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Hébert’s Fitness Assessment

straight rope climb

Curated from The Strength Code (Le Code de la Force):

Fitness test (conducted over a 12 hour period, or two days, depending on the intensity level, added “secondary labors” or age of participants):

mold lift

  • Distance walk, weighted 5kg.
  • Run, weighted, 5kg.
  • Climbing:
    • climb a straight rope as high as possible without the use of the legs.
    • Max pullups
    • High bar hanging
  • Lifting: single and two-handed
    • Clean
    • Jerk
    • Snatch
    • 40kg mold deadlift AMRAP in 2 minutes without letting go of it or moving the feet. (The tool is essentially a mold to make bricks, but because of today’s availability of training devices, it can easily be replaced). See photo above for the tool then used.
    • Bag load & carry, 1m tall, 75cm wide in diameter, filled 80% with sand, sawdust,
  • Throwing:
    • Dexterity: 12 throws per arm, 1sq.m, 20m away, 0.5m off ground target with rock, ball (tennis ball). Lateral volley throw.
  • Swimming:

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

Complementary events:

  • Hurdle run 110m
  • Pole vault.

Strength Endurance is determined by:

  • 500m run
  • 1500m run
  • 100m swim
  • Underwater dive (organ resilience)
  • The performance of all the labors inside of 12 hours also is a test of a person’s endurance and resilience.

Muscular Strength is determined by:

  • Two-handed lifts
  • Throwing
  • Straight rope climb

Speed Strength is determined by:

  • 100m sprint
  • long jump with momentum


Agility, dexterity, flexibility, movement/hand-eye coordination and the ability to self-regulate energetic expenditure are determined by the four kinds of jumps, throwing, the various running or swimming events and especially when it comes to regulating of the effort, the completion of all 12 “labors”.

Vitality, reflexes, will power and in brief “virile” qualities are observed during the performance of all the labors/tests, which all must not only be performed without failing, but also by giving one’s maximal effort.

Finally, the individual must demonstrate in all labors their aptitude in running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing and swimming except for walking/marching and self-defense. Because of its lesser effort, walking is considered a secondary labor, whereas self-defense cannot be a single person event, as it can only be a measure of comparison between two individuals.

Additionally, fighting ability is in direct correlation with the display of general physical aptitude.

It is obvious to notice that the choice of events is combined to favor resilience and speed over pure physical strength. In other words, at equal muscular strength, the individual displaying better speed and resilience/endurance in all events shall stand out. This is logical and corresponds to our definition of what it takes to be strong: strength resides in the heart and lungs more so than in the muscles.


Parkour, not Gymnastics in Schools

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In his latest article on Parkour replacing Gymnastics in schools as part of the Physical Education Curriculum, Ben Musholt lists the 3 most important elements justifying and supporting that decision, and interestingly, they are directly aligned with Georges Hébert’s Philosophy and Natural Method, which he happens to re-define in my upcoming adaptation of his book “Le Code de la Force” (“The Strength Code“).

These 3 elements are:

  1. Becoming a movement generalist vs specialist: all-around athleticism vs single, limitations-generating activity.
  2. Safety and real world usefulness: no explanation needed, but for a shift in perception as people see the apparently dangerous stunts performed by “traceurs” as being unsafe, yet these are progressive and directly linked to our surroundings, where the only risk is to not take any (a rule for business as well!)
  3. Accessibility, not elitism: Ben has his own definition (which is why I encourage you to read his article), and I want to add that my personal life path is to raise the bar of fitness so everyone can enjoy physical activity, which Hébert also defines with abilities one should have at any age.

Parkour Gymnastics School Parkour Gymnastics School

Ben makes a good case of Parkour vs Gymnastics, its cost, difficulty and more. Hébert adopts a similar POV. His is that if we consider all methods of physical education, physical culture, gymnastics or general training, while they have the same end goal in theory, the practice reveals the contrary.There is no thorough and complete consensus as to the measurability of physical aptitude and what it means, because some focus on muscular development, others on corrective exercise only, weight lifting only or sports without any practical usefulness in real life.

The Natural method is aimed at a complete and functional physical development. It applies to anyone, anywhere: in schools, corporations or the Military. Official tests performed in various military and academic environments have sufficiently proven the excellence of its results. Children especially accept it with enthusiasm and practice it with joy, because it gives them the opportunity to do everything they instinctively need and enjoy. It has also been made mandatory in the Navy, not only on Seamen, but also on children in Naval Academies ages 7 to 14, and  youths ages 14 to 17.

Hébert later states:

The Natural Method derives from the following simple concept: Man(kind), as any other living being, must reach his complete physical development solely through his naturally existing means of locomotion, labor and combat/defense. Man is designed to live outdoors, with this simple covering that is skin, is built to perform specific exercises that address those needs. These exercise, which we can name “indispensable and functional”, make up eight distinctive groups: walking, running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing, self-defense (wrestling and boxing) and swimming.

It doesn’t take long to understand that each of these groups of exercises are all useful at various degrees through various stages of Life. Outside of those remain exercises like fencing, horseback riding, rowing etc., whose utility is secondary or limited to specific groups of individuals; or also sports and games, as well as acrobatics; but none of the former group are indispensable to all individuals, regardless of occupation or social standing.


Metatrainers: we do more for you than you think!

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Meta- definition: of second order, higher kind. Beyond.

We personal trainers do so much more than the obvious, even the invisible on the internal health level.

Yes, it’s widely already perceived and known that we help you get stronger, move better, leaner, bigger and that in the process, we get you healthier by means of exercise, but improving your nutrition, and in turn your vitals, so you do better at your annual physical, hopefully get off some meds etc.

Our influence on our clients extends far beyond that too. We are soundboards for your relationship troubles, dating coaches (seeing as we see many types of people and interact with them on intimate platonic professional levels, but still are privy to personal info), business advisors, trip planners, area experts, connectors/relationship builders, networkers etc.

Those of us who do not label ourselves “life coaches” actually are better life coaches than those who claim that gig, because we’re also business friends and do not charge you extra for that. We can sometimes hang out, participate in a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder together, grab a brewski during happy hour if time permits (those of us trainers with kids and a spouse are less flexible, but I remember those days).

Our interactions with people in all professions, our ongoing customer service, being constantly accountable for everything we do as it directly reflects our business with you, our dear clients, to continue delivering results, progress, advice is what make us metatrainers, “beyond” trainers, like metalanguage, metaphysics (and not metabolic trainers, which is too obvious a concept and clearly, way cheesier).

Tell me, who else in your professional and personal dealings offers you the vast umbrella of services and perspectives that we personal trainers and coaches offer? Looking for rules, not exceptions.

Remember this: we love what we do, and we do care about you sometimes more than you do about yourself. Very few of us are ever going to get rich doing this. Help us out by spreading the word to your friends, everyone needs a trainer at some point 😉


Embracing women’s natural curves

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Chapter IV of the upcoming book on Physical Fitness/Education for women (as it stood in the early part of the 20th century) centers around embracing women’s natural beautiful esthetic. It does stress the importance of establishing a solid balance with solid roots for strength training, which leads to a healthy, harmonious development of the body and increased self-confidence.

CHAPTER IV. Shapely beauty or muscular beauty.

  1. Shapes. Outline or silhouette. Curves. Contoured curves.
  2. Various aspects of muscular curves according to the degree of development or the training condition. Muscular covering and separation.
  3. Alteration of shapes caused by adipose tissue.
  4. Distinctions to establish between muscular curves. Thin muscles and ropy muscles. Lean or natural type. Massive type and intermediary type.
  5. Antique shapes.
  6. Harmony of muscular development. Measurement of the limbs and the trunk.

Interestingly, Georges Hébert addresses deformities in following chapters (which I will post in subsequent blogs) caused not only by lack of activity and atrophy of muscles, but also by trends/fashions that lead to an unhealthy development (or lack thereof) of women’s bodies (corsets being main offenders).

What I also found interesting is how trends have developed and still do, especially with the “advancement” of celebrities on reality TV or in popular culture (although if you ask me, and I know I am not alone, we as a culture have regressed rather than advanced), whose “assets” are the talk of every tabloid or social media outlet, constantly promoting poor role modeling for our young generation of women, or their immature men (whose age varies greatly beyond what’s acceptable for immaturity).

Physical Education for women: sneak peek at 3 chapters (content outline).

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A quick sneak peek of what’s going to be covered in Hébert’s book on physical education for women.

CHAPTER I. Health, beauty and strength are the outcome of integral physical development.

  1. What every woman should desire/aspire to.
  2. Health, beauty and strength are synonymous with physical perfecting.
  3. How to achieve integral physical development. Natural and functional moves or exercises.
  4. Integral physical development for women is achieved the same way as for men.
  5. Civilized life is an obstacle to integral physical development.
  6. Severe consequences of the total lack of exercise or of incomplete physical activity in women’s health.
  7. Severe consequences of the total lack of exercise or of incomplete physical activity in women’s beauty.
  8. Physical strength. Its constituting elements. Resilience, first element of strength. Resilience of women in relation to men. Strength and its relation to health and beauty.
  9. Necessity of methodical training to achieve integral physical development. Principle of the Natural Method.

CHAPTER II. Beauty and Ugliness.

  1. Various and contradictory opinions concerning beauty and ugliness.
  2. The abandonment of physical culture is the main cause of the contradicting opinions on beauty.
  3. Perfect beauty cannot exist without physical culture.
  4. Current judgments amongst women.
  5. Current judgments amongst men regarding women’s beauty.
  6. Antiquity at a glance. Muscular development identity in men and women.
  7. Judgments or misconceptions concerning rural women, women of sports, dancers, circus professionals, wild or primitive women.
  8. Beauty of the body in motion. Grace.
  9. Necessity for esthetic knowledge.

CHAPTER III. Proportions and shapes. Beauty of proportions.

  1. Two main elements leading to beauty.
  2. Modification of shapes and proportions.
  3. Harmonious proportions and dysfunctional proportions.
  4. Characteristics of regular proportions.

Linguistic musings

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The French use a lot of English words in their everyday speak, and the English language is just as rich in using French words. Première, déja vu, début are three common examples with similar meaning in either language.

Now, it wouldn’t be amusing if I didn’t comment on the rest of the commonly used, or misused, misspelled or incorrectly conjugated words or expressions and point out their actual meaning.

Coup de grâce: pronounced “koo duh grass”. Translated, means “mercy blow”, and literally “strike of grace” the latter being what a person would implore upon imminent demise from the King. “Have mercy, your Grace!”, which could be taken literally to either end the suffering or beg for pardon/forgiveness, not unlike a prisoner about to be executed. DO NOT make the mistake, as I have seen way to often, to either write it as “coup de gras” (or grâs), or even pronounce it “koo de grah”. This would just mean that you are striking someone with a piece of lard, or fat, and would merely annoy, disgust or cause a minor loss of dignity.

Double entendre: this is actually grammatically incorrect. The proper term is “double entendu”. Entendre means “to hear”, which, just like in English, can go beyond just the auditory function and imply understanding; “I hear you”. The expression, which in French is spelled properly, indicates a dual meaning, two ways one can interpret a situation and thus cause confusion. In French, when someone says “bien entendu”, they mean that something is evident, “well heard”. I fear, however, that it is too late to correct this one, as it is too engrained in the English speaking culture.

RSVP: this one stands for “Répondez S’il-Vous-Plaît“, literally meaning “please respond” (to an invitation). A common faux pas on invites is to see the host asking the guests to “Please RSVP”, which is as necessary as wearing a belt with suspenders.

Entrée: the literal meaning of that one relates to an “entrance”. In France, menus start with “entrée” (appetizer), then “plat de résistance” (main course), then dessert (same spelling, since the word is actually French) and/or cheese plates. The use of the word “starters” is therefore a more correct application of “entrées”, but if a menu sports both “starters” and “entrées”, consider that a lack of proper culture. Starters/Appetizers with Main Courses= good. But a menu with “entrées” as main course, as we commonly understand it here, leaves a lot of French visitors confused or secretly laughing. Just don’t ask a French person if they want to grab a “bite”… On that note, if wanting to show some linguistic sophistication, if you are the type to pronounce Mexican dishes with a Spanish accent, like in the SNL sketch with Jimmy Smits and the obnoxious whiteys ordering burritos or other, do not invite someone into your home with the French (incorrect) expression “Entrez-vous”, as it means “enter yourself”. Just say “entrez”, while it sounds like a command in English (“enter!”), it is perfectly proper.

Another funny one I remember from the Michael J.Fox movie “Doc Hollywood”. There is a scene in it where he ends his work day and says “Je suis fini”, which is a literally translation of “I am finished/done”, which itself has a double entendu, but in French, to say “je suis fini” only means one thing: that one is toast, fubar, kaput, done in the most negative sense of the word. To be done with a task, in French, you say “I have finished”, which is “j’ai fini”.

Of course, there are many, and the French butcher their own fair share of English, both in meaning or pronunciation. How does any of this tie to the usual content of this blog or site? It’s just a way to communicate that the task of translating Georges Hébert’s work from French into English takes more than just literally translating. It requires choices that revolve around understanding of common training, movement or weight lifting terms, at times needing to create a literal translation seeking synonyms, with the thesaurus, but also seeking a sense of continuity throughout the book. I may choose to revise and change terms in a personal adaptation and revamping of Hébert’s work, depending on what readers respond to.

Such an example is with the slits: forward slit, backwards slit. Should I rename them “split stance” or “staggered stance” “-with a forward lean”, or “-with back extension”? Does it make the movement more sexy, like a slit on a cocktail dress, or is the “clinical” choice better, even if more wordy?



Natural Method & The Lean Berets Videos part 2

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In this second video installment, Ron Jones and I go over 3 arm positions from Georges Hébert’s 2nd part of his Practical Guide to Physical Education.

I selected the “hands behind the back”, “hands at neck/behind the head” and “one arm up, one arm down” unilateral stance because they are simple, effective and help quickly address known issues of “sit-down” posture and quickly engage the shoulders.

The entirety of the moves can be studied in the Fundamental Exercises.

Natural Method & The Lean Berets Videos part 1

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Here is a sit-down conversation with Ron Jones of The Lean Berets, “Avengers of Health”, on the topic of Georges Hébert’s Natural Method and how it influenced Stan LeProtti and his La Sierra High School Physical Education program. Ron has been researching, implementing and tenaciously putting together LeProtti’s work in order to help bring it back to our educational system, as well as the forefront of fitness nowadays.

We ought to always look at the past to see where our future lies 🙂

Quiet the noise!

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OK, a quick recap of confusion in the fitness world. What’s true, what’s not, what’s grey, what’s black, what’s white?

  1. Coffee is bad for you.
  2. Coffee is good for you.
  3. You need cardio to lose weight.
  4. You don’t need cardio to lose weight.
  5. Reduce calories to lose weight.
  6. Reducing calories won’t make you lose weight.
  7. Lifting light weights at high volume will not bulk you up.
  8. High volume & light weights add muscle mass.
  9. Lifting heavy makes you big.
  10. Lifting heavy helps you lose weight.
  11. Reduce fat intake.
  12. Fat doesn’t make you fat.
  13. Paleo works.
  14. Paleo doesn’t work.
  15. The whole wheat-free, gluten-free thing is wrong.
  16. Eat wheat-free, gluten-free.
  17. Barefoot running is bad for you.
  18. Barefoot running is the best way to run.
  19. Crossfit is bad and causes injuries.
  20. The injury rate in Crossfit is not an higher than any other fitness movement.
  21. Vegans cannot add quality muscle mass.
  22. Vegans can add quality muscle mass.
  23. Eating too much protein is bad for you.
  24. You can’t truly eat too much protein before it’s bad for you, you’ll only add muscle.
  25. P90X and Insanity are bad programs that only few people actually finish.
  26. P90X and Insanity are great programs that deliver results.

Please add to the list, as I am sure this can go on in the most unregulated, fastest growing industry that every single person thinks of every day, positively or negatively, at some point, whether it’s buttoning your pants, huffing up the stairs because the elevator’s out, looking at a billboard for Equinox, see an ad for Greek yogurt etc.

Know that for every one of these points, there is data to back it up, and a lot of theories also (be they straw men arguments or not).

Natural Progression

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So many systems and methods out there, right?

Complication of the simple. From complication to compilation, here are a few clips of my son Fletcher, who is now 5 years old. Before any comments come back at me that I am an irresponsible dad who can injure his child, know this: Fletcher has been a very active child since before he could walk. He’s naturally been inclined to run, climb, jump on, jump off obstacles and keep running. He may have seen me lift a kettebell or barbell, and he naturally did shoulder presses, barbell curls, deadlifts, jumps, climbs etc. He loves to run, hitting is his favorite thing in T-ball, and when he found boxing gloves at home, he put them on and asked me to spar. We’ve been wrestling and roughhousing playfully for as long as I can remember (and his 1 year old brother now joins us in epic ground mêlée fights). He asks me to take him surfing, I don’t push or encourage anything, other than consistency and stick-to-itiveness so he doesn’t quit and learn effort and persistence.

The larger point I want to make is progression: he started low, he started young. As he gets older, he climbs higher, jumps from higher ground, but he’s also taller, so elevation is relative: the absolute goes up, but the proportional remains the same. The skill is engrained. There is minimal coaching, where applicable. But if he can do something well, pain-free, and wants to repeat it, I will not deny him the joy. The risk is calculated. The only risk is avoidance, because denying him his true nature is not what I am about.

In this clip here, he jumps off an elevation (depth jump) from a standing position:

In this one, he starts from a seated position:

The jump can be improved by having him swing his legs more, but since the “wall” doesn’t allow for a full swing of the legs to build momentum, the thing to do is to push off the wall using the hands, which Fletcher didn’t do. Not as good a jump, but he made up for it by rolling and increasing the duration of his landing, therefore reducing impact. And using ONLY the hips, he is building the biomechanical skill needed for swings, for instance. A little coaching into a natural movement.

In this last clip, he is simply walking on the equivalent of a balance beam: similar width, he can fall into or out of the boat he is playing on. He is training not only balance, but to work from an elevation.

You know how you can walk on a beam on inch of the ground, but fear doing so if 20 feet off the ground? Yeah, well, here, he’s learning to not be afraid of that.

So, there you have it, a sneak preview of jumping drills from The Natural Method’s 3rd book, due out in a couple of weeks, and balance work from the fundamentals mentioned in Book 2.