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20.9.

2014

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A tale of two fitness methods, Movnat and Ido Portal


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The most promising trend I see in the fitness industry today is a focus on absolute, pure human
movement.
And it makes perfect sense because movement is what we train for. Ido Portal reminded me of this
recently in his interview with Jeff Kuhland from Athletic Human. That we spend so much time training in
the gym for a bigger bench or bigger squat that we forget the whole point of fitness in the first place.
For the weight loss crowd, you might spend hours out of your week doing HIIT training, bootcamp in the
park, Zumba, whatever it may be. Its easy to think that one day youll be fit. Just have to keep training.
Then one day you can finally do what you want to do. But what is that exactly?
Ill tell you what I think it is its to maintain a high quality of life by moving your body. Thats it.
But we have become so distant from this disposition that we think we have to allow time to move. We say,
OK, from 5 pm 6 pm Monday night I have my fitness class. On either side of that its back to the daily

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grind. And so that during the rest of our day we spend time sitting in a car for a 5 minute drive or waiting
for an elevator for only 2 or 3 floors.
There are two fitness philosophies Id like to highlight in this post. Both of which have had profound effects
on my own training and methodologies.
Proceed at your own risk, these methods may change the way you view fitness for the better!
MOVNAT
I first learned of Movnat during its early years in an article in Mens Health magazine. If the article was the

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bait, then the video below got me hooked. Immediately, I was drunk on the Kool-aid. I had never been a
runner, but after watching the movement of Erwan LeCorre I felt inspired like never before.

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In fact, I credit Movnat with kick starting the sequence of events that got me to where I am today. And
after a stress fracture in my foot it taught me to look inward and understand my movement rather than
my ego.
Instead of doing my best to summarize this fitness philosophy, Ill let the following two videos do the
talking:

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If the videos above remind you of the types of activities you did as a kid playing in the backyard, then
youre on the right track. Movnat encourages natural movement. Now, this isnt to say that strength
training is out of the question. But instead of barbells and cable machines, the choice tools are logs, rocks,
tree limbs, etc.
For me, a Movnat comparison rang true a couple years ago. I was at a triathlon and as I watched the
competitors cross the finish line I noticed an interview in progress. A local television studio was speaking
with a race finisher and he was preaching the benefits of staying healthy and having fun in the race.
But what really caught my attention was what was happening in the background. There were a couple
children playing on the playground. One was hanging from the monkey bars about a full body length off
the ground. Swinging from arm to arm, these kids were just having a great time.
They were running, jumping, squatting, doing all the basic human movement patterns.
Quite a comparison to the triathletes, dont you think?
IDO PORTAL
Ido is a relative newcomer on my radar. Hes doing some really amazing things with regards to getting
folks back to their natural movement patterns. But the reason it made this blog post is that after watching
the interview below, I felt similar to the way I did after watching the Movnat video. Immediately
afterwards, I took to the floor in my living room to play around with crawling.

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What Ido has made popular is the concept of self dominance.


Think body weight exercises and manipulation. Think improvisation. Think playing around outside in the
grass, jumping, crawling, all that good stuff. What really resonates with me from the video below is that
this idea of self dominance is a prerequisite to weights. Put rather bluntly, what business do you have
lifting a barbell if you cant do a handstand?
You must master your own body before you can lift heavy things and put them back down again, claims
Ido.
My only criticism is that yes, some of us actually like bench pressing!

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Portal is definitely someone to watch in the coming years.


WHERE DO YOU START?
Depending on your background, the two fitness philosophies may seem either extremely approachable
or intimidating. If youre leaning towards the latter, lets open up the aperture a little.
Youd be surprised at all the opportunities you have around you to move. Here are two examples:
1. Getting up

You may not spend much time thinking about how you get up from off the ground, but I guarantee you will
when you are 65 years old. Moving your body from a seated position on the ground to standing is the
simplest thing, but its often the first thing we lose as we grow old.
Not surprisingly, this is somewhat prevalent in Western societies. Why is that? Well, we have a lot of chairs.
We sit all the time. Sometimes we have to (Im seated on a plane as I write this) and other times we do
because we are just plain lazy. But all this sitting works to lock up our hips, legs and lower back.
Lets say that you are seated cross legged on the floor and want to get up. Hmmm, now you need that
mobility in your hips, dont you? It doesnt take a wild imagination to dream up what people do when they
have difficulty just standing up, does it? Ill give you a hint, its not very active whatever it is.
Heres something you can do and you dont even need a gym membership. Next time youre watching the
tube and a commercial break hits, get out of your chair and sit on the ground. Sit however you like. Now,
get back up and stand.
And sit back down.
Now stand back up a different way.
Maybe you rolled to the right the last time, try the left this time. Get creative and see how many different
ways you can come up to standing.

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See, that was easy, wasnt it? And I bet you didnt even miss that pharmaceutical commercial, did you?
2. Squat!

Relax, Im not talking a back squat here, Im talking about the simple movement pattern we were all so
found of as children and the one that many in the world depend on because there simply isnt a chair
nearby. Im referring to the squat that we can call our portable chair.
A full range of motion squat is a wonderful thing. Olympic weightlifters pop in and out of this position with
ease, but for many this can be a painful position. Many folks may have difficulty getting into a squat
because of their knees. If you have underlying issues, then this isnt for you. But if youre healthy, heres
what I want you to do: get up from the computer and try squatting down.
Heres a good cue if you need it squat through your knees.
What that means is that if you put your palms together with your elbows out to either side, then when you
squat your elbows should pass right on the inside of your knees. In other words, your feet are not going to
be hip width apart, this isnt how people squat. We dont fold up like an accordion.
If youre trying this in your living room because your knees are A-OK and you still cant make it down to a
nice comfortable position with your feet flat, then Id hazard a guess that the bottleneck is your ankle
dorsiflexion.
This is another area where many of us in our 30s will discover mobility issues. Sometimes the root cause is
flexibility in your calves and sometimes it may be a structural issue. In my personal experience, my talus
bone wasnt moving freely. If its the former you better start working on your flexibility and if its the latter
you may want to consider a physical therapist/chiropractor/doctor/rolfer, etc.
But my knees are out over my toes, Ryan! I cant do that!
Everyone from my yoga instructor to my favorite fitness magazines are constantly reminding me to keep
my knees behind my toes. And theyre right to an extent.
We often hear this advice because for a greatly deconditioned society (read: the USA) putting the knees
out over the toes may be a recipe for disaster. The anterior chain is lengthened and the patella often gets
strained just trying to keep up. In fact, I recommend that only dedicated Olympic weightlifters or those
with excellent mobility attempt full ROM squat with weight.
But body weight is a different story. If youre a healthy individual then the human body has no problem
squatting down.
When I lived on the cubicle farm I would take a 30 second break several times a day and pop-a-squat right
there in my cube. It was an amazingly refreshing movement when I had been standing at a desk, or seated
for that matter.
THE CHANGING FACE OF FITNESS
To really appreciate the prevalence of fitness concepts like Ido and Movnat, you need to understand how
things have changed over the past 60 years.
In the 50s, people started to lift weights and exercise for the purpose of excelling at sports. In a nutshell,
men would lift often and lift heavy. They used barbells and dumbbells in big compound movements and
often lifted the weight over their head.
Then in the 70s, bodybuilding emerged in the USA as the driving force behind weightlifting. It was all about
size. People trained to become statues. Flexibility and athleticism were secondary goals to quad
development and a huge back. Consequently, isolation theory emerged the idea that we had to train our
body parts one at a time. Single plane machines of all shapes and sizes came onto the scene.
In the 90s, it was Curves, pilates, yoga, marathons, the list goes on and on. On the one hand, this was
great. Many different types of people were becoming interested in many different types of fitness. But on
the other hand, many were easily duped into fitness programs that promised unrealistic results.
Product placement was also ubiquitous. Remember all those ab machines? In short, it was easy to equate
fitness with some sort of product.
At the turn of the 21st century there was one constant theme that came up so often it was often misused.
You guessed it: functional fitness.
But heres whats interesting, functional fitness is nothing new at all. In fact, this is what the strong guys of
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But heres whats interesting, functional fitness is nothing new at all. In fact, this is what the strong guys of
the 1950s were doing. They ate reasonably well because all the fast food chains and preservatives of today
hadnt been created at that time and they didnt have all the fancy weightlifting machines that forced their
bodies to move in unnatural patterns.
But you know what people forgot? That all they really had to do to lose weight or increase their strength
was two things:
(1) Make good decisions about what goes into your body
(2) Move a lot

Thats really all it boils down to.


WRAP UP
So where does all this leave us?
When I look at the history of fitness outlined above, I feel as though we have been dabbling in different
types of fitness and learning what works and what doesnt. And today, its as though weve come full circle.
Methods like Movnat and Ido Portal are emerging as a means of returning to our roots. Collectively as
humans, we are applying our knowledge of physiology and muscle building science and layering this over
programs of pure movement.
We are learning that we can get strong, build mobility and protect ourselves from injury. But above all else,
we can play in our bodies. We can do handstands. Crawl. Bench press. Be a triathlete.
So long as we remember that its all about movement.
We have an interesting future ahead of us everyone.
By Ryan Wagner
Further reading:
Athletic Human, Ankle Mobility Exercises
Movement X with Ido Portal
References:
http://athletichuman.com/fitness-is-a-small-world-within-the-universe-of-movement/
A tale of two fitness methods, Movnat and Ido Portal by Ryan Wagner
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