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By Tom Furman
July 15, 2013
Because of the internet and things like Twitter and Facebook, many areas of technology are exploding. While this is a wonderful thing, giving us so many choices, it’s also distracting. When I was young, we basically had three channels on our black and white TV. We received all the news and entertainment through those three channels. Now there are hundreds of channels in high definition, yet people claim there is “nothing on TV”. Our informational abundance has numbed us and diminished our capacity to make decision. Remember, “decide” means, “to cut”.
Coming from the world of fitness, the variety has actually led to a lack of progress in many fitness standards. We are sold a bill of goods about a ‘one size does not fit all’ thought process about how we are all special, little, snowflakes and have individual needs. As if we live in a world of unicorns and rainbows. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fundamental movements that the human body is capable of are limited. Unless there are men with six arms and four legs, this won’t be changing anytime soon. They are in no special order:
1. Extension or Hinging. Basically picking something off of the ground.
2. Squatting or Jumping.
3. Flexion or Folding. Bring upper body closer to lower and vice versa.
4. Upper Body Push. Like a push up, press or bench press.
5. Upper Body Pull. Pull ups, rowing.
6. Bracing. Stiffening the body to deal with a load, standing, prone, supine, etc.
7. Running or Locomotion. Includes rucking or sprinting.
We could add to this list the motions of rotation, brachiation, vertical push, horizontal push, vertical pull, horizontal pull, one legged squatting/jumping, one legged extension/hinging and so on and so on. What would be the point? With 7 functions, isn’t that complex enough? With so many variables the mathematical chances for things to go wrong increases dramatically.
Still need more examples? With the advent of MMA, we have gotten away from the concept of “styles” and focused on position. There are only THREE. Stand up, Clinch and Ground. That’s it. So you ask, “I’m in the military or law enforcement, what about weapons?”. OK. Similar use of minimalism. There are projectile weapons, edged weapons, impact weapons and flexible weapons.
So, martial arts can be summed up in three positions and four types of weapons. Exercise is roughly seven motions, give or take. What if we condensed exercise even more? Why not take it down to THREE moves? What if those three movements could be done anywhere on earth with absolutely minimal equipment and the results were extraordinary? Are they drills that can be done from nine years old to ninety? Sure. Are they safe? Absolutely. Do they provide the biggest bang per buck? Without a doubt.
Remember, minimalism ensures consistency. Consistency trumps intensity or ANY secret training program. When you do something regularly for a long time you become a master. Remember, repetition is the mother of skill. You want to train for life and go the distance. Remember, the real master is the one standing at the end of the fight. Always think of this quote:
“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light”. – Cesare Pavese
The three movements I’ve found to be the biggest bang per buck are squatting, pulling and pushing. That’s it. Almost anyone can pull off these moves who are in reasonable health. Simply doing those movements in various combinations over time would maintain a strength fitness level of at least minimal standards. However there needs to be a gradient or scaling to accommodate various strength levels, injuries, age and structure.
Other ingredients need to be addressed, namely hinging strength and cardiovascular efficiency. The progression of these attributes must be systematic, not require specialized gear and be formated with real programming that acknowledges time management, sleep and illness. Only if these standard are met, will “fitness minimalism” be reached.
Curious? Stay tuned for future articles.
Author's Bio: Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson).
His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training.
He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ‘backyard’ workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers and Coast Guard Rescue Divers.
Tom is the creator of the popular DVD “Concrete Conflict & Conditioning” which integrates strength, movement, and physical combat. He also created another DVD called “Activate Your Dynamic Range of Motion” which introduces Tom’s excellent program of flexibility.
Tom was one of the first American trainers to become RKC certified for Kettlebell Training in the US, and is quoted twice in "The Naked Warrior" by Pavel Tsatsouline, the founder of RKC. Tom has done workshops with Kettlebell legends Mike Mahler and Steve Cotter.
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