Category Archives: Physical Education

What did fit women look like a century ago?

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Even though a century ago feels like forever, pretty soon we will be answering the same question and posting photos of Jane Fonda or Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” video from the 1980’s and that will be our answer, and aside from the fashions, maybe a little closer to what contemporary fit women would/will look like. Unless the women of Crossfit Games competition become that standard.

I want to note that this post is a continuation of sorts of my previous post, which dismissed the need for smartphone apps, because as you will see below, fitness has been achieved 100 years ago without the use of any gimmicky gadgetry. We’re only victims of our era’s mindset.

I should replace the word “standard” as well, since the photos shown today reflect more of a desired direction, and the look that female students of Georges Hébert’s Natural Method looked like. Presented to you will also be photos of what Hébert called “covering”, which means with a bit of natural body fat, something that is in “maintenance” mode, when not training actively for some competition or, like all fitness models do, for a photo shoot or other way to exhibit a body in peak condition. As you know, or should know, very few people look super chiseled year-round. Even if their abilities can remain sharp, the low body fat look is short-lived and should be moderated for good health.

In the first “dual photo op” (top of post featured image), the emphasis is on equalizing men and women in the similarity of their muscular development. Aside from the obvious sexual organ and breasts differences, muscular development is the same in both genders. The use of Antique statues has its own dedicated chapter in the upcoming book on Women’s Physical Education, as Hébert likes to refer to the standards of that era, since the models were live representations of what was seen.

In this first photo, Hébert shows one of his students who represents integral physical development and muscular definition.

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In this next set, the woman on the right differs from the women on the left not only because of integral muscular development, but also in the shape of her waist. Hébert wants you to focus in these shots not only on the importance of muscular training, but also on how the wear of corsets or other shape altering devices can deform the body. The women on the left are corset-wearing non-training individuals.

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The last picture set shows yet again the importance of complete muscular development and how it relates to having good posture. All the females who are “in good shape” here are students and practitioners of his Natural Method approach to training.

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I know many times, social media photos of “fitness porn” tend to discourage or antagonize rather than motivate, making the fit women look like they seek attention, or working against any progress women have made to reduce the objectification associated with their sex. The idea here is not to use sex as exploitation, or nude photos to entice anyone to read this post. Instead, consider the time period. Early 1900’s, no magic supplements or fitness apps or latest greets shiny infomercial fitness junk products. Simply solid work put in sensibly, with discipline and commitment, over the long haul.

 

 

How your digital devices and apps do not move the needle.

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You downloaded the latest G50Xtreme workout series, you bought the compression training apparel, have the app on your smartphone and checked in via social media at your gym to keep yourself accountable, and posted a sweaty selfie so we know you didn’t just show up and lie. You’re doing it!

 

 

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You then grab a super-greens superfood drink, enter its caloric info into another smart app and track your intake of nutrients. Off to shower, a clean dinner of steamed veggies and grilled chicken or white fish with a sprinkle of pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and a small glass of Chardonnay (c’mon, live a little now, ya hear!)

You calculated at the end of the day that you burnt X amount of calories (and you’re on track), fulfilled your workout quota and beat it by 10% from last week, so now you can add a restorative session of yoga or Pilates. Book a massage, because your body needs it and you earned it.

Crash on the couch, catch up on emails with House Of Cards playing in the background on Netflix, finish up that presentation for tomorrow. Turn off the tube, but turn on the Kindle for a little reading on how to be more effective, assertive and confident (you’ll follow up with the podcast in the morning on your way to work). Sleep 6 hours or less, and after 12-16 ounces of overpriced coffee in the morning, it’s off to the races again. You sit for 8-10 hours. Wait, no, you have a standing desk too, because more and more offices do that, because it’s good for you.

How you doin’?

What are you working towards?

Why is the standing desk good for you? No need to tell me, by the way, I know you read the research, Self magazine and GQ tweeted about the benefits.

My question was about your workout: what’s it doing for you? Is your posture better? Fewer headaches? Good alignment and muscular balance? Right on!

Now, can you get those results without all the digital noise around you? Can you also apply your fitness to your everyday activities: do you hunch at your desk, do you stand evenly, is your neck bent at 45 degrees staring at screens, or do you practice good posture outside the gym, are you mindful when sitting, walking, standing, carrying your messenger bag?

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Bottom line: if you’re not getting the results, the digital gizmos and social media wear thin and become useless landfill fodder. Because if you’re so disciplined that you’re making progress, you don’t need them. And if you are not disciplined, no amount of toys will fill that gap between you and your goal.

Save some cash, save some time, reconnect with yourself and people without a crutch. Dumbo eventually learned how to fly without holding on to his feather.

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.

 

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 impact of abdominal training on health, strength and beauty

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A little excerpt from the section on abdominal training, its importance and impact on health, beauty and strength, from Georges Hébert’s book:

The importance of abdominal muscles is capital, from an esthetics standpoint, as well as from strength and health standpoints.

 When their development is insufficient, the abdominal belt is soft and mushy. There is a risk of herniation as a result of any effort, even of low intensity, after a fall, a simple misstep, a coughing spell, etc.

The internal organs (stomach, liver, intestines) improperly supported collapse under their own weight and make the belly protrude. The more this protrusion is pronounced, the more out of place the internal organs are in relation to their normal position. The resulting swelling render any effort hazardous. [PIC]

 Severe constipation, without success from medical prescriptions or pharmaceutical drugs, sometimes has no other cause than weakness in the abdominal musculature, or a simple lack of muscular training in that area, which helps promote waste elimination.

 Breathing movements are always incomplete if the straight abdominals, exhaling muscles by excellence, are weak.

 A woman’s most important natural act, childbirth, is all the more facilitated that the abdominal muscles are powerfully developed.

 As we just mentioned, not only do these muscles provide a shield for the anterior section of the body from ribs to iliac crest, but, additionally, any effort, be it pulling, pushing, lifting, etc., activates them more or less. Natural actions themselves: forced exhale, coughing, sneezing, shouting, defecation and finally childbirth, cannot occur without their engagement.

 The future mother who keeps her abdominals “in shape” can continue well into her pregnancy, without risk, all sorts of natural and functional exercises, just like females in animal species. Her pregnant belly is reduced in volume, as a result of the firmness of her abdominal belt. Delivery is produced with extreme ease, in the fashion of active primitive women, without the necessity of a midwife. She is able to immediately resume her activities. Her stomach suffers no misshaping.

Abdominal weakness, by contrast, produces excessive pregnant belly volume. Any work or training becomes impossible early on, because of the nuisance caused by the belly’s distension. A simple walk often causes great fatigue. Any intense effort is dangerous.

Childbirth, in that case, is painful; it necessitates many days of bed rest for the organs to settle back in.

After delivery, the belly remains distended, like an empty sack, with stretch marks.

Such is the physical inferiority of the civilized woman, inactive with no abdominal muscles, in relation to her primitive counterpart. When she delivers a child, she is treated as if she were ill. The natural act becomes delicate and dangerous instead of being “easy” and safe.

In Antique statues, the power of the abdominal muscles is striking in men as in women. The abdomen is a true muscular fortress. Sculptors understood the capital importance of these muscles, and their work proves they were considered like the primary attributes of health, beauty and strength.

 We can say that in civilized societies, the abdominal muscles of men, like women, have become weaker and weaker as the practice of natural and functional exercises, which would develop them, dropped: throwing, climbing, etc. The wearing of corsets, among women, has been a new cause of abdominal weakness.

 Several generations will be needed, through training, before we can see the return of remarkable and powerful musculatures seen on Antique statues, especially when it comes to oblique muscles. Only a few athletes have such perfect development.

“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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