Powerful Frequency

frequencyReaders, as I learn more I drift away the old paradigms that guided my practice. One thing on which I am constantly loosening my grip is the idea that a concentrated dose of movement once a day is enough for us to be strong and healthy. Moving more often outside of formal practice sessions has been a hugely valuable revelation for me. I talked about the power of movement frequency before in Greasing the Groove, but it’s time to apply this idea to our practices more broadly.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the few elements of my practice that truly improved over the last year was getting more low-intensity movement throughout the day. I’m trying to avoid spending long periods of time in the same position, as our bodies can quickly adapt to the input they receive. That’s why there is such demonization of sitting these days. It’s not because the position of sitting is necessarily evil (although it does have it’s bad points), but because many of us spend a great deal of time in that position and therefore accumulate its negative effects rather quickly (decreased hip extension, floppy glutes, angry discs, compromised blood circulation, and all that). So I make a point now of periodically moving in ways that emphasize those positions in which I haven’t been. (If I’ve been sitting for a while, for example, I’ll spend some time in a lunge stretch and hang from the pull-up bar for a bit.) Thanks to this frequency of exposure, I feel that the ranges of motion I’ve been working to restore are now much more available to me without a lot of preparation.

I still think engaging in longer, formal practice sessions is important. For one thing, practicing at a more intense or advanced level requires a certain amount of preparation, which does not necessarily lend itself well to a quick burst. It would be ill advised to regularly attempt 3RM squats or a complex movement at the edge of one’s ability while “cold”. I also think that, for many of us, it takes a little longer to mentally calibrate for optimal practice. Longer sessions give you a chance to get in the groove, and maybe discover things that you wouldn’t have if you were busting out a quick session on a whim.

That said, I have faith in our capacity as humans to slowly start drawing our movement practice out over the day, to cultivate a state of constant readiness, both mental and physical, for movement. The more often I move throughout the day, the more I feel that the real potential to achieve such a state. That doesn’t mean we would always be prepared for peak performance, but our readiness to move would be far above that of coming off of the couch after a long, uninterrupted Netflix session. After all, wouldn’t a human living in a natural environment have to be constantly ready to act? We still have that genetic profile, it just needs the right input to be properly expressed.

To take it one step further, I’ve been experimenting with frequency in my programming. Two of my big goals for this training year are to achieve a good back handspring and a consistent 30 second handstand. Currently, the two big training tools that I’m using to work towards these goals are the back bridge and wall-facing handstand holds. I was struggling over the Christmas holidays to lay out a weekly rotation of training sessions that would adequately address these movement progressions. My typical approach only fit these movements in once per week, and that just didn’t seem good enough. Then the concept of increasing the frequency struck me: why not include these elements within each training session at a lower volume? The idea here is that the frequency of practice day to day would outweigh the benefits of hitting these elements really hard once per week. I am currently including these elements in something like a superset with the main movements of the day.

At this point, I don’t have a lot to report on this method. (It has only been six weeks.) I can say that I haven’t accumulated any noticeable overuse from the frequency of practicing the handstand and bridge at this point, and I have been able to increase my time in these positions bit by bit. The volume increase within each session has been small, by necessity, but adding five seconds to each position per week adds up to a decent increase in weekly volume. I’ll keep you guys updated as the program goes forward.

So, reader, if you are struggling to make a change, if you feel like it takes forever to get properly warmed-up to train, if you want to boost your progression in a new skill, start thinking about how often you move. Slowly layering on more frequency may be the most powerful move you can make to accelerate your practice.

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The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

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