2 tips for better movement

by Ryan Wagner

It was in the gym recently that I had one of my more ego-boosting moments.

After I performed a pistol variation, a woman said to me, “Holy toledo! That was impressive.”

And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on what she said, I think her response to my workout was very symbolic of what many people see as good movement.

In other words, the greater public may not know about the subtleties of what makes good movement just that, but they know good movement when they see it.

Think about it, what makes a good dancer a good dancer? You don’t have to understand the techniques of Argentine tango and be able to verify that a dancer is performing the moves correctly, because you can see in an instance how fluid they are.

And it’s the same thing, when taken from the perspective of fitness. The skilled lifters are the ones that just seem to move so much better than anyone else. Serious weightlifters will sometimes talk about “patterning the groove,” about repeating the lift movement over and over again for consistency.

And in the calisthenics world, it’s no different. You perform the same movements over and over again to find that perfect line of motion – where your movement is fluid and completely controlled.

But let’s steer this discussion down into practical things that you can do to have better movement.

Here are 2 seemingly obvious, but often overlooked, ways to become a more efficient and more fluid mover.

Move quietly

How many times have you been in yoga class and when the instructor says “walk or jump to the front of the mat,” you hear a whole bunch of thuds from yogis walking or jumping with tight hamstrings that seem to rattle the hardwood floor? It has happened in every class I can remember.

And the irony is clear, right? That here is a room full of people who are trying to move gracefully and create nice lines of movement, but in between poses, there is often a clunky transition – a lapse in the mindfulness, maybe.

Here’s another example: Have you ever worked with a rolfer or an egoscue specialist? Well, they may have had you walk across the room as a part of their assessment. Indeed, they will be looking for things like asymmetry in your gait, but they will also be listening.

Why? Because listening is a very powerful metric in determining how well you move. And hypertonicity in your hamstrings and/or your quads can translate in a not-so-quite walk.

Feel the weight

I’ve written before on how weightlifting can almost have meditative qualities, and I think that this blog post in particular, is a great opportunity to talk about mindfulness when lifting, squatting, pressing, pulling – moving.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Consider the dead hang, from the pull up position. Are you hanging with a grimace on your face? Is it comfortable? Why or why not? Are you being mindful of your loaded muscles or are you merely looking forward to letting go of the bar?

And what about the world of barbells? One of the hallmarks of a well-tenured lifter is that he or she knows exactly what that loaded barbell is going to feel like, and being under its weight is a completely comfortable place to be. Novice lifters often times will pick up a barbell and immediately start counting down their reps. In other words, they start imagining the end, right from the start.

But when we start looking at training protocols that emphasize TUT (time under tension) of 45 seconds, up to a full minute, then it’s all about the journey, not the destination (forgive me the cliche). So people that are training with an emphasis on time have a much different focus and they are committed to being present during the entire set.

Let’s go back to my pistol that I described in the introduction.

I could have completed it faster than I chose to, true, but instead I was focused on the movement. I was trying to move at a constant rate the entire time. And I was mindful that my toe was pointed downward and that my knee wasn’t bending. Ultimately, I was focused on ensuring that there was no jerky motion, but that the movement was fluid and connected.

So in this instance, there wasn’t a barbell present, but I still had the opportunity to be mindful, to be completely focused in what I was doing.

Wrap up

Once again, here I am writing about being mindful of what you’re doing in the gym – that realizing sets and reps can still be useful to helping us meet our training goals, but that you shouldn’t let these ideas get in the way of you being completely focused on your movement.

And then there was the time that someone saw me perform a bent arm level and tell me “you are so cool!”

But that’s a story for another day.

By Ryan Wagner

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