Category Archives: Georges Hébert

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…

The Shape Of Breasts

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Here is an excerpt (unedited or proofed yet) about the shape of breasts and how society viewed them a century ago, according to Georges Hébert, when it relates to judging or appreciating beauty in women.

“The shape of the breasts is considered wrongly by many as a criterium of beauty in a woman. “The breasts, that the whole woman”, we have heard in stupid refrains. In reality, the shape of the breasts only makes up one element of general beauty, and its importance is only secondary when compared to essential body parts: the abdomen, the chest, the limbs, etc.

It is, if we may, one of the first attributes of beauty among young women, but not in the adult woman, as of all her attributes, it’s the least durable.

This process, a little too simplistic, which consists of judging the beauty of a woman according to the shape of her breasts comes without a doubt from the following fact: on an under-developed trunk, skinny or fat, the breasts first catch the eye, because, as a rule, these organs present defects of which the most common ones are exaggerated volume and sagging. They thus appear to have a capital importance, because their misshaping alone breaks the general harmony of the body.

On a well developed trunk, on the contrary, with well-defined muscles, normal breasts barely get any attention.  

They are well molded onto the chest and solidly anchored to the pectorals that they look as if being entirely part of these muscles. In the preceding case, they seem added to the chest, which seemed inconvenienced to carry them.

The same observation could be applied to the basin and buttocks, which always appear too big when the trunk is muscularly atrophied.”

Have we learned anything? I do believe Georges is right: a fit, muscular, lean woman’s body will draw more attention as a whole, without specific focus on any area, as she will project an attitude of health, strength and beauty at once, not limiting her to esthetics, but to the Holy Trinity of fitness and attractiveness, intellect notwithstanding of course.

 

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

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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“Normal” everyday fitness esthetics

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There is a difference between being camera ready, which is ephemeral (unless you want to destroy all sense of social life with extreme discipline), and how the body looks daily. Think magazine cover, or “money shot” when an actor shows a chiseled body in a superhero movie (and then you don’t see the body for the rest of the movie, as it can take weeks or months of filming and it’s hard to maintain the “look”).

Don’t trust this fitness porn Instagram pictures of super ripped bodies. Few people look like that on a daily basis, even bodybuilders peak for a contest and look different in the off-season (that’s why it’s called the off-season, it’s never a year-round look).

Here’s an example of what my body looks like on a daily basis.

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I don’t care to show you a chiseled, mega ripped dehydrated body, because it looks like that for an instant only. I want to show you the body of someone who is like you: trains as frequently as a client should, has responsibilities, a family, bills to pay and is healthy, eats sensibly (meaning well and enjoys treats like chocolate or beer on occasion without guilty feelings).

And better yet here’s and excerpt of Georges Hébert’s book on physical education for women, with an applicable explanation for both men and women:

“The curve/shape is more or less pronounced according to the degree of development or the current state of training. It is necessary to differentiate these two states, as one can have achieved integral development and find oneself, at any given moment, either in a non-active period or simple rest, or in a training period.

 At the peak of development and at once during a training period, in other words in a “ready state”, to use the expression used in sports, the shape of the muscles and the fascia lines are extremely sharp/defined.

The skin adheres to the muscle without fat in-between, or at least without a noticeable layer. Muscular fibers are even seen through the skin when the muscle is strongly flexed.

At the limits of extreme training, curves become “cut” and in the case of overtraining, remind a bit that of someone being “skinned”. This applies to women as well as men. 

When the training period ends, and it cannot last more than a few weeks or days without reaching over training, or as soon as normal activity slows, the muscles appear less “defined”,  small fat deposits fill in and soften the lines of external contours or the fascia. “Covering” takes place, more or less visible as the training load is reduced, compared to what it was prior, and a more abundant food intake. Flesh is then filled.  

This state of covering disappears easily in a few days or weeks as soon as training or regular activity resumes. If, by lack of exercise, we let that covering go on, we progressively suffer all the setbacks on health and beauty. Fattening begins.

In summary, muscular definition is characteristic of the state of training or maximal activity; simple covering, average level of physical activity (maintenance), which is the normal state of training outside of maximal training intensity periods; exaggerated covering, a state of activity inferior or of weak training in relation to the vitality of the body (under training) and finally, obvious overweight, a state of complete inactivity or extremely weak, or also a specific state, which we will discuss, which has nothing to do with our natural needs. Nutrition also has an important role in the production of these various states.”

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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…

 

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!

The Return of a Bad Health & Fitness Trend

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I know it feels I am very Hébert-centric these days, and that’s probably because I am engrossed in the translation of one of his book as well as the adaptation of the program design and training of another. What is actually happening is that things fall into my lap, verifying the importance of my work, confirming that everything good and bad has been done before, and sooner or later resurfaces.

Case in point: in my junk email today, an ad for a waist slimming device was delivered. A century ago, this was the corset, which Hébert described as a torture device deforming women and causing all kinds of health issues.Now, a revamped version of it has appeared, and as any good marketing piece, it checks off what’s emotionally connected to the target demographics socially programmed “wants”, with benefits that can be attained without doing any work for it, and carefully worded claims which in fact, as only potential and not guaranteed.

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Now, let’s take a look at the benefits and break those down:

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1) Reshaping of waistline: this is an external process, fake, like a push-up bra, encouraging lack of activity and fitting into a standard that may not be the physiology of every individual woman.

2) Helping define curves: does it rearrange, tucking here, pumping there, shuffling skin and fat around (because muscles, even at rest, aren’t going to move a whole lot if they are developed properly)?

3) Helping you feel toned: so you *may* “feel” something that isn’t there (muscle tone), tricking your brain momentarily (until it shuts the sensation down, like wearing silk or not noticing perfume you put on). The problem remains: if you have no muscle tone, this doesn’t provide muscle tone.

4) Smoothing of rolls and bulges: Hébert wrote “For centuries, many poor creatures, to satisfy this criminal concept, have condemned themselves to deformity with the force compression of their flanks.” Hiding under a cloak is only deception, not health, of self and to self and others. 

5) Helping to feel fuller: yes, the best weight loss tools are the knife and fork. Caloric restriction alone isn’t enough. Nutritional balance is needed.

Now, let’s take a quick look at what happens internally. I will not comment, the pictures are worth, as the saying goes, a thousand words. Discuss amongst yourselves.

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Beauty not defined by facial features

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Folks in England recently did a research and determined a woman’s universally perfect face, or “scientifically the most beautiful face in the world”, which landed the woman a gig with some cosmetics brands. I didn’t ask any women what they think about this and am curious to read any comments about it.

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Hébert, by contrast, finds beauty in health and strength through physical activity, and mostly, the elusive quality of grace:

The gait of primitive women in exotic countries, bare footed and without corsets, is so much more graceful, as a result of the supple freedom of hip movement, something many traveling authors never failed to notice, struck by that vision. It is the natural suppleness contrasting the stiffness of civilized women wearing corsets and high heels, obvious proof that all that destroys natural proportions or encumbers the free play of the muscles, in one word “deforms”, can only produce ugliness.

(…)

True grace is the outcome of simple  and natural movements instinctively executed by an integrally developed body. How can one bend gracefully if the low back muscles are not developed? How can one throw and object with elegance and dexterity if the body is untrained, not flexible? Movements are always ugly or awkward when, as a result of lack of muscles or training, they are faked or incomplete.

To be flexible, agile and harmonious, trained muscles are required, a specific quality achieved only through work. This quality, which we could call muscular intelligence, can be summarized in the following way: to not do any useless movements.

Women’s training: they were children first.

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Debaters and fitness marketers like to create a polemic just to get clicks, or prey on insecurities to get “asses in classes” (how classy of me, but if you’re offended by this, you might get offended at other truths…). Topics include (and contradict one another): how women should train, women should train like men, why women shouldn’t train like men, etc. Guilty as charged,  I too have partaken in shifting perspective with words, only to provide results using an individually specific training approach based on assessments, goals and current abilities, regardless of gender.

As always, I prefer to start at the root (root cause analysis). Start moving early, at a young age, learn the skills then and once you’ve reached the end of your growth as a human being, it’s really maintenance with personal varietal modifications. That’s the message.

But don’t take it from me. Here’s what Hébert has to say in his book on Women’s Physical Education:

The child feels her needs instinctively. Better than any teacher, she knows how to dose her work. Without a doubt, she wonderfully applies the principle of alternating powerful and moderate efforts. She stops when she needs to and sleeps when her body requires rest.

How sad to see so many moms spend their time stunting their children’s natural development, lessening their vitality and deteriorating their bodies by contradicting the need for activity, which amongst children is only the need to live, by restricting or even suppressing its manifestation!

How many congested children, red-faced with swollen cheeks, whose bodies are already overstressed with toxins they can only eliminate through exercise, are pre-destined for arthritis!

The application of the “natural method” doesn’t begin when children sit on school benches, meaning the day we restrict on a large scale their physical activity, by forcing them to sit still for hours.

In order to develop, despite these unfavorable condition, a child must be allowed to produce, for a duration limited by studies, a sufficient amount of varied efforts.

The Natural Method has no other purpose but to ensure this necessary production of efforts and to have children perform, in a controlled fashion, exercises they would instinctively perform, if free to do so.

The application of the method must be followed through the end of developmental growth. The training sessions last about an hour and their frequency varies between three and six times per week. Training gets a particular push for a four-month period, from Spring to middle of Summer.

And that’s why we need to impress upon any government the importance of Physical Education. Considering the relationship between diseases like diabetes and the economy, whether directly or through various connective dots (I am not qualified to politicize), this is no different from starting a savings account early, where accruing dividends over time becomes more taxing on the individual the later they start.