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7 Steps to a Fast Body

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Home of the Natural Method

From the concept of creating a FAST (Flexible Agile Strong Toned) body to deliver all-around athleticism, there are seven elements that should make up any training session in order to achieve your goal of total and complete fitness.

By following these simple guidelines, broken up into 7 easy steps, you will achieve what most programs promise you after 90 days without a realistic plan on how to continue beyond that. While it takes about 3 weeks to create a habit and about 3 months to keep one, too many of the advertised programs out there are short-sighted in the sense that their promise ends when the programs ends; you wind up usually too beat up from the intensity to even want to look at another set of jumping jacks or killer crunches. And that’s where the problem lies: sustainability.

Nothing else in your life works is encapsulated with finality into a short term period: it takes years to raise your kids, to get an education (and stay current). Your job is a great example too: for most of us, we have to stay and remain employed in order to live. I haven’t seen any get rich quick scheme that promises you to achieve all your dreams after only 3 months, followed up by a super early retirement!

“Anything worth doing is worth repeating”

So, just like your job, you have daily tasks that you do on any given day, which yield results and lead to the next day, week or month, giving you a sense of accomplishment, of progress, even if you know there is still more to do. The daily reward comes from the work, not from the results as they may not be near.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

 Chasing the end goal or results can be the downfall of any journey, as it makes you focus so much on it, you can lose faith in the process. I have had many weight loss clients who, after having lost 30, 40 even 50 pounds, still had another 50+ pounds to lose. To someone who didn’t know them, they were still overweight, they still hadn’t achieved their ultimate goal, but they were reaping the physiological and psychological benefits of better health and considence every day because they trusted the process!

 There is no secret, and there is nothing new. Just like an old family recipe, or a trade secret, what stands the test of time is the key to true success. It is no different in fitness, and here are your 7 steps to total fitness!

STEP 1: FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

Fundamental exercises

As their name indicates, the fundamental exercises, also called basic educational exercises lay down the foundation for all your work. Not just a warm-up to get the blood flowing and the joints loosened up, they also comprise movement in all angles used for every aspect of your workout, as well as for the ultimate goal of playing sports, being conditioned for physical labor, or simply enjoy a healthy life where you may have to resort to tapping into that “fitness insurance”!

Using the rules of 7, we have:

  • 7 major joints: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips knees and ankles.
  • 7 major arm positions: hands at hips, hands at shoulders, hands at chest, arms extended out, hands behind the head, one arm up & one arm down, both arms overhead.

Using the 7 joints guideline, we then use the 7 hand positions to perform movements that engage the joints. The simple placement of the hands takes care of joints 3 (wrists, elbows, shoulders) and by performing deep knee bends, squats or lunges, as well as single leg balancing exercises, we take care of the hips, knees and ankles.

The neck is taken care of through tilting, twisting, rolling, flexion and extension.

Another area to add to the mix is the spine, which can be worked the same way as the neck (even simultaneously): back extension, back flexion, lateral bending, twisting. The neck simply needs to follow the motions of the spine, e.g. if you bend sideways to the left, the neck, as an extension of the spine, also bends to the left.

STEP 2: KICKING AND PUNCHING

High Side Kick

Punching and kicking drills are both an extension of the fundamentals, as they simultaneously move the body in all planes and angles of movement and engage all the muscles and joints, with the added benefit of developing the skills of balance and coordination, toning up the muscles and promoting cardiovascular endurance.

STEP 3: WEIGHT LIFTING

Barbell Military Press

Keep it simple and pick ONE (1) lift per day. Yes, you read correctly! Only 1 exercise for weight lifting! How can this be?

Remember what we said about trusting the process? It may not make sense right now, so wait until you reached the 7th step of this guide J

However, I don’t want to keep you guessing: the 7 steps cover all areas of your fitness, for a full workout and complete integral development of your body.

By picking just one lift per day that you perform for a week, you get to practice it the same way you would practice a song on the guitar or piano, before moving on to the next piece or exercise. Like the song, the exercise will “play” more fluidly, strongly and then you can take a break from it and return to it more easily and strongly at any time.

STEP 4: JUMPING

Jumping over obstacle

Just like step 3, pick ONE type of jumping and work on it for a week, perfecting it, improving it by adding to it, be it distance, height, repetitions, etc.

Jumping is an important element of fitness because as we age, we lose our “spring”. It’s also a phenomenal “power” move because it forces you to generate a lot of power at once, recruiting several muscles, which can lead to better performance in other activities (including the ability to lift a heavier weight in Step 3).

People often think that because of issues in their joints, they shouldn’t jump, e.g. like bad knees or a bad hip. It’s the very weakness in those joints, when not addressed, that becomes the issue. Avoidance doesn’t mean acceptance, it’s only negligence. You don’t need to jump high or far, even with a full range of motion, to strengthen the bones and soft tissue used in jumping.

Remember, we are in this for the long haul. A one-inch jump on a soft surface, like grass, sand, dirt a wooden floor or a gym mat is still a jump. And it’s fun too!

STEP 5: CLIMBING

Straight rope climbing

Climbing can be anything from getting up on a stool to change a light bulb all the way to climbing rocks. It’s agility, balance, coordination and strength all at once. Whether it’s with the use of your hands only, a combination of hands and feet, or feet alone, the movement skill of climbing is quite useful and functional at all ages and in all circumstances and situations.

STEP 6: THROWING

Partner throwing exercises

A very underrated aspect of fitness, yet used more frequently than you think in your daily life. From tossing your keys to someone off the balcony (or to a person higher up), to lifting (lifting, yes) a trash bag and tossing it into a dumpster, throwing (light or heavy objects, with one or both hands) requires power, agility, coordination and can turn into a full body movement, depending on the weight of the object or the distance to throw it, with assistance from the legs (which got stronger from Step 4 and Step 5).

STEP 7: WALKING AND RUNNING

Any form of displacement is essential because, well, that’s how we get places (disregard cars and modes of transportation, those are not built-in to our body)!

Walking, a.k.a. marching helps you cover long distances efficiently and is a great fat burner, is sustainable and gets you outside!

By adjusting the speed, you adjust the effort and get a slew of other benefits.

Jogging is next and eventually sprinting.

The best part about Step 7 is that it’s the most readily available, aside from any movement fundamentals to loosen up the joints.

Greatly beneficial for all ages, Steps 1 & 7 help you maintain your mobility, flexibility and provide a general sense of wellness that is completely manageable.

Add all the other steps, by simply picking one exercise per category and changing it weekly, revisiting as part of a rotation every few weeks, or as you get more efficient with your time, combining two or more exercises per category, you will develop all-around athleticism.

The weights or difficulty of the exercises is up to you, just know that, unless you have a severely impaired ability to do something, all the categories have something in them you can do today! We’re not going after what’s three months down the line, we want you to feel great today and we want you to keep going for as long as possible.

Goals like weight loss, muscle gain or a specific performance will naturally fall into place as you follow the process.

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius”

-Michaelangelo

 

Note: According to Georges Hébert, Swimming should be part of this process, and Walking is separate from Running. All three are actually methods of locomotion, even if one of them is aquatic. I am lumping both Walking and Running together, being of similar leg-powered nature (albeit different mechanics). And Swimming is not always the most convenient activity to get to for many, while most everything else can be achieved with little to no equipment. The goal being to deliver you something to start doing right away without logistical hurdles.

Photos courtesy of Antje Anders Photography

Addition by subtraction, or how to simplify the workout for better gains of any kind.

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Regardless of what your ultimate goal is in fitness, maintaining all-around athleticism remains key for your daily activities. And frankly, there is no ultimate goal, because that means it would be the end, with nothing to look forward to beyond. Goals change. Life, give or take a few variables, on the whole, does not.

You need to eat, sleep, rest. Your health and work will change, and how you eat, sleep and rest will adjust, like your training program. Unless you are competing as an athlete or are playing a superhero on TV, you don’t really need to be this big, or that strong. Really, you don’t, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. You do need to stay mobile, stay strong, maintain your muscles, and you do need to walk up stairs, pick stuff up, hold on to things, carry them, run to or from something, even if just walking quickly or avoiding something. Stay Spry!

There is no hack for any exercise, other than for the sake of breaking form so you can find it again. Like saying “there’s no place like home” after you’ve been around the world.

Pick a few things, do them well, do them often. Like, five. Do them for a while. Don’t count the reps, just do as many as you can in a short, predetermined duration of time (10 minutes?) and stop anytime you know or feel your form looks like crap. Start maybe by doing it as well as possible, then when the clock runs out of time, do something else, and come back to the previous exercise the next day.

Rather than add more stuff to do, to eat, to supplement with, get rid of what’s not super essential. If you did a chest exercise, a quad dominate exercise, a back exercise, a shoulder dominant exercise and a hamstring dominant exercise and have time for something else, go twist, rotate, throw, jump, climb or punch. But don’t add another chest exercise if it doesn’t make you better at something else other than pushing the buttons out on your shirt.

Or, if you ran, climbed, punch & kicked, jumped onto or off of something, and threw something, broke a nice sweat, feel a little tired, with a grin and sense of satisfaction: you’re good! keep at it.

Ignore the magazines, the pressure. Easier said than done, right? Do the stuff mentioned above, I promise you the pressure eases up as the feeling of well-being increases!

How a complete “Natural Method” session looks like

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Home of the Natural Method

Not too long ago, I posted a blog about how Georges Hébert set up a complete session. If you go back and revisit that post with its vintage pictures, you will see that equipment was a bit different a century ago (like the mold below where you can pour concrete to make a construction brick). All goals are met, by the way, from developing strength, endurance, muscle mass, cardio, flexibility, agility (you know my FAST pillars by now), which incidentally leads to weight loss without it being the focus (all around athleticism leads to greater fitness, health and that leads to weight loss too!).

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One of the reasons I wanted to give people an updated version of his training program is simply because equipment has evolved. Now, we’re not going to go show you all the selectorized equipment options or machines which isolate muscle groups which have been developed since. Instead, the focus will remain on variety of free weights, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, sand bell, medicine ball etc…

One additional key is the use of technique. Again, using machines requires a much lesser level of attention to proper form, as it’s almost “done for you”, and if you are going to use free weights, form is essential.

So, here is an updated equivalent post, which also serves as another sneak preview of the upcoming book with the program design of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education through his Natural Method.

WARM UP WITH FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

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DEVELOP ALL-AROUND ATHLETICISM WITH FUNCTIONAL EXERCISESC OMBATIVES: FOR SELF-DEFENSE, DEXTERITY, AGILITY, COORDINATION.

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WEIGHT LIFTING: FOR STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT

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THROWING: FOR DEXTERITY, POWER, HAND-EYE COORDINATION, AGILITY, MOBILITY

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CLIMBING: FOR ALL-AROUND STRENGTH, MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT, FLEXIBILITY, MOBILITY, OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, RESCUE

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JUMPING: FOR POWER, STRENGTH, DISPLACEMENT AND OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, AGILITY

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And of course, running (sprinting, jogging, racing) for speed, endurance, power, cardiovascular health, hygienic cleansing and waste elimination benefits through sweating etc…

Live the Natural Method

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ACE (American Council on Exercise) released its forecast of the top 10 fitness trends for 2016.

I didn’t really see what I have been exploring since 2008 when I realized what I knew from NASM was too reductionist, and had Wildfitness open my eyes to new ways, which were anything but.

Judging by Connor McGregor’s recent win, but more so the phenomenal boost “movement” received and the likes of Ido Portal and Erwan LeCorre latching on the the opportunity to grow their approach, I do believe that a return to the source is truly at the forefront of fitness. And judging by the warm reception my translation of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education and his Natural Method approach to fitness, I feel I’m on the right path. Check out this post by Daring Standards.

I am extremely thankful for this, as it gives me a new purpose and a new drive to bring more of Hébert’s work forward. It is important to give him credit, rather than try to steal for oneself for marketing purposes. Ultimately, Hébert himself credits his predecessors, just like Pavel Tsatsouline did with his kettlebell training system, and related strength training Russian influences. Pavel improved and systemized, like Hébert did. Not everyone does like them, and instead covers up an existing system or style with a new name, or unnecessary complications, not actual updates.

Movement is essential, it’s simple, it’s life. This is why I put together this little slideshow that includes family pictures, where my kids get to run, jump climb, throw and my wife and I get to partake, carry them, throw them, fight with them etc. Towards the end of the slideshow, you’ll see my friends Nick Bustos, Melody Schoenfeld, Patrick Hartsell, Ron Jones and James Neidlinger in action, some photos not released yet, modeling the programming of Hébert’s method, with simple  updates, upgrades, modern twist and access to gear that always existed but was made more user friendly (I am not against progress…)

Enjoy!

YEARLY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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A general program can be established monthly, quarterly or annually.
It is simpler to establish it annually, by choosing an academic (school) year, which allows a practical spreading of the training, which aligns itself perfectly with the conditions and requirements of social life.

From a training standpoint, the year is broken up into three periods of 4 months each:
1) A preparatory period (October, November, December, January) having for main goals:
a. The general development of the body.
b. The gradual training of the organism to produce an increasing amount of work.
c. The detailed study or the perfecting of the execution of various exercises (skill development).

2) An intermediary period (February, March, April, May) having as main goals:
a. Seeking out more difficult training conditions than during the preparatory period.
b. Attempting more difficult exercises.
c. Acquisition of practical results and achievement of respectable performance.

3) A final period (June, July, August, September) with main goals being:
a. Practical application of acquired qualities of the two preceding periods.
b. More specific development of agility and virile qualities through games and sports of all kinds.
c. Study and special practice of swimming exercises during the warm season.

WEEKLY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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Weekly programming consists of 6 daily sessions of roughly an hour, each divided into one or several takes.
The first 5 sessions are identical to the model described in the DAILY PROGRAMMING chapter.
The 6th session is more specifically reserved for long distance runs, games, sports and manual labor of all kinds.

Example of weekly programming:

Monday: hour-long complete session in 2 takes:
1st take: fundamentals.
2nd take: functional training.

Tuesday through Friday: same.

Saturday: Long distance run. Games, sports, manual labor.

Sunday: rest

Natural Method Kid Parkour

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A little while ago, I posted some clips of my (now) 5 year old son who was jumping from a height that makes most parents cringe, as if I was a bad dad risking my child’s health.

Some are natural athletes, others are made to be athletes. Some are genetically gifted, some still won’t look as good as the fitness models and movie stars despite smart, dedicated and disciplined training. Looks aside, we can all develop running, jumping, climbing and other skills. For when our daily environment doesn’t provide the stimulation or equipment to achieve a high skill level, a method is there for us, a system, and that’s what Georges Hébert created, and others since applied, by “reverse engineering what the best athletes do naturally”, to quote Pavel Tsatsouline.

Without further reading, watch this 3 1/2 min video of my son who developed his skills over the years. You’ll see that the jumps I posted a few weeks ago now will look less impressive, because they’re almost “expected”, after you see the training in his early walking stages that brought him to where he is today. Fast forward to the future in your mind. Maybe I’m not the bad parent, maybe I’m the one who prepares him…

You can get all three books by clicking this link, by the way:

Buy all three books on Amazon by click here

Über Fitness part 2 (final)

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Are you a well-rounded athlete if you are the top guy in your sport?

Does specialization make you better than general fitness?

These two questions are leading because their phrasing most likely steers you to the answer “no”, especially if you are educated in the field of fitness, or at least well-read.

Athletes, more specifically professional athletes, tend to have imbalances because of overuse patterns and the demands of the sport. The resulting specialization creates not only imbalances, but potentially limitations. Of course, we can argue that some sports offer some sort of all-around balanced development, but in general, the hyper focus on the task to accomplish makes it difficult for a sprinter to run a marathon, a bodybuilder to fight in the ring, or a gymnast to be a good diver (the latter example because gymnasts are taught to always land on their feet and the concept of going head first after some flips doesn’t compute).

We could discuss that with the Crossfit games, the displays of athleticism are tremendous (and I guarantee you the competitors’ training is anything but WODs), but that would be perceived as a cheap way to get readers 😉

Back to Georges Hébert and his Natural Method, since it’s still an unknown subject to 99.99% of the fitness population. His goal is all-around athleticism: a balance of speed, endurance, strength, mobility, skill and functionality. According to Hébert, games, sports and manual labor are the finality of physical education. These forms of physical exercise are useful for the following reasons:

  • They augment the general physical value of individuals and extend what can be called “physical knowledge”.
  • They entertain the “taste” for physical activity by breaking up the monotony of methodical training.
  • They help perfect agility, develop a sense of practicality, promote ingeniousness by giving complete freedom to individual action.
  • They satisfy a need for variety and pleasure by providing a release from methodical training.
  • They demonstrate functionality and bring out the advantages of good physical preparedness. Greater success is achieved, indeed, even more in the various branches of physical activity as one is better prepared thanks to methodical training (strength and conditioning).

So, what are we learning with Hébert’s Natural Method? Is it yet another secret sauce never revealed to you until now? While I could say if it’s new to you the answer is yes, the reality is that it’s a method that withstood the test of time, and that if you are a fitness enthusiast, your skills and abilities deserve the right to rekindle with your body’s natural desire to move well, as it is engineered to do so. Forget fat loss, muscle gain or some other specialized goal. All of that comes naturally, and it is so much more than just the moves posted on various social media. The philosophy behind the method is very wholistic and revolves around 3 major points:

  1. Hygienic action (not about being freshly scrubbed, read Book 1 if you want to know what that means in details about cleansing the system through air baths, circulation etc).
  2. Functionality/Utility.
  3. Mental benefits.

We all need that, we tend to forget those aspects too frequently, and that’s what the Method is also about 🙂

Workshop Syllabus Bulletpoints

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Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til

THIS IS A “REFRESHED” POST INITIALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY OF 2015:

If you are reading this and want to register, click here and bring a friend and get a special discount of 2 people for $229 (save $129 on the second admission, or almost $65 each).


Standard/Special




I realize many these days tries to come up with some new method of training. Marketing gimmicks are running amuck on the ole “Interweb”. There have never been more public “secrets of fitness” than in the last 2 years, if I were to believe the numerous newsletters I get from people telling me they have the secret(s) I am missing in my training.

The best tools for training are your body and things you can get your hands on, to lift, put back down, throw, catch, climb on etc. The best tools for weight loss are your silverware and that hole in the bottom third of your face, or quarter depending on your facial symmetry. (Thank you, James Neidlinger, for “the best tools for weight loss” arsenal tip from your recent Facebook post).

To placate the skeptics or explain to the curious, below is what we’ll cover on October 24 at The Natural Method Workshop, in Los Angeles, CA, at The Gym @ Hayden.

It first starts with the upright posture which aligns and prepares the body for movement. Without a strong upright posture the movements taught will not be as effective. Once we are comfortable with the upright posture then we can start to explore movements in the entire kinetic chain.

  1. Arm Movements: positions at hips, shoulders, chest, neck and derivatives, as well as why we do them, what they do and how.
  2. Leg Movements: various “bends”/flexion/slits. Combine with 1.
  3. Suspension: hang and do leg stuff. Or lie down if you can’t hang to get similar benefits*. Btw, that noise also works your Dear Abbies. And hits the body parts from 2, like, hard, and from 1, but differently. And yes, that’s some aspects of pull-ups, but not limited to. This isn’t a class on pull-up variations.
  4. Support Movements: stuff that looks like push-ups, but isn’t limited to. This isn’t a class on push-up variations, though you may recognize or learn some.
  5. Balance Movements: equilibrium. Although symmetry is also balance, this is more literal. Combine with 1 and 2.
  6. Hopping Movements: not jumping. Hopping. Not like a bunny. More like jump rope (without the rope), or skipping as some call it. Not skipping like a kid, though I recommend you do that. It’s fun and beneficial and my friend Paul Daniels once taught a class where some people forgot how to do that. Combine with 1.
  7. Trunk Movements: the torso, the thoracic stuff, aspects of the core. Flexion, extension, twisting, rotation. Combine with 1 & 2. Wakes up your vestibular system. You need that.
  8. Breathing: why cover that last? Because now, we get to redo everything 1-7 but make it even better.
  9. Add tools and repeat 1-7 with 8 throughout.

And you’ll learn how to weave it all together for durations of 5, 10, 20 minutes or whatever time you need/have/want and whatever goal you aim for.

So, people, get ready to move, well and throughout the day. (quality and quantity guaranteed). And when we’re done, you’ll be tired and happy and free. Like getting some. And the next day, you’ll feel it before you’ll get to talk about it.

This is just a taste of what can be achieved with the method.

Ideally I would love to teach the method over multiple days covering other movement qualities like: walking, running, climbing, throwing, lifting, rescuing, swimming without water, jumping and more. But in 8 short hours, you get plenty of coverage of the fundamentals so you can explore and even program.

*benefits vs goals will be explained. Benefits are things that stay the same, no matter what the goals are. Like opening up the chest vs building a bigger chest.