Category Archives: Fun

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!

Latest peek at photos from the upcoming book

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Because pictures tell a better story.

Many thanks (chronologically based on photography sessions) to Nick Bustos, Patrick Hartsell, Melody Schoenfeld, James Neidlinger, Ron Jones and Jennifer Winkelman for making yourselves available amidst all of your activities and busy lives to be part of this fitness project, shot by Antje Anders.

I also want to thank Throwdown and XFit Brands David Vautrin and Ted Joiner for lending us their facility and equipment!

Here is a sampler of jumping, lifting, throwing, climbing, fighting as well as some fundamental/basic educational exercises from the upcoming book based on Georges Hébert’s training program design.

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The Natural Method: How Hébert Programs Training

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Most training programs are designed with short-term goals, like infamous 90-day programs to get “insanely” ripped. Then what? I find that outside of hypertrophy goals (muscle gain) or people focused on strength training goals like power lifting, there isn’t much consistency or “longevity” built into training programs. Indeed, the most popular training goal is weight loss, and it tends to be patchwork of high intensity drills. Yes, they get you moving, sweating, burning, but most of the time, people wind up too sore to move, beat down, tired, quit too soon or worse, revert to their original “shape” because 90 days isn’t long enough to bring your body to a permanent “good shape” if the “bad shape” was established over a period of years, if not decades.

And for those who exercise diligently and still do not improve, be it at least skill set, abilities or esthetics/looks, you may want to revisit your path to your goal, or troubleshoot life outside the workout itself.

I routinely have noticed that martial arts practitioners tend to do best at learning, being disciplined and moving, and that’s because they are part of a system, regardless of the style chosen. You work on a drill, movement or exercise for a while before moving on to the next, after not necessarily having mastery over it, but a clearer understanding. Example: if you work on the pull-up, practice hanging and only retracting your shoulder blades daily for a week (scapular retraction). The following week, work with a band to assist you in going full range of motion. The week after, work on negatives (lowering yourself unassisted and with control). And yet another week after, try partial pull-ups unassisted, and so on.

Outside of movement fundamentals to prepare and prime the body for training, through warm-up, mobility and corrective exercise (which also develops as fundamental, basic educational exercises), the “meat” of a training session according to Hébert is broken up into several categories. If you hit ONE skill/drill/exercise per category, and you do that for a week, you get to progress gradually. Then, the following week, you either add a new one or continue an exercise (add if easy, repeat if more challenging). So, week 2 would have you either recap all the previous week’s exercises PLUS add one, or add one only in some categories on top of the previous, and repeat some of the previous week’s.

The difference between that and those “get ripped quick” schemes (which only rip you off your money) is that you don’t do too much too soon. It’s a more realistic, gradual and long term approach, where you feel satisfaction from knowing you’re doing things better, and keeps the boredom away. Kinda like Christmas (where you get all your gifts at once and are on overload) versus Hanukkah, where you get one daily for 8 days. I’m not Jewish, by the way, but I think getting something daily is a good way to appreciate things.

So, here’s a teaser of the upcoming programming book and example of how to design the weekly plan:

1 skill per week per category for 12-16 weeks, which gives you a full workout, all-around athleticism, and proper skill development. 
Fighting: cross punch.
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Lifting: two-handed shoulder press.
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Throwing: single-arm light object swing throw.
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Climbing:
– rope: using hands and feet.
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– bar: pull-up.
Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til
– obstacle (beam, scaffold, etc.): straight arm support to seated position.
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– Jumping: high and/or broad jump, no momentum.
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– Sprint: 30 meters, try to improve the time daily.
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2nd week: (same order of categories)
– add front kick.
– jerk
– extension throw
– repeat last week’s (harder one, so needs more time)
– etc, etc…

 

Hébert session programming at the workshop

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I posted last week 3 programming concepts: daily, weekly and annually (by ways of 3 quarters, so it’s essentially 4 ways, 2-in-1 on the last).

And while most seasoned qualified trainers have a good idea of what to put into a session, incorporating a new skill daily, how do we keep a sense of balance since not everyone can squeeze a daily session, as the world today is not as ideal as we’d like it to be.

Setting aside any excuses or reasons, it is important to have a good sense of the fundamentals and that’s precisely what will be covered at the workshop on the fundamental positions of arms, legs, trunk etc.

The design is such that some moves are changed every other day. Clever combinations can permit the time-challenged subjects to hit nearly all aspects of preparation of the body. Sounds almost like a tall promise in an infomercial to get all you training done in just minutes a day, but it’s not the case.

There also a lot of talk about needing an hour versus only really needing 10 minutes, and yadda yadda yadda, in today’s marketing confusion (and yes, that’s what it is: confusion so you fall prey to what’s sold).

Truth is: there is no universal truth other than everything works, especially if done well. You can’t really snatch 53kg for an hour at high energy output, and if you can, you can’t do it daily.

What’s better? A little everyday or a lot every few days? It’s all good really, and you’ll still need to change things up, while keeping others the same. And once you are proficient at a movement and have confidence in your skill, who really cares about the ultimate perfect form, as it varies amongst individuals and their own skeletal structure or abilities.

I was recently asked “what’s the Natural Method” vs “Unnatural”. It’s not about that definition of the word, just to discuss semantics, rather using what’s available to use according the the natural inclinations of our bodies and finding those, rather than fitting a square peg in a round hole, and to know that, you must go through a learning process and weed out the bad by focusing on the good and how it feels. Unnatural may also feel foreign to you when it’s a new skill, but if the body’s not fighting it with alarm signals, then you’re just learning 🙂

 

Complete your session

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This is one of those philosophical statements with layers of meaning.

The obvious one can be “finish your workout”, or finish what you started, even if not in fitness.

The more subtle one has to do with The Natural Method and what Hébert calls a complete session, a session that addresses fundamental movements as well as functional exercises. Mobility, strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, agility, coordination, dexterity, harmonious and balanced muscular development, as well as breath work.

Even if they were included in the Functional Exercises portion of his book, and the reason I chose to release those chapters as standalone books, swimming and combative techniques (self-defense, boxing, wrestling) are complete sessions.

By issuing a call to action to “complete”  session, I invite you to explore how you can make a training session include all of the elements to, well, make it “complete” (forgive the redundancy).

A good example because I intend on expanding the work to other disciplines or activities, can be surfing.

It’s not hard to break down the activity and see that it is a complete sport, and see how obvious it is:

  1. Balance stimulation (vestibular and visual systems).
  2. Aquatic training.
  3. Environmental resilience.
  4. Fundamental arm positions.
  5. Fundamental leg positions.
  6. Strength training.
  7. Support work.
  8. Core work.
  9. Agility.
  10. Rescue ability (you are connected to a floatation device that can served to aid you or someone in distress).
  11. Cardiovascular endurance.
  12. Speed.
  13. Power.
  14. Multiplanar movement.
  15. Harmonious development of the muscles.
  16. Corrective exercise elements.
  17. (BONUS): developing the skill of reading elements like water movements (waves, tides, currents), wind patterns and how to adapt to a constantly shifting environment.

One could argue that there is nothing natural about surfing: we do not possess the appendages to glide standing up on the surface of water, and have to resort to man-made devices which also are shaped out of various materials to fulfill the ability to, well, surf the waves, and paddle into them before that. By the way, all those points above can be chapters for The Natural Method: Surfing. And it doesn’t have to stop here, obviously. I’ll go as far as I can with what I know, but I also am recruiting others to complete the collection for the aspects I don’t know.

But so is weight training: we use tools to improve what we have.

So, we use the laws of Nature, physics, our physiology and we don’t even think about how all those systems interconnect: the visual, vestibular, muscular etc. Our reflexes are constantly stimulated and repetition is what makes us better and we get to play and have fun.

Natural, in the end, to me at least, means: what comes naturally over time. Key is in the last 2 words: what may not seem natural at first will with rote. So, cross your right middle finger over your index and slap it on your left palm and go do that. Then, once you’re up on that board and riding that wave, close your fist, extend your thumb and pinky, and do a little propeller move with your wrist.

Great playgrounds for adults

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And of course, younger people who will turn into adults.

We all need a starting point for our skills. Seeing David Belle or vintage footage of Georges Hébert, or contestants on American Ninja Warrior sure is cool, and we tend to forget that it’s a long way from the day they began training, however early in life.

I have been posting some pictures on Instagram (follow me @philippetil) of various spots where I train myself or my clients, as well as photos or clips of drills anyone can try. The prerequisites are to have fun and keep practicing till getting better, until eventually, the movement, wherever it sits on the difficulty scale, becomes “natural”. A simple vault over a bench can be super easy for the advanced, difficult for the novice. But when the novice “owns it”, it’s one step closer to the next level of difficulty.

The clip below shows a fun range of things one can do, which look simple, but require a minimal level of agility and stick-to-itiveness to not bail out of some moves, but when you do, it’s safe to do so.

 

And, since it’s difficult, although I suspect American Ninja Warrior type facilities will start popping up soon, with either fixed or modular obstacles, many parks are actually offering what I recently thought was on the endangered parks list: Parkour-like stations, obstacles, the very kind we were complaining about were needed and non-present. 3 such parks in the Santa Monica, CA, area offer fantastic options.

One is Yahoo! Park, off of Broadway and 26th St. There is a set of parallel bars, monkey bars, 2 pull-up bars of different levels, and a free-standing ladder. The park also sports a nice little grassy area and a small makeshift track. Check it out!

Another is Clover Park, off of Ocean Park Blvd, right behind the Santa Monica Airport. This is where I’ve been playfully training recently (I mean playfully because I had fun doing it, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t exert or push myself). There is a mile-long track with “obstacles” or stations along the way: a progressive vault (low to medium high), balance beams (squared off or rounded), pull-up bars, standing ladders, monkey bars, incline posts, rope-climb, posts to climb, dip-station/low vaulting station, push-up bars, step-up or jump-up & balance station, parallel bars to swing, dip or hand walk etc. Explore its photos here.

Finally, the most famous one is the original Muscle Beach (not the one in Venice for bodybuilders, I am referring to the one South of the Santa Monica Pier) with the traveling rings, regular rings, rope climb, parallel bars, parallettes, pull-up bars, balance beams, gymnastics “mushrooms”, twisted poles, boulders, for kids and adults alike! Plus it’s on the beach! Take a look!

Don’t know what to do? Get the Fundamental Exercises, as well as the Functional Exercises and pick a few moves in various categories. Don’t dismiss the easy moves, as they can build your confidence and are great on a low-energy day, and don’t ignore the hard ones, as even attempting them is work in itself. My friend Adam T. Glass once posted online that “your body tracks that”, meaning all reps count, good or bad ones.

Lifting Terminology

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In the process of my translating Georges Hébert’s work, as well as the upcoming release of the 3rd installment of his Practical Guide to Physical Education, the chapter on lifting refreshed me with something something cool: lifting terminology in French!

Revisiting those terms I hadn’t heard since childhood P.E. classes was interesting, to see how some names almost cue the exercises to perform. I wonder also if they give any particular exercise some “freedom” to do the move (as opposed to rigid standards), the way Crossfit terminology adapted terms to avoid being chastised for incorrect form or deviation from standards in other lifting sports.

Anyway, here’s a fun translation of the terms used in English and what they are in French (translated already, so no French words in this blog). Grammatically, they’re conjugated, past-tense vs English nouns.

  • The standing Military Press/Shoulder Press: the “Developed”.
  • The Jerk: the “Thrown”.
  • The Clean: the “Shouldered”.
  • The Snatch: the “Torn Off” or “Ripped At The Roots”.
  • The Swing: the “Volley”, only one here that’s a noun. (Now, this is a one-arm exercise only, an overhead straight-arm swing, a move I have not seen, other than criticized versions thereof, which in this case is performed with a “Forward Slit”).
  • The Bent Press: the “Unscrewed” (a one-armed drill where the body leans down during the overhead pressing part, leaning side being the opposite of the pressing side, and done so to avoid jerking and keep it “grinding”. I’m going to play with that with my kettlebell heavy press!)

Exact descriptions will be presented in book 3, chapter VI.

A bench press, by the way, would be a “lying developed”, while the clean & jerk is “shouldered & thrown”, which sounds more appropriate IMHO.

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.

For new or soon-to-be new dads

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Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

Your world is about to change, or recently has, as a new dad.

Sleep will become a hobby, sex a memory and the feeling of hangovers semi-permanent.

Yet, you will experience more love for another person than you could think possible, while feeling like you’re going to lose your sanity.

Don’t worry, you will make it. We all made it, somehow, or the species would be extinct.

Because there are a lot of resources out there for new moms, but not enough for new dads, I put together this little book with simple options that worked out great for me and tested it twice (after the second child). There can always be more added to it, but this will be a great start.

Coming out very soon!

 

Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover