Workout of the Day

Next-Level Movement, Backed by the Basics


I’d like to piggyback a bit on Tuesday’s post about positional archetypes that seem to universally present themselves in high performance life and sport. Squatting with a barbell, pressing one’s body weight from the floor, or running at top speed in a straight line on a paved surface is one thing. Here we can easily observe, access, and practice our movement archetypes. Even most novice athletes, with some brief coaching and an hour or so of practice, access these essential positions in a squat or press that make us go “Yes, that’s it! Just like that!” But place these same novice athletes in a more dynamic, less controlled context, and these positions fall apart.

Being able to get into and move through a position is only the first step. Being able to apply these positions in different contexts, to combine them, move between them, even modify them, is a realm of movement creativity that steps beyond simple familiarity and strength of position. It is the difference between simple logical equations (all mammals have a neocortex, dogs are mammals, therefore dogs have a neocortex) and creative use of logic for complex problem solving (how do we optimize learning in a classroom of students with wildly different learning styles and levels?). We most clearly see this next-level creative movement problem solving in the highest levels of sport performance and physical art. Ballet, rock climbing, skateboarding, basketball, etc. Athlete’s develop novel (and, uncoincidentally, beautiful) movement solutions to problems, and exhibit unique creative expression in their movement. It is true movement mastery.

The most common problem, though, is the inclination to skip the first steps: understanding, practicing, and truly mastering the basics. I am reminded of the kitschy internet quote generally attributed to Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” While I seriously doubt Picasso ever uttered the phrase “like a pro,” the message is valuable: you can’t skip the basics. Picasso’s art broke convention and artistic archetypes, but he didn’t get there by just deciding to scribble on a page and proclaim it as highly-regarded art. I’ve caught myself more than once thinking “a kindergartener could draw that!” in reference to a Picasso work. And yet, presented side-by-side, the Picasso piece would always be distinguishable from a kindergartener’s artwork. It’s tempting to want to jump into more complex movements from the get-go, to move onto the flashiest and most interesting movements quickly, to see unconventional, creative, and novel movement solutions used by the pros and assume “well it works for them, why don’t I just do that and stop wasting my time learning how to air squat?”
But you can’t skip the basics.

- PS


  • For time:

    • 150 double-unders

    • 10-9-8...3-2-1

      • Power clean (155/105)

      • HSPU

    • 150 double unders