Mastering the Classics

Mastering the Classics

“Humility is integral to strength.”

Wise words from your very own Ryan Whited.

Here at Paragon we absolutely believe this to be true. If your heart has the patience to stay in something difficult, and revisit these things over and over, then one day something new can be born out of the fire. This is what we want from you....sink into yourself, embrace what is hard, and let something good emerge.

And with that want comes many others:

We want you to train hard and train smart. This will lead to you getting stronger and more powerful.  

We want to build up your tolerance, endurance, and capacity.

We want you to be able to produce strength in all ranges.

We want your joints to be able to do everything they are made to do.  

We want control, speed, agility, the ability to bounce and spring, all done with fearlessness and confidence.

So, with all of these desires for our athletes, where do we start?! 

Well Goners, we start with the classics. We start with the fundamentals of movement. And not only do we start there (like most of you of course already have) but we continue to visit the fundamentals in order to keep your body strong and injury free. And of course, to improve and push your perceived limits.

There are tenants to strength training that NEVER CHANGE!  Lifting heavy things is good for us... all of us. Our connective tissue, our hormones, our bones (which is connective tissue) our brains, all love when we lift heavy things! Push, pull, and exert yourself. Live on these tenants. Don't get caught up in facial meridians, blood flow restriction training, or whatever other newest thing has come along.” More knowledge from Ryan Whited. Read that again if you need, it is important.

There are basic movements like walking and squatting that are so fundamentally human that they are necessary for optimal health. There is no replacing them. We want you to be better humans, bottom line. So, when it comes to a strength and conditioning program, these basic movement patterns become the building blocks for all movement. They are combined and varied and tweaked to generate a huge stockpile of complex movements.

When you are learning a language, you begin with letters and simple words. You then use these to form complex sentences. So, we master the basics in strength like we master letters and words, so we can then master the complex.  It is simpler for the nervous system to rely on a small number of general movement patterns that can be assembled together to form more complex movements. Creating these patterns makes the movement easier to organize . So, you can keep building and building until you have an extensive vocabulary of  movements!

When a foundational building block is missing, the entire structure built on top can be compromised.  If your movement vocabulary is missing one or more important patterns, like a squat, there are very wide range of everyday movements that will be compromised. The good news:  if you improve your squat/lunge/push up/pull up, you will improve many other aspects of your physical life. Simple as that, folks.

So, what are the movements that we want you to master?

  1. Hip Hinge/deadlift

  2. Lunge

  3. Squat

  4. Push-up

  5. Pull-up

  6. Loaded Carry

  7. Sprints

  8. Jumps

  9. Kicks

  10. Crawling

Developing sound movement patterns and challenging them through various training methods is the single most effective way to develop strength, build muscle and prevent injuries.

Yeah, movement patterns are that important.

1. The hip hinge/deadlift is so great because it works the entire posterior chain. And that backside is what helps you to generate power and explosiveness. Do your hamstring ever feel “tight?” Chances are, what they need is load. Those tight hamstrings need to be strengthened, rather than stretched. We hope we have talked about this concept enough now that it is starting to sink in: tendons and muscles like load. So give them what they like!

2. The lunge is my personal favorite way to build a strong, resilient lower body. Compared to your typical squats and deadlifts, single leg movements like the lunge require additional stability through the foot, ankle, knee, and hip and are an effective way to build strength and increase your maximal force output. (If you ever come to any of my classes, you should know this by now!) And if you are a runner, I believe you should ALWAYS do one legged exercises.

3. The squat is the king of all lower body movements. But even though they may seem simple, it is very difficult to execute a good squat. Movement quality is the foundation that all training effects depend on. And if you are struggling with your squat, let’s fix that, shall we? All people are built differently in terms of their hip and pelvis structure (in addition to pretty much every other anatomical and physiological aspect of the human body). That means that all people must squat differently. What we want to do is help you to find YOUR best squat, and be able to perfect if from there. Because there is no way to go through life without squatting!

4. A proper push-up requires precise levels of motor control and strength, as well as the ability to smoothly integrate each portion of your body in one seamless coordinated movement. They obviously work the upper body in an intense fashion, but they also require tension throughout the whole body. Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation describes when muscles recruit nearby muscles. Strength guru Pavel Tsatsouline called this law “muscle cheering,” as nearby tight muscles cheer the working muscles to work harder. The push-up is a great way to feel the effects of muscle irradiation.

5. The Pull-Up (or row variations) are staple foundational movements in nearly every type of strength and performance program. Pull-ups work your entire upper body, especially the muscles of your back, scapular stabilizers, shoulders as well as your abs and your biceps. A dead-hang pull-up is one of the toughest exercises you can do, and mastering it will improve your overall fitness level. You'd be hard pressed to find an exercise that gives you more bang for your training buck – especially in the upper body – than the pull-up.

6. Loaded carries: Just like many things at Paragon, heavy carries may seem simple, but they are extremely challenging.  They are a very effective way to build resilient core stiffness, grip strength, and improved shoulder stability, all while developing a brutal total body work capacity.

7. Sprints will help to increase your endurance and work capacity. And they will also obviously increase your maximal oxygen consumption, radically altering your conditioning level. Sprinting will improve your overall athleticism, making you more powerful and more efficient.

8. Jumps require explosive power, and also the ability to slow yourself back down. It is very important to be able to eccentrically control your body. If you run, you are doing this with every step, over and over, so you want your body to be proficient with this concept. And if you don’t run, well, you are still needing to control your body for day to day adventures. And jumping/plyometric training will increase your bone density. Even bone has a certain kind of rationality –  it is smart enough to start strengthening itself in areas that receive a lot of compressive shock. If you were a bone and wanted to maintain your structural integrity, isn’t that what you would do?

9. Kicking is essentially a balance and pivoting movement off of the non-kick leg with obvious mobility/power implications of the kicking leg.  They are a great way to train strength and power at end range. You have to have mobility, and mobility is defined as strength + flexibility. In other words, the term refers to not only having an increased range of motion, but also complete control of any newly acquired range.

10. Crawling, because humans are contralateral beings when it comes to their neurological organization. The automatic sequencing of upright muscle movement like walking and running is meant to be always coordinated the same way: the right arm goes forward, the left leg will do the same and when the left arm goes forward, the right leg will do the same. So there it is: cross pattern neurological organization.  So, can you think of what this can apply to? Changing your nervous system will change your overall quality of movement, so it will help you improve with your sport of choice. Want to become a stronger climber? Just think about the interlimb coordination in climbing and crawling biomechanics. Want to run farther? Organizing your movement will help you run with efficiency and with an optimal gait pattern. Crawling is one of the best ways to organize this movement, while simultaneously working your shoulders, legs, and trunk in a very real way (we all know the pain by now!)

Like Ryan says: “Position and quality of movement is always paramount: we believe there are better ways to move, ways of moving that have the potential to reduce pain and potential for injury, while enhancing performance. How we move dictates so many of our systems: nervous system, quality of connective tissue, joint wear and tear...etc. The quality should never be sacrificed for a better time or the ego. Humility is integral to strength.”

So, goners, get ready to master the classics. If you encounter a struggle, embrace it. Work to improve your quality of movement, and from there, your world as an athlete will only get bigger.

-Laurel Lippard