Phase One: How to Reset the Body and Awake Your Inner 6-Year-Old
Human development is a funny thing. We start life by exploring our surroundings via touch and movement. This exploration develops not just our understanding of the world but of our bodies too.
But then something funny happens around age six - we get sent to school. Gone are the days of moving and exploring, replaced instead by sitting and learning. While there may be some playtime in the middle of the day, more and more that time is a thing of the past. There are even some schools in Australia that have banned children from doing cartwheels for fear of a lawsuit. When the policymakers at school are more worried about a lawsuit than about developing good, well-rounded human beings you know we’ve got problems.
As school budgets get slashed time and again, we lose more and more of the accessory programs - the ones that actually help our children become well rounded. These days it’s not uncommon for children to have no Physical Education classes once they’ve entered high school. In other words, by the time they leave school it is entirely possible that the last time our kids actually had a chance to spend time moving was when they were six.
The body is an amazing machine and incredibly adaptable. The problem becomes that when the thing you spend half your life doing is detrimental to your body, your body actually learns to become better at that thing. The modern human life is a series of sitting positions. From sitting to eat breakfast, to sitting to drive to work, to sitting at work, and then reversing it all to get home again - nine to twelve hours a day of the same posture. And because of that adaptive mechanism the average person is going to get really, really good at sitting. But probably not so good at any other posture.
So do we really need some fancy conjugate plan that waves loads over a six-month period, or do we need to go back in time and do some of the things we’d want our kids to do if we hoped for them to be strong and athletic? Most people’s bodies are like sleepy six-year-olds trapped in a classroom on a sunny day. Their bodies are bored, idle, and screaming to move, yet the modern fitness world welcomes them in and then tells them to sit on an exercise bike or in a chest press machine and to continue developing their ability to sit better. It’s inner child abuse.
What would you do with a six-year-old if your goal were for him or her to be overall athletic in years to come? Would you have the child spend time sitting in a machine or spend time moving a variety of ways?
And this is where Phase One comes in. Phase One is where every program should start. Phase One is (depending on which group you wish to feel aligned to) FMS, Primal Move, MovNat, Ido Portal Method, Original Strength, Ginastica Naturale, or any other form of movement-focused training where the goal is to be mostly in quadruped and move. It is crawling, crab walking, frog hopping, animal movement. It is fluid, tactile training. What I mean by this is that instead of just having our feet connected to the ground, we are also going to have our hands on the ground, which will add sensory input, enhance proprioception, and awaken all our senses.
I know some of you right now are reading this thinking that you have a double bodyweight deadlift and crush WODs and can do the RKC snatch test easily and therefore have no need to crawl like a baby. To you I say this - go outside right now, ditch the shoes, and crawl non-stop for twenty minutes. Hell, you can even change variations if you want to. In fact, that will be even better for you because you’ll develop more motor patterns.
The benefit of Phase One training is simple - it allows the body to reset. Whether you need a reset because you’re coming to movement for the first time in twenty or more years or whether you need it because you are so stiff and tight from all the hard training you’ve been doing doesn’t matter. Everyone needs Phase One.
Phase One is characterized by bodyweight movements, nothing explosive, and the fitness work is aerobic in nature and longer, rather than anaerobic interval type work. Work to rest ratio is two to one, meaning that if you work for a minute you get to rest for half a minute. This allows for a high quality of work to be done that will help us focus on cementing good movement and greasing up the machinery of the body after we’ve let it rust in place for so long.
A sample plan might look like this:
Warm Up – Some joint rotations and easy movement, slowly building up the intensity. A good suggestion would be to follow the warm up in this video and then do a further ten minutes of basic skipping and running drills.
Workout – We’re going to combine two elements here that tie together well. First, we’re going to use movement, and second, we’re going to combine structural and core holds. The main body will be in three blocks, each running for two minutes at a time with a sixty second rest. Completed for three rounds, that makes each block nine minutes. You’ll take an extra minute rest before moving onto the next block and repeating the process.
Block 1: Crawl 30 seconds, push up position plank hold 30 seconds. Do this twice before resting for 60 seconds. Repeat that sequence two more times.
Block 2: Sideways frog hops to the left 30 seconds, squat hold 30 seconds, sideways frog hops to the right 30 seconds, squat hold 30 seconds. Do this twice before resting for 60 seconds. Repeat that sequence two more times.
Block 3: Crab walk 60 seconds, handstand hold 60 seconds. Do this twice before resting for 60 seconds. Repeat that sequence tow more times.
Cool Down – A good buddy of mine, Max Shank, has an excellent little mobility flow he’s put together and it makes an ideal cool down for our Phase One sessions.
Follow a similar plan for four weeks, training three times weekly. On your other days go for extended walks, slow runs, or swims. Just don’t let your heart rate start getting anywhere near race pace or a perceived hard effort. In four weeks you’ll feel relaxed and supple, yet strong and athletic. These deliberate reset periods, while feeling easy, will help push the body to new heights when you’re ready to go that little bit harder closer to your competition or event.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.