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  • Writer's pictureGraham Mountford

Movement vs Muscle

Before we start, let’s lay out some of the misunderstood stereotypes.

If you are strong – as in hypertrophied enough to show you go to the gym – you are stereotyped as stiff, inflexible or a “walking fridge”. On the other side of the spectrum, if you are all about flexibility and movement exercises that require you to bend, roll and move like an origami sculpture, you must have poor strength.

But whether you’re keen on movement or strength training, the combination of training for movement and muscle gain can have many complimenting benefits to your fitness goals.

As much as our bodies can surprise us by lifting extremely heavyweights, we are also made to enjoy the challenge of movement. Yogis and dancers can benefit from lifting weights. Lifters can also focus on developing flexibility and possibly build a diversified platform to develop healthy movement techniques.

So, where is the middle ground between developing healthy movement while meeting muscle-building or weight goals? What are the values that fitness and personal training individuals give back into the industry?

Let’s start by looking at bodybuilding as an example. There is no better sport than the art of chiselling your physique aesthetically on a competitive and showmanship level. The sport has progressed over time to adjust to multiple body types, displaying more governing bodies and categories than ever before.

Today’s bodybuilders have never looked so large and cut with minimal fat surrounding clearly defined muscles. You only need to compare today’s era of powerlifters – those lifting maximal weight in a squat, deadlift and bench press – to see the impressive sculpting of muscle tissue in a sport that is often seen in enormous hulks who who don’t care about aesthetics or complexity of movement. These athletes today whether in body building or maximal powerlifting look to combine and often will compete between the two sports depending on the season.

Check out Brandon Curry, Mr Olympia of 2019 Mr Olympia, training with powerlifting protegee Larry Wheels. Although Curry displays impressive vascularity in his arms, Wheels doesn’t have the same look yet his strength is comparable to Curry’s!

Without a doubt, these guys are strong! But can they move?

Just because you aspire to be a popping mover like Shaq, this doesn’t mean your muscle mass has to compromise. But Shaq still went through a lot of strength training to support his performance on the court. Movement is not a talent. Everyone is born to move!

Jon Call offers a superb approach to his own athleticism and training advice. As he mentions, a guy his size isn't usually able to perform the movements that he does. He Is he gifted? Of course, but he is also and a true example of what’s possible when it comes

to squashing those myths.

Whether your goal is to put your leg behind your head, lift three times your body weight or pop, twist and bend to music like Michael Jackson, focus on specificity when it comes to developing an effective training program. You can be strong and agile, muscular and flexible and competent in any complexity of movement.

Aside from training, remember to give yourself every chance of taking in nutrition and plenty of rest. Reap the rewards of a fulfilled training program and its many diversities. Fitness isn’t crunch time. This is a lifelong journey. No six-week transformational fix will lead you in good stead to greatness.

So what’s the conclusion? What and where do we go next with the concept of movement and its place in the gym? Or, should it stay admired as a niche in the parks?

My take comes from a place of curiosity and I’m keen on exploring what my strength and movement training can do for me. Confronting your lack of strength or flexibility is like confronting fear. Take the rifle approach to the goals you set for yourself and consider a shotgun approach when facing your weaknesses.

And if you don’t have time for greatness, hire an expert to assess and assist in identifying your norms to help you develop the look, feel and execution of what is true health, fitness and well-being for you. At the end of the day, you know your body best and what works for you. Fine-tune BS detector when you hear absolutes at any given point. Figure out how easy or adaptable you are to the demands of any given type of training or environment.

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