ground. My friend tried to climb the tree but had limited success due to being unable to get up on top of a horizontal branch and generally looking like a robot technique wise. One of the local kids, about 13 yrs old, scampered up the tree like a monkey and had the frisbee down in no time. I asked him what kind of training he did to climb so well. He just shrugged at me and said his friends play in the park everyday and often climb the trees while playing tag etc. In other words he didn't train - he just climbed and ended up being bloody skillfull at it. My CF friend was clearly stronger, 'fitter' and did functional training but couldn't climb the tree if he was being chased by a tiger!

So my point is I think that alot of so called 'functional' training is a bunch of hoo-ey. It's better than machines in a Globo but if an experienced CFer can't climb a tree with grace and control, no amount of handstand pushups, double unders, or even kipping pullups are going to help. These movements might be 'functional' (which is debatable too I guess) but they are hardly practical.

I liken the whole functional fitness thing to the watershed that occured in martial arts training when the first UFC occured.

Prior to the UFC karate, kung fu and tae kwon do guys thought that all their air punching, katas/forms and shouting would make them able to fight because it would 'all come together' when it was needed. In actual fact it was the people who actually fought like kickboxers, wrestlers and jiu jitsu people that got better at fighting. Training in fighting makes you better at fighting. Not doing a bunch of other stuff that is a derivative of fighting. This was a revelation in the martial arts world back in the early 1990s. Now most people know that to get better at fighting you need to be practicing any or all of striking, wrestling and jiu jitsu.

For me this is what CF is like. Practicing stuff that is kind of like real movements and activities but actually isn't.

One of the early CF journals used the example of doing CF to be ready to run into a burning building to rescue someone.

To be fair it might help you a little - but in reality actually knowing and practicing techniques and movements such as being able to pick up an unconscious person, get them in a firemans carry and then run with them (downstairs for example) is a basic skill that can be trained instead of doing some other gym based movements with some, but little specific carry over.

I just think something like movnat, or another model, that focuses on actual human movement patterns is a better use of training time.

Sorry for the long reply! This topic is very interesting to me.

Matt Thomas 02-18-2014 05:37 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
I see what you're saying. And I think it comes down to...what are you training for?

If you want to be REALLY good at scrambling up trees then you'll need to practice scrambling up trees. If you want to be generally prepared for things then you should be generally strong and well conditioned.

My point about the muscle up is....yes it's great to practice the actual movement pattern, but what if you can't do the actual movement? Then what do you do?

To your point about the BJJ guys that makes perfect sense. Their main focus is BJJ so the more they train it the better they will get. It will help them to be stronger and better conditioned, but in this situation you hit a point of diminishing returns really quick. The best training for them is the minimum amount that will allow them to get stronger, while not interfering with the practice aspect of their sport.

So I guess my question is what are you practicing for? If you just want to be generally fit...I dunno. I think having a 2x BW squat, an above BW press, and a good 1 mile run time (just examples) are going to serve you better than practicing exclusively scrambling up trees every day.

Matt Thomas 02-18-2014 05:43 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
I'll also say that I think I'm slanting my responses slightly toward the video.

If you really built your training regimen around weighted caries, various types of running, swimming, and bodyweight movements / climbing you would probably get pretty fit.

I just wouldn't get caught up with finding trees to jump over and brush to scramble under. ;)

edit: [url][/url] (WFS)

I bet this guy would be good at movnat ;)

Robert Fabsik 02-18-2014 07:14 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
Reasonable concepts all around.
Great to be outside. I'd have some concerns about risk--but heck scale appropriately. Just wouldn't want to fall out of a 30' tree or take a nose dive on a rock.

I think the advantage of this approach vs. typical CF is more training in various planes that you may get from sports that you wouldn't just from basic strength and conditioning.

You could package hitting more planes in a gym--more gymnastics elements, working on lateral movements, feet drills etc. But, it might still be too packaged to hit all angles.

David Meverden 02-18-2014 07:15 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
Sounds mostly like an advertisement for movnat, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

[QUOTE]I have come to the conclusion (after quite a few years of training), that the gap between the 'functional' aspects of CF and the actual 'practical' application of CF style training and fitness is quite wide. All this so called 'functional' training but never really applying it to anything other than more training or competing in CF.[/QUOTE]

There is definitely some truth to this, as being good at CF has become an end in and of itself, but whether you want to compete at the "sport of fitness" or get better at other interests is up to you. Either way, work in the gym will help you get there.

[QUOTE]So my point is I think that alot of so called 'functional' training is a bunch of hoo-ey.[/QUOTE]

The problem is that you're acting like the gym is supposed to be a 1 stop shop to be good at everything. That if it isn't giving you skills it isn't worth it. But that's not the purpose of barbells, dumbbells, etc. The gym work gives you the work capacity then you can learn to apply those attributes to your given activity.

It's like a racecar. Doing gym quality work is akin to increasing horsepower, or torque, or giving it a bigger gas tank. All great things, but to win a race you still have to know how to drive the car. You're saying "why spend time upgrading our car, we should just practice driving all the time" which sounds great until you race against someone who does both (practice and upgrade his car) and you get your doors blown off.

For a more direct fitness example lets talk about fireman carries you brought up. At the MovNat seminar I attended and we practiced those. I had had little previous experience but after 5 minutes of practice I was the only one running up hill with the heaviest guy simply because I was a LOT stronger than everyone else there. The gym work gave me the tools to APPLY the skills. If you ONLY work the skills you'll just never be as good as you could be.

You bring up BJJ and climbers, but really those individuals are outliers. Almost all elite athletes today are CRUCIALLY dependent on the conditioning or strength work they do off the field/court/whatever. JUST playing football will never make a lineman strong enough to be competitive. JUST sprinting will never make someone as fast as they could be. Even golfers now are finding that they can be better if they don't JUST golf for training.

So, if you have a specific goal you'll get their faster using both the gym, to build the general capacity, and skill work to be able to channel that general capacity. But that is dependent on having a goal.

If you have no specific goal and just want to be generally healthy, mobile, and able to have fun in the woods climbing stuff, then maybe you don't need to go to the gym to achieve your goal because it's not about optimizing anything or getting there the fastest.

Chris Ross 02-18-2014 07:44 PM

Re: movnat style training - opinions
thanks for the link - cool video!

To answer your question, no scrambling up trees everyday would not be the answer but it would be part of the answer.

As per my first post, in my opinion a proper GPP program should include all of running, walking, climbing, swimming, fighting, lifting and carrying etc. These are the quintesential human movement patterns we all evolved peforming. Excellence in them is something most of us lost when we left childhood and entered our teenage years and then adulthood. It would not be burpee / wall balls for time or handstand walks for distance.

Yes, a good squat, bench and mile time are nice markers of fitness but overall are pretty low skill.

Whilst alot of CF seems to be Games focused now, to begin with it was all about preparing for the 'unknown and unknowable' that life might throw at you. This was pitched particularly hard at emergency service workers and soldiers. But I would contend that CF for GPP is only a slight improvement on Globo style training and falls short of what a Movnat style GPP program could achieve (there is a reason why so many military training camps are geared around skill based training like obstacle courses, long rucking and emergency evacuation drills... there all essential [B]skills[/B]).

To make my point I provide the following examples that have occured to people I know during my lifetime of them landing in 'unknowable' situations where their physical [B]skills[/B] were tested as well as general conditioning:

Example 1) When I was a toddler we lived in a rural area. My mum was driving us home during a very hot day. The car broke down. The nearest help was 5km away. The temperature was 38 degrees Celsius / 100 F. This was before cell phones were invented.

She carried me, a squirming toddler weighing 20kg/44lbs, for the full 5 km, as well as her bag and a 2 Litre (2kg) bottle of water she had in the trunk, all in the midday sun.

When she was a kid she used to live on a farm. Her dad had taught her how to carry loads with techniques that produced the least amount of lactate build up in the arms with maximum efficiency. It was this skill in movement / technique that allowed her to perform the task where others might have failed. Carrying a kettlebell with a nice ergonomic handle during a wod might get your grips burning but it is not necessarily the most efficient method of carrying weight for distance and is therefore for me 'funcitonal' but not 'practical'.

Example 2)
A guy I used to live next door to locked himself out of his house one day by accident. He was about 22, lifted weights regularly and appeared fit. He decided he would climb onto his roof via a tree and access the top bedroom window which was always unlocked. He hadn't done any climbing since primary school. On the way up the tree he fell, landed on the concrete driveway below and shattered his ankle.

Had he included climbing as part of a regular GPP program it is likely that he might have not been injured.

Example 3)
A few years ago two of my work collegues went to a small rural town to assist with a dengue fever outbreak. They were tasked with going from door to door in the town to assist people with spotting potential mosquito breeding sites in their yards and to identify areas requiring mosquito treatment. One of the collegues was a 20 something female who was into parkour. The other was a 35 year old male, who played social touch-football, was fast on his feet and healthy.

When they entered one of the yards they knocked on the front door to the house. About this time they heard barking and a large dog came flying around the corner on a leash held by the owner of the house. The owner lost his grip on the leash and the dog started to run towards them.

Both ran in a straight line for the fence away from the on-coming dog. The female used a parkour technique to scale and mount the fence thereby avoiding the dog's reach. The male tried to climb the fence by pulling himself up with his arms, was bitten on the calf and had to go to the hospital for treatment. The skill of getting over the fence, performed by a slower, weaker person, was the difference between getting bitten or not.

Example 4)
This one is very sad, but I'll include it because I think it is important as an example.

When I was a teenager I knew a kid my age who had a small boat. Once day he and another kid about same age took the boat out into canals and then open water in the bay. Somehow they both ended up falling out and neither were wearing life jackets. The outboard was a variable speed model and when they fell out the outboard was still operating resulting in the boat running away from them. There was enough swell for the boat to not circle them like it should have and it ran away.

Both kids knew how to swim and were healthy weights, but one of them had learnt and practiced how to tread water for long periods of time in his Scouts training. For some reason they decided to try and tread water and wait for help rather than swim to shore (a few kilometers away).

It took 30 minutes for them to be spotted by another boat. In that time the kid who had learnt to tread water was still alive. The other kid had ran out of energy and had slipped under the water and drowned. A tragedy.

The skill of treading water taught by the Scouts saved his life.

Sorry for the sad post but my point is, and I contend, that a true GPP program is more likely to prepare you for the 'unknowable' if it is based around the aforementioned key basic human movements:
jumping & landing
crawling and clambering
lifting and carrying
fighting (grappling / striking)

Improvement of skills in all of the above in a wide range of scenarios will also allow for improvements in strength, endurance, stamina etc but they are by-products and not necessarily the goal - which is to have some level of competence, if not mastery, in these basic human movement patterns. That, to me, is my goal and I believe should be the goal of any good GPP program.

Have at it!

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