The other day I had a chance to head down to the science center in San Diego where they have a bunch of mind-engaging scientific experiments to help kids (and adults) learn about science in a fun way. This was a lot of fun actually, especially because of the building blocks.
In the back of the science center there was an area with tables and chairs (sturdy enough for me, but built for a child) and a ridiculous amount of little wooden planks. Nothing too fancy, about 1 inch wide x 5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. I spent over 45 minutes building with these little blocks and I was made aware of the rather stark contrast between a toy like this, or a model type set up where you would find a specific series of pieces. Supposing you followed the directions properly, you would end up with the picture on the box.
There are benefits to each type of work. In modeling, you get to follow through on directions and it requires great attention to detail. In the freestyle type of building blocks maneuvers, you get to exercise your outside-the-box thinking and use critical thinking to solve problems.
It’s probably obvious which I gravitate toward more in terms of developing mental and physical skills.
Exercise can, and should be the same type of experience. The problem is that most coaches just want to give you the model airplane and say, “here, play with this,” when they would be better off giving a box of wooden blocks.
When it comes to training and exercise, we lack a common understanding of building blocks, which forces us into using a previously designed model.
One thing I try to do now when teaching is to facilitate self discovering rather than just simply providing the answer–think back to that teacher in school who always led you to find the answer rather than just giving it to you. This is how it works with building blocks.
There are some basic commonalities in training. You can push or pull with the upper and lower body. You can do things that make your torso work hard. You can do things that make your heart rate go up really high. You can carry stuff. You can work on movements that enhance your flexibility without doing any of the above. What we can do, is understand some of these categories (or building blocks) and discover new ways to modify and organize them to a new desired result.
This was my primary goal with Ultimate Athleticism, actually. Not to give you a model airplane, but to give you building blocks with a lot of good ideas on how to use them, while at the same time providing an opportunity to flex, change, and evolve.
Take the front lever for example. We can categorize it as an upper body pulling movement (or building block). From there we can change it in a variety of ways by changing the hand position (up, down, supinate, pronate), making it static or dynamic, rotating the torso, or even transitioning in and out of the position in a variety of ways. The trick is to have an understanding of the blocks and give yourself the wiggle room to change in a variety of ways, while still maintaining the category. In this regard it doesn’t matter whether you are front levering, doing pullups, rock climbing, or doing rows on the machine, it’s still an upper body pull. Small deviations don’t detract from the efficacy, they actually enhance your brain, and your movement competency.
Ditch the model airplane and build it from scratch, the journey will yield you greater rewards.
The first Ultimate Athleticism Workshop was fantastic and I learned a few lessons about how to make it even better. Find out more about the upcoming Ultimate Athleticism Workshops here.