The movements that evolved during the evolution of humans are called natural movements. They are part of our genetics, so in principle we can do them without much practice. A tiger doesn’t go for sprinting or hunting lessons, as one grows one will know how to move to survive. In today’s world, however, it seems as genetics are not working properly, and many people’s natural movement patterns are very much underdeveloped – many people cannot squat, run economically, climb safely up a tall tree or other objects, lift a heavy weight without pain in the waist, jump over a metre long gap, etc. – which is one of the reasons why it is important to reinvent and regularly practice natural movement patterns.
The anatomy and musculature of human make us the most versatile species in the animal kingdom in terms of movement. We are not the best in any one genre – cheetahs run faster, fish swim better, etc. – but rather we are the “handymen” of the animal kingdom, able to achieve a high level of almost any movement.
The basic human movement patterns
walking, running, swimming, crawling on the ground, rolling, balancing, hanging-climbing, jumping, lifting-carrying, throwing-catching, various self-defence and offensive techniques, playful exercises and the variations and combinations of all these
These are the basics. Of course, the previous ones are often mixed or coming in sequence after each other in a life situation. Although flight is a natural movement, let it to the birds. Unfortunately, our anatomy, lacking wings, does not allow it. The good news is that we can have a quick taste of it during a big jump! ?
You will never become an Olympic champion superman from practicing natural movements alone, you need special training, but that’s not the goal here, it’s about enjoying the movement and the health of our muscles and joints.
How efficiently, easily and safely are going the above movements for you?
Don’t underestimate any natural movement! Practice them regularly, gradually and humbly. Most natural movement workouts are not about spectacular jumps from one tree to another, but about quietly consolidating the basics! After that, you might want to do some show elements.
Movement in the past and present
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors – and the primitive peoples of today – must have been adept at these skills, because their lives depended on their ability to get food or escape from a predator. Today, high level of movement skills are no longer essential for survival. Most of us can survive without natural movement, we can get food just pressing a few buttons and with some money in our pockets. So why bother with natural movements? I hope that my readers are not resigned to the sedentary and ‘movement-undereducated’ trend that is going on these days, but are demanding more in this area.
Today’s man has moved very far away from our ancient exercise habits and also from the amount of movement we do. There is simply too much sedentary time, too little walking and too little varied movement. Even when modern people do sports, the aim is often to look aesthetically pleasing or to improve performance in some sport. Unfortunately, less emphasis is placed on maintaining and developing quality of movement and versatility.
Without the right level of natural movement, the risk of sports injuries increases and we cannot reach our maximum potential in a competitive sport. We are also more likely to suffer an accident in an unexpected, dangerous situation because we do not react properly and are full of fear if we are not in control of our bodies and our movements.
Natural movements also involve being outdoors more, in natural light and fresh air – as hunter-gatherers do – which is a big plus for counteracting the indoor life and all the artificial light and screen gazing. Of course, indoors in a gym or at home in your room are also good places to practice this genre, but in nice (and not so nice) weather, why don’t we go outside?
With natural movement, you get the benefits of both sport and a connection with nature. They help us to develop strong, agile, flexible, enduring, versatile muscles that not only keep us fit, toned and lean, but also keep us fit in most of life’s movement-demanding situations.
MovNat, the old-new natural fitness
Around 2008, French athlete Erwan Le Corre took on the important role of systematising the natural movements of the human body. Erwan was inspired by his own “weird” training methods and George Hébert’s previous similar trend, the “méthode naturelle”. This fitness movement was called Movement Natural (MovNat). This has given us a safe method that can be adapted to anyone’s fitness level, which allows systematic, continuous improvement and provides detailed theoretical principles for movement.
The primary goal of MovNat is to restore the original movement patterns in humans – evolutionary and biological. In this way we can regain/maintain our health, fitness, well-being, happiness and freedom through movement. All in all, we can gain a higher quality of life.
Secondarily, it aims to improve people’s overall quality of movement and physical fitness, so that we can cope with any movement demand in the real world. These are evergreen qualities, those who move at a higher level will be more useful to themselves, others and society.
In addition, MovNat practitioners develop awareness, respect and connection of body and mind, respect and good relationship with nature.
It also helps us to stop and prevent today’s ‘phone-addicted, sofa-epidemic’ society around the world and move with the dexterity and versatility we have evolved to develop.
The MovNat system’s principles are evolutionary, instinctive, practical, universal, vital, adaptive, non-specialised, efficient, cooperative, environmentally conscious.
It divides movements into 3 broad categories:
Locomotive (bodyweight exercises): e.g. walking, running, climbing, balancing, jumping, swimming
Manipulative exercises: e.g. lifting, carrying, throwing, catching
Combative exercises: self-defence basics
MovNat training is not primarily aimed at increasing physical fitness, but at polishing and developing natural movement techniques. As a side effect, physical fitness will also improve and of course you can turn up the intensity of the workouts for more fitness gains…
I believe that this will not only be a fashionable, passing fitness trend, but a lasting training philosophy, as it has evolutionary roots, the health of our muscles and joints will reward the energy invested in it and it can be integrated into most modern forms of training.
For who, when and how?
There are so many natural movements, so how do we get started? Which ones are worth practising?
Natural movements can be started by any gender, age and fitness level. There are degrees of difficulty, from very simple exercises to superman stunts that even Tarzan would envy.
Outside or inside? It’s not necessary to practice natural movements outside and perform dangerous tricks by lifting heavy rocks and hanging from high tree branches. It’s also great to practice the basics and progressively more difficult exercises indoors or in a well-equipped gym, and then test yourself later with natural objects.
Natural movements provide motivation and inspiration for training in the long term, the important thing would be to practice each of these elements from time to time and to incorporate them somewhere in your life. If you don’t know how to get started and what plan to follow, look for a specialist coach!
In the beginning, ground work – crawling, rolling, inversions, support positions, standing up from the ground and sitting on the ground techniques – are particularly important to restore mobility and stability of the joints, to revive basic movement patterns and coordinated muscle movement. This will make all other sports activities more economical and safer.
As this method offers a wide range of training options and exercises, it is advisable to have focused periods of a few weeks, e.g. one period focusing on ground exercises, other time on climbing and next time on jumping.
With these training sessions, the techniques are getting more and more economical, automatic over time and the exercises may be incorporated into more complex, real-life situations. For example, it’s ok to learn different jumping techniques on ground level, but later the important thing will be whether you can safely jump across a stream or from one rock to another. It’s cool that you can hang for a minute on a regular pull-up bar, but what about when you have to perform the same trick on a tree branch with a thick, uneven surface?
There’s also the “combo” method, where you practice multiple natural movement patterns in one workout. In this case you have to switch quickly from one type of exercise to another. One moment you’re relaxed doing balancing, the next moment you’re lifting a heavy object with all your strength and then sprinting up the hill.
In the combo, you can create a circular track, which includes, for example, animal walks, balancing, lifting-carrying, hanging. It is also a good idea to make a modified cross-country run, where you can add some tree or rock climbing, crawling, jumping. I do sometimes a similar kind of workout combined with trash collecting: the basic is running and Im trying to collect as much trash as possible using a variety of natural movement techniques, then carry the rubbish bag to the next bin.
Even in a busy day, I can fit in 5 minutes of natural movement practice. You can even practice some ground exercises or crawling techniques at home in your room. It will be a real refreshment both physically and mentally! Also, walk wherever and whenever you can!
From a health perspective, the aim is to achieve, maintain and possibly develop versatile musculature. Throughout our lives.
My own experience
I was fortunate to have had excellent PE teachers and coaches, so I had a childhood with relatively varied movements, but apparently not enough. At the age of 8, I was stucked in the world of competitive canoeing and the success came quickly, so this specialised sport accounted for a large part of my movement quantity. I gained a high level of endurance, strength and strenght-endurance, super competitive results and experiences. And the same time, by adulthood, a stiff musculature, a lot of chronic injuries, because I presumably missed a few years of free practice and development of natural movements. That’s probably why I’m now a big fan of natural movements as an adult, practicing them daily and teaching them.
I just enjoy how much more my body can do, how many new movement situations I can find my place in. My previous injuries have largely disappeared due to the variety of movement and I am also learning new sports faster than average due to my improved movement coordination and body awareness. I can’t get bored of it, I’m always finding new challenges and will probably do so for the rest of my life. I have incorporated this approach and without it, I would feel less myself. I often spend a full 1-2 hour workout practicing natural movements. Sometimes I just use them as warm-ups and cool-downs before and after a specific sport workouts or as a recovery workout and sometimes I just spontaneously feel like doing a tree climb, a big jump, climbing a rail on all fours on a challenging terrain.
Caution! A side effect of natural movement is that over time a tree or a bench will no longer be an regular object in your environment that you just walk past. You will be thinking about how you can climb it and probably you will do it! ?
Natural movements are part of our evolutionary heritage. In principle, all humans can do them at a basic level, but in practice many people have problems even with the basics. Rediscovering natural movements and practicing them regularly can prevent sports injuries, accidental injuries from unexpected situations, chronic joint pain, stiff muscles, self-doubt. In addition, you get a complete fitness and shaping tool that will help you to stand your ground in almost any situation requiring movement, and learn new sports faster and safer. The long-term advantage is that we will not be restricted in our mobility in old age.
Master the basic, natural human movement patterns! Be able to handle your own body without pain, and then may come other sports equipments, weights or competitive sports.
Use it or lose it! Move it or lose it!
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