Gymcentric is not Natural

Gymcentric is not Natural

I first met Ed at the MovNat expansion course in West Virginia. I was helping Erwan Le Corre set up, coach, and run these natural movement seminars. We spent 5 days running around Summersville Lake barefoot, with no shirts, playing in the outdoors, and learning to move again. I distinctly remember Ed, he was strong, confident, and a very welcoming person. He easily switch from student to teacher when we were covering combatives with his strong background. Ed was one of the participants I looked up to and knew that he believed in health, fitness, and helping people get the right information. Since then we have periodically kept contact, and recently I came across his website Ed is cutting through the mess of misinformation out there and gets down to realitly. We have a history of physical culture and health that contains the answers to healthy living in a modern world. Check out here what he had to say to the Athletic Human audience.

Let me come clean here.  I’m a guy who is pretty frustrated with the current state of the fitness industry.  As I see it, most of the activities the fitness pros advocate are ‘gymcentric’ and not joint friendly.  They just aren’t ahead of the curve.  Here is what I mean:
I’m an outdoors kinda of a guy.  Raised in cottage country, worked on farms, hiked, camped, tree-planted yada yada yada.  I injured my neck, shoulders (repeatedly), wrists and ankle and have had to pay the price for those injuries, in the form of chronic aches and pain.  I’m a guy who wants to be active, but can’t afford to be reckless in my training.  And here is where my frustration lies.

Status Quo

I hurt my body by doing things it wasn’t designed to do.  When I talk to trainers, read the fitness blogs out there and review the latest studies, most of the info I get encourages me to do movements and activities that fit perfectly into a gym environment – movements and activities that have almost nothing to do with the varied challenges, non-repetitive movements, and unique movement patterns my outdoor lifestyle demands.  And call me crazy, but I think our bodies evolved to suit the movement patterns we engage in when we do outdoor activities.  I just can’t see the sense in saying our bodies evolved within a gym environment.
Ultimately what frustrates me is I am usually advised to do movements my body did not evolve to do.  Which is what injured me in the first place.
This leaves me struggling to find trainers, teachers and instructors who are open-minded enough/ informed enough to dig up the research and uncover the training systems and movement patterns that my body needs to thrive.  Most of the people in the fitness industry are happy to promote the status quo, but the status quo just doesn’t work for my needs.  The repetitive movements encouraged in gym settings don’t do any favours for my already compromised joints, and the movements trained in gym setting do little to prepare me for my outdoor lifestyle.
Edward Wilson, An Urban Paleo LIfestyle
An Urban Paleo LIfestyle

But Wait…

Here is where some people and systems really stand out.  Jeff Kuhland and Erwan Le Corre are fantastic coaches who combine exercise science with the ‘natural movement training’ my lifestyle demands and are eager to share their knowledge with others.  Steve Maxwell has done a fantastic job of bringing both martial arts training systems and Russian Kettlebell systems into the general fitness vocabulary, both of which provide great variety to a typical gym routine.  Scott Sonnon has promoted Indian Club training to a new level (fantastic for shoulders), Paul Chek changed how many people view working out (what are we training for?).  CrossFit has taken weight machines out the picture (great idea) and brought new approaches to training in (some I whole-heartedly agree with, others not so much).  There are others that deserve mention, but the point I want to make is this:

Seek and ye shall find

The fitness industry has both ends of the spectrum.  It has trainers who are happy with the status quo and it has trainers who are eager to challenge the status quo and examine new ideas.  If you are training ‘for the gym’ – if you are training so you can lift more gym weights – then by all means stick with the status quo trainers.  If, on the other hand, you are training for an outdoor lifestyle and want to keep your joints healthy for years to come, then I say seek out and find trainers who have discovered MovNat, seek out and find trainers who are NSCA certified and understand how to train specific metabolic systems, seek out and find trainers who introduce you to barefoot movement, kettle-bells and indian clubs.  Seek out and find trainers who are ahead of the curve and approach fitness from an ancestral, evolutionary, natural point of view.
Just my 2 cents.
Ed Wilson, BSc, C.P.T.
Click for more on Ancestral Health 
Are you training and living a lifestyle that is conducive for long term real health? Do you struggle with injuries that are always nagging or do you feel great the moment you wake up til you go to bed. We are meant to thrive, to live strong, happy, healthy lives, but the reality is we are as a society stepping further away from this each day. What dysfunction is going on in your life and how do you being to fix that? Remember that it is never to late to turn things around and become who you were born to be. Go out today and begin you own journey.

5 thoughts on “Gymcentric is not Natural

  1. Really good article, could you tell us some movements you recommend that are not Gymcentric that we can use to get out of the gym?

    • Gymcentric movements refer to modern gym exercises that have been created by someone and hold very little to no practical use. This would be shoulder raises, bicep curls, rotator cuff exercises with the pully, bosu balls, etc. What we want you to get back to is full body movements that are natural and real world applicable. This means deadlifts, squats, sprinting, climbing movements, dragging (an object not yourself), jumping, etc. The goal of the movements should be to not only move better, but with mindfulness, efficiency, and purpose. Not only are these movements natural, but done correctly work with your bodies natural systems and patterns.

      Thanks for the comment, let me know if you have more questions.

  2. I have 3 suggestions:
    First, as Jeff suggested, get yourself into a natural environment and move around. MovNat provides a great guideline for this.
    Second, think about the movements you did in the natural environment and try to recreate them in a gym environment.
    Third, one of the specific techniques I use in a gym setting is practicing squats with staggered feet (not much, between 3-10 inches). Our bodies evolved lifting things on uneven and varied terrain. Our joints are adapted for variability. When I lift things in the woods, each time my feet are staggered differently because of the ground underfoot. When I lift things in the gym, my joints are forced into exactly the same wear patterns. Overuse injuries make sense here?
    NOTE: Stagger your feet normal distance apart but one foot 3-10 inches in front of the other (half the set, then switch). Yes, you will need to lower the amount of weight lifted, probably by about 40%. Maintain all the other rules about good squatting form.

    There are a bunch of tips and tricks here to combat ‘gymcentric’. Stay tuned, both Jeff and myself will have more to contribute. It will definitely be unconventional, but I would like to think it is ‘ahead of the curve’.

  3. […] deliver programs based on movements that were part of our ancestral heritage, not programs that are gymcentric […]

  4. […] movements (gymcentric movements) aren’t ecologically rational. If you aren’t using Ecological Rationality in a Primal […]