MovNat, the “workout the world forgot”, recently posted 7 strong to be helpful fitness challenges, which I want to highlight here as they’re beneficial to be able to do for obstacle course racing, parkour, and ancestral fitness.
They’re about challenging you to not just be fit, but be fit in a way that’s practical and vital. They’re about being “physically and mentally ready to use your training and physical skills to help, not just yourself, but others, anytime needed. Life is full of these events, ranging from day to day situations such as helping to move furniture, to life challenging ones when lives must be saved.” Hence, they’re about attaching a higher purpose – of being strong enough to help others – to fitness training.
I’m a fan of the “be strong to be helpful” concept – as it comes from the fitness ideas of Georges Herbert who inspired both MovNat and parkour (I want to delve into this more in a future blog post). While the concept is often given lip-service within the parkour community it’s rarely taken further into actual parkour training, and it’s refreshing to see MovNat reviving the concept to their community and challenging others to achieve it by setting 7 goals to reach. The challenges are:
7 Strong to be Helpful Fitness Challenges
I tried them myself, and have included photos of either myself achieving them or of others achieving them in a class through Movement Unleashed.
1 – Hold a comfortable squat position for 10 min
The squat is the resting position, with health benefits! Unfortunately, most of the Western world can’t do this one due to us not ever needing to squat during our everyday lives. Being able to contract into a deep, ass-to-grass, squat and then correctly extend to lengthen out again is a fundamental skill for many other movements, and so is a good base to begin training from.
2 – Walk in balance on a rounded, approximately 5 inches/12cm thick, 24 feet/7-8 meters long beam elevated 3 feet/1m or more, without stepping down
Balance is something that takes practice. It’s also a fundamental skill for being able to move well in a functional manner, so I’d recommended getting balancing down before progressing your functional training.
3 – Jump over a 6 feet/2 meters, 3 feet / 1 meter high gap from a standing position, land smoothly without being off balance, and recover a standing stance
Jumping requires a massive amount of force generation (and absorption, on the landing). During a precision jump over a gap, many elements of strength and awareness are all combined into a second of movement. In an emergency, being able to jump over a hazard, or do the same movement to lift something quickly, could save your life.
4 – Foot-hand crawl (aka “bear” crawl) a distance of 200 yards/meters without marking a pause
Crawling is something you don’t need to do any longer in modern life and, to be honest, would look weird if you did it out in public while everyone else is walking around you. That doesn’t stop some people through – people who want to do it to develop fitness benefits. In an unstable, emergency environment, such as after an earthquake in New Zealand, crawling over broken terrain may come in handy.
5 – Run 5 miles/8 km on natural terrain under 45 minutes
Running is , hands-down, the most essential of all movements for survival. It’s also de-stressing, a great way to get outside, and a natural way of getting around. Just don’t fall into the common cardio trap of only running and avoiding any form of strength or mobility training such as the other challenges in this list.
6 – Lift and carry over 50 yards/meters an object as heavy as your own weight, without putting it down
Load bearing promotes healthy development of posture, muscles and bones. In most good fitness programs you pick heavy objects up, but then put them down again… whereas in a real-world situation you’ll actually need to carry the heavy object somewhere, so why not, for more practical benefits, add carrying into your program?
7 – Climb on top of a minimum 5 inches/12cm thick horizontal bar starting from a dead hang position
Hanging and climbing are natural human skills important for the strengthening and health of our upper-body, shoulders, and posture… but they’re almost entirely, if not entirely so, ignored by fitness programs. How many fitness routines involve any sort of hanging exercises? Practically none (perhaps CrossFit and gymnastics and a few others, such as MovNat, are the exceptions). Don’t miss out on the benefits of training this natural movement. While there are numerous advanced ways of achieving this challenge, this method from MovNat below is probably the easiest way to accomplish it:
So there we go.
How many can you do?
Taken together these goals cover:
- lifting and carrying
…which all fundamental natural human movement skills. Yet these fundamental movement skills are often neglected from many people’s physical training.
These skills are something I want to continue to build-on in my own training and obstacle racing. After attempting them, I managed to achieve them all.
Although to look at things in perspective, being able to accomplish these skills does not qualify you for the army, or the firefighting or police forces, or any other difficult role where you may very likely need to be “strong to be helpful” to save a life… but I still like to think that being fit in this way – in a practical, functional way – has more real-world carry-over in the case of an emergency than would training in other, perhaps more commonly promoted by the modern fitness industry, ways. But to exercise for practical usefulness in the unlikely case of an emergency of needing to move to save your own life or the lives of others, then these challenges are great. And they’re more in-tune with our DNA and the way we used to move before we invented modern environments. Arguably, we should bring some of that time back. Exercising for health and the ability to be “strong to be helpful” could be one of those things.