FIRST Move Well, THEN Move Often
This idea, coined by physical therapist and FMS (Functional Movement Systems) founder Gray Cook, has become a mantra for me. And while this phrase has most often been used in the physical therapy world, and in select parts of the movement/training world, I feel that it has much larger implications.
This idea could be (and probably needs to be) the way that we approach not only human performance, but also general fitness. Today, when someone is sedentary, or overweight, or out of shape, we tell them to hit the gym consistently and work hard. We emphasize moving often, but we don’t give them the tools that they need to move well. And the more we move often without moving well, the more likely we are to not only sustain an acute injury, but also to wear our bodies out and reduce the longevity of our ability to move at all.
There’s a reason why the phrase is FIRST move well, THEN move often, and not “move often while doing a few things to work on moving well”. There’s a huge difference. And while some of the biggest names in the game, people who I respect deeply, prefer the second approach of slowly correcting as you go along, I feel that learning to move well should almost always come before moving often.
Even at top gyms and training facilities, ones that perform FMS or other functional movement scans, very rarely do they actually train people to move well before having them move often. It’s usually a “correct as we go along” mentality that almost always leads to moving often (and many times moving heavy loads often) being prioritized over moving well. Unfortunately, this often leads to the moving well never being achieved. Or, if it is achieved, it’s after a large amount of wear and tear has been placed on the body and damage is done.
Following the “first move well, then move often” order is likely to be the best way to reduce injuries and create people who can move well and move often, well into their older years. It also gives us the best chance of performing our best because we end up building strength, power, and speed on top of biomechanically-efficient movement patterns instead of onto poor and inefficient movement patterns.
Now it’s also important to note that the phrase isn’t “first move perfectly, then move often.” Although we strive for perfect movement, it’s not realistic in many cases, especially as we add more complexity and/or heavier loads to our movements. Moving well means moving efficiently, and more importantly, moving without putting abnormal stress on our body. Our goal levels should always be first, to prevent acute and overuse injuries, second, to improve physical performance, and then third, to reach movement perfection and ultimate physical expression.
So, how do we do this? Learning to move well before moving often certainly takes a commitment and a level of patience that may be beyond what most people are willing to put in. The overweight sedentary person is more concerned with losing weight, looking good, and being healthy, than moving well. The top athlete many times is more concerned with winning than with moving well.
The answer is that we’re going to have to make moving well a priority, and the driving ideological framework for all of our training programs. It’ll take skilled professionals who not only know how to move well themselves, but who also know how to teach it to everyone from the overweight and middle-aged, to the middle school and high school athlete, to the top professional athletes in the world.
If we’re able to make “first move well, then move often” a priority and part of our culture, it will change lives, both in the high-performance world, and in the general population. We will have fewer injuries, less chronic pain, and more people moving and feeling their best. The results will be healthier, happier, higher-performing people who look forward to moving well and moving often!
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