In an ideal world, we would spend our lives moving and playing wild and free in the forest, lakes and mountains.
Unfortunately, this life is but a distant dream for most of us (one you should never let go of!), and as a result we have become weak and immobile through years of being made to sit still and behave.
Though simply re-introducing natural, primal movements into your life will gradually stimulate your body to become strong, flexible, agile and co-ordinated again, a minimal, targeted high intensity training program performed in the gym can help quickly, safely and efficiently kick start your journey on the road to recovery.
Following the LNTL Minimalist Exercise and Training program outlined below 1-2 times per week (depending upon your goals, genetics and other activities) is more than sufficient to keep your body healthy, lean, muscular, mobile and free from pain and injury.
1) Foam Roller Series
Our hunter gatherer ancestors never stopped moving from the day they were born, they weren’t made to sit still at school, and didn’t have to spend hours sat in traffic everyday on the way to their sedentary desk jobs.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of us spend nearly all of our days stuck on our backsides. Using a foam roller or similar self massage tool may help reduce tension and re-develop plasticity and malleability to our muscles enabling more free and natural movement to return.
Watch a video tutorial here: http://youtu.be/GLiPGqX8e4Q
NB – It should be pointed out that the efficacy of foam rolling is still highly contested, therefore I would suggest this first part of the routine as optional. If you find it seems to help, if at least only to help you relax, focus on the workout ahead, and discover areas of your body which harbour trigger points and tightness use it. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, skip straight to the goblet squat to stand!
2) Goblet Squat to Stand
Squatting is a fundamental human movement. Check out any pre-school child and they will invariably be able to perform a perfect full depth squat and hold it all day long. Unfortunately, years of sitting cause us to lose the strength, mobility and stability necessary to hold this natural position.
This simple drill, which I first came across via Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline, will help you regain this natural movement. As you improve, start to incorporate unassisted squatting into your day to day lives, ultimately aiming to be able to hold the position for 10+ minutes while you perform your day to day tasks.
Goblet Squat to Stand: http://youtu.be/deOkrdurzYs
3) One Arm Get Up
The One Arm Get Up (or Turkish Get Up) is a fantastic “value for money” movement, as it simultaneously develops full body strength, coordination, mobility, stability and kinaesthetic awareness. Expect some funny looks from other gym goers however if you’re performing it in a globo-gym!
Performing just three reps per side is sufficient in terms of volume – A light rep, a medium rep and a heavy rep. The heavy rep should be challenging, but still allow you to execute the movement with perfect form.
Max Effort Strength
4) Pull From the Floor
Pulls from the floor include any and all variations of Deadlifts and Cleans, performed with barbells, dumbbells and or kettlebells.
These movements actually fall into the natural movement category of Lifting, and can be performed with any object you can get your hands on, from rocks and logs to cats and dogs! It is however, for most people, more practical to practice these movements in the gym using weights, as it allows one to progressively increase the resistance used easily and efficiently.
Build up to a heavy, auto-regulated, near max effort set of 5 reps or less. Back off the weight 5% and perform another 1-2 sets (optional).
High Intensity (Resistance) Training
A sedentary lifestyle causes your muscles to atrophy. A loss of muscle significantly increases your risk of disease and physical degeneration as you age. High Intensity Training (HIT) is the fastest, safest and most effective way to build lean muscle tissue.
This new found muscle will not only lead to improved health and a better physique, but will make mastering all the natural, primal movements, activities and sports easier and faster.
McGuff’s big 5 movements are: Leg Press or Squatting movement, Horizontal Push and Pull, Vertical Push and Pull. Ideally these would be performed on resistance machines for ease, efficiency and safety, however the same effects can be achieved using bodyweight or free weight exercises if necessary.
Simply perform one set of each movement at a slow pace (5/5) with a low resistance until momentary muscular failure is reached (i.e. you can no longer move the weight no matter how hard you try). Ideally this should be reached in around 90s.
High Intensity Interval Training
6) Tabata/30:15×6/30:60×4 etc
Short bursts of high intensity metabolic work have been shown time and time again to be more effective at stimulating physiological adaptation to the cardiovascular system and metabolism than much longer bouts of lower intensity work. This is not necessarily to say that they are better or should be a substitute, but they are certainly a useful tool and a fast and effective way to prevent disease and build a strong metabolic base from which to move naturally.
The classic HIIT is the tabata – 20 seconds of all out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. The exact work to rest ratio does not really matter, however, and if anything, variety is optimal.
Alternate periods of all out 100% effort, be it rowing, cycling, sprinting or bodyweight exercises such as burpees and box jumps, with periods of rest/low intensity movements for a period of 5-10 mins.
Low Intensity Movement
7) Walk/Easy Cycle etc
You should be “Moving Frequently at a Slow Pace” (as Mark Sisson would term it), every day anyway, however to get the most out of it in terms of fat burning, right after a bought of HIT/HIIT is the optimum time to do it. High intensity work causes are release of human growth hormone, which in turn liberates free fatty acids into your blood stream. Following a period of intense effort, with some easy, low intensity work will help gobble up these free fatty acids.