By Eric Brown, MovNat Expert Trainer and former Navy SEAL
Yes, ideally you should be able to take action at a moment’s notice. And in a real-world scenario, you probably can. But there’s a difference between a real-world incident and a planned practice. And this is where you should look to implement movement preparation (i.e. a warm up), to optimize the efficiency of your output during your practice session.
The purpose of movement preparation is to gently elevate the heart rate, increase circulation, and prepare the body/mind for more vigorous exercise. But we’re not just warming up the body. We’re looking to hit all of the systems involved – e.g. vestibular system, nervous system, energy systems, etc. – to prepare you to move at a higher level of intensity and perform much more efficiently.
Usually taking 5 to 10 minutes, it can be accomplished with an almost unlimited number of movements and drills. Here are four categories of movement preparation that I like use with clients, and in my personal practice, to kick off a Natural Movement session:
1. Dynamic head-to-toe movement
2. Natural Developmental Sequence (NDS)
3. Skill-specific movement
4. Fun/playful movement
Dynamic Head-to-Toe Movement Preparation
This dynamic head-to-toe prep is a quick way of getting the blood and breath going — in a simple and regimented fashion. You pick a string of drills, starting from the head, working your way down to the feet. These are not static stretches, but a dynamic movement of the muscles, tendons, and breath. Note that using the breath to charge the system is a very effective way of quickly warming up in colder weather.
Here an example set of a dynamic head-to-toe movement prep:
Natural Developmental Sequence Movement Preparation (NDS)
Inspired by the neuro-development sequence that happens during our childhood development processes, the NDS is a method of “reverse engineering” natural and practical positions and transitions to warmup the body and focus the mind. Doing an NDS is a great way to get full-body movement preparation. You can start from a prone, kneeling or standing position. You can choose to do a familiar routine or choose movements that will be similar to the movements that you’ll be practicing in your session. For a 5-minute NDS, I like to start from a knee-hand crawling position and work my way up to a standing position. But if I were going to focus on ground movement for a given session, I may stay low during the entire NDS.
Skill-Specific Movement Preparation
The skill-specific movement prep is an excellent way to get ready for an intense session, centered around a particular skill — like jumping or climbing. For instance, you can kick off an intense jumping session by first going through the general landing drill. Because, as you may already know, the most important part of jumping is the landing. So, with a general landing drill, you’ll begin by simply standing tall and raising on the balls of your feet. You’ll do this several times, before progressing to moving your hands forward as your assume a landing position. After several repetitions, include a slight vertical jump (just an inch or two of height) straight into the air. A few more reps and you start to jump forward — still focused on maintaining a nice general landing. By the end of the movement prep, you should be jumping just 2 or 3 feet forward, ready to get into your jump-specific session.
Check out this skill-specific movement prep for jumping:
Fun/Playful Movement Preparation
You grab a tennis ball and start to casually bounce it, from one hand to another. As the seconds turn into minutes, you bounce the ball with more vigor. Higher and higher, using one-handed catches as it approaches the ground. You bounce it off of walls. You bounce it through your legs and over objects. Now you’re doing sliding and diving catches. You set out to spend 5 minutes with this prep, but you’ve been at it for well over 12.
That’s a common characteristic of a fun/playful movement preparation. It’s totally engaging and often includes smiling and some intense laughter. It can be done individually, with a partner or a group. Bouncing balls, catching and throwing a stick with a partner or even progressing from walking to running while playing tag with a group. There are many ways to dress a cat. Just start moving and enjoy yourself, as you prepare yourself for the practice.
Here’s an example of a fun and playful movement preparation using a ball and stone:
So, can you knock out a serious Natural Movement session without getting in a nice segment of movement preparation? Sure. But as time, trauma, and age increase, the chances of creating debilitating injuries may also increase. And, as a safeguard, including an effective movement prep can save you from a lot of pain in the long run; giving you the freedom of movement at a time when you’ll need it the most.
About the Author
Eric Brown is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, Master Training Specialist and Naval Special Warfare Instructor of the Year. Having trained and instructed in a variety of physical and mental disciplines — e.g. obstacle courses, calisthenics, rescue swimming, ROPES challenge courses, combative arts, neuro-associative conditioning — Eric has experienced a wide breadth of life lessons that have brought him to a deeper understanding of his role in life and society. A family man, he enjoys moving with his wife and young son, fully expressing his “NATM – Never Afraid to Move” way of life. As a MovNat Expert Trainer, his mission is to increase the quality of life for the young and old – letting those open to the training know that consistency is the key to moving and feeling better. As he often says, “Patiently persistent practice, produces proper practical progression.”