I have learned recently to make a more efficient use history to guide the future. We don’t need to re-create the wheels of fitness—just remember which direction they need to turn and get started doing it.
Remember, the “best” in American fitness used far different methods which were far more advanced to create generations of people that moved better—and SAFER. Controlling your body during movement is a huge factor in moving safely, so let’s look at through a safety lens for even more value.
*Historically, the best in American fitness worked on “Structure First” to establish safety and proper mechanics. They did not train to failure or extreme fatigue. Their guideline for training intensity was 90% of perfection or better. If they could not maintain 90% perfection, they stopped the exercise or modified so they could maintain structure and safety. Their training was MINDFUL or “focused”–not just “working out” for the sake of burning calories and sweating because that was not good enough—and too dangerous.
In the broad sense, there are three levels of progressions that the best in American fitness used to guide their safe and efficient training:
- ON The Ground Training
- OFF The Ground Training
It makes even more sense when we break it down a bit further.
ON Ground Training: This is where we establish our “structure” and set our safety practices. Back to the “Structure First” approach to training as form and structure sets up actual movement. If you have poor structure—your movements will be compromised and never as efficient as they could be with proper structure—and definitely not as safe if your structure is poor. So we should start on the ground initially which will be safer. As we set our foundational structure and learn the basic movements, we create an excellent base which we can build more fitness upon by adding more progressions, intensity, complexity, etc. but ONLY if we have proper structure. We can still train hard on the ground too—but remember not to extreme fatigue or failure because that is not very efficient.
OFF Ground Training: If you want optimal fitness or to be the best you can be—you must use “OFF” ground training. “ON Ground” training is merely the beginning but not the end and has limitations compared to off ground training. If you cannot or will not establish proper structure and mindful training on the ground, you have no business going off the ground! However, once you have good structure and can move safely on the ground, we can start using various off ground methods. Here’s a short list of various off ground methods. Note that we have entered a “Renaissance of Fitness” where many of these former methods are making their way back—and some are from off the ground training history too.
- Pull Up Bar
- CrossCore 180 Rotational Trainer
- Gymnastic Rings
- Inversion (hand stands, inversion tables, inversion boots, yoga inversion slings, rolling, etc.)
- Rope Climbing
- Parallel Bars
- Peg Boards
- Stall Bars
- Monkey Bars
- Overhead Horizontal Ladders
Your world will change when you start training OFF the ground! It’s far more difficult, but with tools like the TRX, we can modify in order to do some easier off ground training so people can maintain structure and form. In my opinion, THE BEST tool for starting off ground training is the simple yet highly effective pull up bar. There is so much we are doing with a pull up bar besides military pull ups! We have so many options from easy to hard with a good pull up bar. More on pull up bars specifically soon.
*If you saw Pink during the iHeart New Year’s Eve special in Las Vegas, she was flying around the auditorium on a suspension device. Interestingly, this has historical base as many in former generations of fitness used off the ground suspension trainers for various acrobatic moves. The exercise routines in Cirque Du Soleil also have historic reference when you examine the old routines used 100 years ago, so again, we are in this “Renaissance of Fitness” where these and more are making their way back. How can the Cirque performers do such feats? They have great STRUCTURE. Start there first. Watch how they maintain perfection in structure even after putting their bodies into motion and motion at speed. Additionally, kettlebells and Indian Clubs are also part of the “on ground training” renaissance by the way.
Combatives: For purposes of self defense or national defense. It’s going to come down to survival of the fittest. From the historical perspective, ultimately you use your fitness to protect yourself and your family and your nation.
Summary: So, establish proper structure, mindful training, and SAFETY on the ground first then move into off the ground training as you are able. Pull Up Bar and TRX options are the easiest way to begin. Ultimately, some level of combative fitness should also be considered if you take a lesson from history.
If we learn from the history of fitness, we should be able to keep participating in a physically active and healthy lifestyle over a long period of time. From a Lean Berets perspective, fitness should not be about a short-term fix or temporary contest–it’s a lifestyle.
*Special thanks and sincere appreciation to Dr. Ed Thomas for his historical perspective on the progressions of fitness.