Virtually every physical skill can be broken down into a combination of 3 basic components: Strength, Flexibility, and Body Control.
And if you know what your goal is, it’s pretty simple to choose the best component to focus on with your training. For example, if you’re a rock climber who always has trouble getting your foot up to the next hold, you probably want to focus on flexibility for a while.
A lot of fitness programs offer results without respect to your needs, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not going to fall for false promises like “Shredded Abs in 5 Days!”
Nobody can promise you results without accounting for where you’re starting from.
The goal is meaningless unless you account for the starting point, which is why we emphasize assessing your current abilities so you know what you need to address to reach your goals. But once you find your “on-ramp,” it’s usually just a matter of following the road that goes where you want to end up.
(Well, it also takes a lot of hard work and consistency…)
Finding Your Path to Physical Autonomy
This article is going to show you our framework for plotting that course.
We’ll use our own training programs as examples, but the principles here apply just as well to other kinds of training. The main thing is to understand that you’ll need different things at different stages of your journey, so whether you use our programs or someone else’s, understanding how the road works will help you make the best possible progress.
Starting Out: Basic Movement Ability
You may be returning to training after a long break and need to rebuild your foundation. Or maybe you’ve been training for a while but you’ve got gaps in your performance.
Either way, you’re not going to get far without building some basic skills–learning core movement patterns like squatting, crawling, twisting, etc. If you’re new to training, you’ll need to build these from scratch, but if you’ve got a lot of experience, you might be able to breeze through this with a quick refresher.
Build a Consistent Training Habit With a Foundation in the Basics
With Elements, you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and control over 8 weeks, setting yourself up for a successful lifetime of staying fit and active.
At GMB, we use a lot of locomotive exercises to build these fundamental patterns. Elements is our intro-level course with no prerequisites, but it can also be used by more advanced trainees as a way to beef up their foundations in between (or alongside) other training programs. It’s also a great program for anyone coming back from an injury (after getting clearance from a doctor, of course!)
Elements helps you assess your strength, flexibility, and motor control, and build a foundation in those attributes.
Taking the time to assess where you’re at is a big part of our method of training–we call it the AAA-Framework: Assess, Address, and Apply.
Ideally, you want to master these basic movement patterns thoroughly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to make forward progress until they’re “perfect.” For one thing, nothing’s ever perfect, is it? And for another, the basics are something you never outgrow, so you’ll have lots of time to continue refining them as you move to add more specific training.
Once you’ve worked a bit with the basics and done some self-assessment, it’s a good idea to go ahead and address any restrictions that are holding you back from your goal.
If you’re not sure where to start, download our 5-day 💪🏻 strength and flexibility routine.
Addressing Your Restrictions
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link (yes, we’re going to keep using mixed and conflicting metaphors). Likewise, your progress will probably be limited by one or two specific physical attributes.
If you’ve done Elements or spent some time working on basic skills, you probably have a really good idea of where your body needs more work, too.
At GMB, we break things down to strength, flexibility, and control, but none of these attributes work in isolation (it’s impossible to work on control without also working on strength to some degree). Still, if flexibility is the main thing holding you back, that’s where you should focus most of your effort. If you’re struggling with movement skills, you probably need to work on your control.
We have programs for each in GMB. They’re listed here in no particular order, along with some alternatives from other people. Choose the right combination that fits your needs.
Practical & Dynamic Strength Development
The traditional approach to strength development is weightlifting, and that’s a completely valid approach. However, most weighted exercises are limited to a single plane of motion, and they don’t always translate directly to movement.
At GMB, we focus primarily on bodyweight exercises that force your muscles to get stronger while coordinating and balancing in complex combinations.
Use Skill-Based Training to Build Practical Strength
Integral Strength is a skill-based strength program that helps you build practical skills and strength that carry over into your beloved daily activities.
Let’s say you’re a martial artist who needs a lot of coordinated, full body strength, and you’ve found your strength isn’t quite where you need it to be. That’s where Integral Strength comes in.It’s an 8-week program that gets you stronger through progressively more challenging exercise variations. This is the kind of strength that carries over into demanding physical skills and dynamic sports, as well as daily life. Integral Strength is suitable for beginners, but is also good for intermediate-level trainees, as the exercises scale up to a pretty challenging level.
Increasing Flexibility for Easy Range of Motion
Most people assume that flexibility means being able to touch your toes or do a split. And if you don’t think you need to do that, you may not think that flexibility is important, but in our experience, most clients eventually run up against flexibility limitations.
Maybe you need more range of motion in your shoulders to hold a straighter handstand. Or maybe your tight hips are making it a pain to do household chores or gardening. If your range of motion is restricted, there’s a lot of things you won’t be able do without pain.
That’s why even those with modest flexibility needs can still benefit from some targeted stretching.
And “targeted” is the key word in our GMB Mobility program.Many people who go through Elements find that flexibility is a major limiting factor, even if their favorite activities don’t seem to involve as much flexibility. The key with GMB Mobility though, is that we look at flexibility simply as a way to get into the positions you need. Targeted stretching along with dynamic movement to integrate particular body area ranges of motion into full body mobility improves your overall ability to move.
Build Flexibility That Actually Helps You Move
GMB Mobility is a guided program that improves your total body mobility. You’ll resolve restrictions so you can finally move and perform your best.
Free Up Your Body to Move Easier and Perform Better
Maximize Your Motor Control
Even if you’re very strong and have plenty of flexibility, you may well find yourself having difficulty with complex movement patterns or skills that require a lot of balance and finesse. Of course, you could just try to “muscle through it,” but that usually ends in either frustration or injury.
That’s where specific development of motor control comes into play.
Also, many people are drawn to the kind of movement-based training we teach, not because they want to learn a particular skill or exercise, but because they want to learn to move better in general.
Unlike Elements, which also incorporates movement-based training, our Vitamin course is not a “program” in the traditional sense. The goal is not to master any particular movements, but rather to master your body by practicing a variety of movements, and experiencing and exploring how each one feels in your body.We focus on a different movement each day so you get exposure to a wide range of movements, learning how your body moves and feels with each one.Even if you only spend a few minutes on the movements (as few as ten, but we recommend 20 or so), your nervous system is being introduced to new patterns that create better balance, control, and kinesthetic sense. Vitamin is also a great warm-up or cool down for any other training.
Playful Training for Confidence and Control
With Vitamin, you’ll build confidence and creativity in your movement by practicing fun skills every day, so you can enjoy real freedom of movement.
Build Motor Control and Movement Efficiency
Until very recently, your options for building more control were to take up yoga or ballet, where you’d eventually develop more balance and coordination as a side effect of practicing those specific movements. This isn’t much of an option for people who are too busy to take up a new hobby (or already have hobbies).
At GMB, we see control as an attribute that deserves its own practice, free from application-specific training.
Likewise for flexibility and strength, you don’t have to limit the development of your physical attributes to the context of any particular sport or activity. If you want to do BJJ or Yoga or Capoeira or whatever, that’s great. But if you just want to get flexible, or strong, or move better, you shouldn’t have to take up a new sport just for that purpose.