The Top 5 Benefits of Alternative Locomotion Movements aka Animal Movements
by Joe Di Stefino
Part 1: Reacquaints your body with more evolutionary muscle activation sequences and patterns.
According to almost any source you can find, upwards of 80% of our population will have some form of back pain and/or treatment during their lifetime…with shoulders and knees lagging not too far behind. It is my contention that the vast majority of these injuries are caused by a sedentary lifestyle and are entirely avoidable, even those that are seemingly “freak” accidents, wear and tear, or even trauma.
Human beings evolved to be weight bearing and active for the majority of each and every day. This created a muscular system that fired in rhythmic and predictable patterns depending on what we asked of it. Being weight bearing also kept the joints strong and lubricated, the posture tall, and even things like digestion working properly. The less active we are and the more time we spend in a habitual position, typically seated, the more intensely all of these systems are impaired.
Consider the foundational lesson of any university program on Exercise Physiology; The SAID Principle. The body essentially views everything we do on a regular basis as an “imposed demand” that it needs to “specifically adapt” to (Google search: SAID Principle). In other words, just as a professional baseball player trains their body specifically to play baseball with no regard for the influence it will have on their horseback riding, or a body builder pumps iron without worrying about the effects large muscles will have on their golf game, “practicing” sitting down for the majority of your time is literally pushing your body to get better at sitting down.
If you rarely expose it to anything dramatically different, the body will willingly and intentionally sacrifice it’s ability to skip, jump, run, bend, twist, and even stand. People have trouble moving with fluidity and athleticism not because of tight hamstrings or a bad back but because they have sacrificed their innate functional abilities in training for their preferred activity, or “sport”.
This leads to the muscles that move your body into a seated, forward head, back breaking, perfect keyboard typing posture to be chronically over used and in many cases, almost permanently contracted. These chronically “tight” muscles, such as the muscles of the neck, are usually the ones that mysteriously hurt when we “sleep wrong”. They can also have a negative influence on opposing muscles which increase their injury potential. For example, if the hip flexor muscles are chronically “tight” and the gluteal muscles are dramatically underused, our risk for lower back pain or injury skyrockets…picking that pen up off the floor might be the last straw, but that was in no sense of the word an unavoidable, “freak” accident.
Most of us have joints that are literally drying up from lack of use. On top of that our guts are getting heavier and our postures are getting worse, all of which leads to pain, injury, injury-potential, and younger and younger people saying “i am too old for that”.
Bottom line, let’s get weight bearing, get moving, and impose demands on our body that are new and different. Here’s a good way to start:
Cover 1 mile for time carrying a sand bag, dumbbell, or bucket full of sand/rocks.
Dead Bug, 50 reps
Bear Crawl, 100ft
Step Ups, 2 minutes loaded one minute per side.
Rest 1 minute, Repeat 3-5 times, then:
Match your previous 1 mile time from the warm up.
Dead Bug: Lying on your back with your arms and legs stretched straight up and down, simultaneously attempt to bring your right elbow and left knee together. Return to start position and repeat on the opposing side.
Bear Crawl: Begin in a baby’s crawl position, lift the knees 1-2″ and maintain this posture as you walk in a coordinated left arm / right leg and vice versa sequence for 30-60ft