Throughout most of our existence on this planet, we spent a lot more time on ground level. The average indigenous person today living in similar conditions to their ancestors gets up and down from the ground well over a hundred times per day, and more frequently in elders than adults or youths. This is evidence that all humans have spent the majority of our time on the earth frequently getting up and down from the ground on a daily basis, especially in our more primal era. In our modern society, we have constructed our world to put everything right in front of us, and our innovations create comfortable seating arrangements that don’t require us to get down so often. But our bodies need to engage in their natural movement patterns on a daily basis to maintain function, balance and wellness in life.
Most natural movements such as jumping, climbing, throwing, running, swimming and crawling, for example, are special actions that have always only been necessitated by specific environmental and situational demands. Movements such as walking, getting up and down from the ground, and carrying heavy loads were activities that we have always needed to do much more frequently than the former list of movement patterns.
Katy Bowman is a biomechanist, prolific author, and the founder of Nutritious Movement. In her work, she relates natural movement patterns to dietary nutrients. She calls them movement nutrients. Like dietary nutrients, there are macronutrients, which are required in large amounts (fat, protein, carbohydrates); and there are micronutrients, which are like vitamins and minerals which are required in proportionately very small quantities compared to the macros. Movement macronutrients are the skills of walking, getting up and down, and carrying things. Movement micronutrients are the special action movements like jumping, lifting, climbing, etc…
Though we need only small quantities of micronutrients, if we don’t get enough of them, the balance of the body and its functionality will suffer. The result is the possibility of developing postural misalignments, restricted ranges of motion, and chronic pain and tension in the body. Conversely, if we overdose on a micronutrient, certain patterns become overdeveloped, certain structures become disproportionately tense, and injury as well as wear and tear in the joints can more easily occur.
Too much lifting weights and not enough walking and getting up and down from the ground will make the body stiff. Too much jumping and running can lay the groundwork for sprains, breaks, and other injuries. Too much unilateral movements (swinging a club or bat, drawing a bow, etc…) can change the shape and proportions of your bones in an attempt to optimize the body to adapt to the movement… at a cost to your health and balance. None of these movements are bad, but they are required in a natural proportion that matches the necessity demanded of our natural environment. When we become focused on a sport or certain hobby or activity, we often hyper focus on a skill and ignore the rest. If you’re into weight-lifting, going for a walk might seem like time wasted that could be spent weight lifting.
If you are a professional athlete, you are making sacrifices to the balance of your body in order to develop certain abilities to an elite level. It’s important that you keep in mind your goals. If you're not a professional athlete and your top priority is building and maintaining a capable and adaptable body that is limber, strong, free from pain, and will serve you well into your elder years, building a more balanced movement practice should take precedence over optimizing your movement for specific activities. With a balanced movement practice in place, your hobbies and specialized practices can be built on top of a strong foundation, and you’ll be less frequently injured, and feel more reliability in what you know your body can do.
This follow along routine is for mobilizing your body by getting up and down from the ground without using the hands. The tutorial begins with using assistance from the hands and rocking momentum from the body. We progress to challenging ourselves to try it without assistance with the hands and rock. Even if you can’t do the deepest progressions, you can still follow along for as much of it as you feel comfortable with. Ultimately this ground movement leads to getting up in four foot positions; the figure 4 sit to a deep half kneel, the split stance, the pistol squat, and the deep squat. Can you do them all without using the rock or hands on the ground? If not, how many can you do? If none, can you do any of them with a rock? Let me know in the comments below!