Say what you will about the French, but one thing is certain: they know how to take fitness to the next level. Look at David Belle. Zinedine Zidane. Or Georges Hebert – a French naval officer in the Caribbean in 1902. Leaping into action when a volcanic eruption turned his chic, peaceful island into a modern day Pompeii, Hebert and his men had managed to save almost 700 people from the inferno. But the thousands that died left a permanent impression on his mind.
After the incident, Hebert developed a training regiment for his men that Tarzan would have been perfectly at home with. Realizing that you would never do push-ups during an emergency, he based his routine on moves that mattered, being “strong to be useful” as he put it. He focused on 10 basic skills: climbing, swimming, walking, running, jumping, balancing, throwing, lifting, walking on all fours, and self defense. Hebert’s work is being carried on in the jungles of Brazil by his protégé, Erwen LeCorre, who has developed it into a system called Natural Movement, or “MovNat.”
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have access to vast training facilities located on the shores of the rainforest, nor a cadre of Brazilian jiu jitsu masters to train with. But if you have a medicine ball, a bag full of heavy things (rocks, sand, textbooks), you can do just about everything they can do. Start by marking the spot where you are standing, then throwing your ball as hard as you can (use one hand). When it comes to rest, sprint after it, grab it, and sprint back to your spot, changing directions as fast as you can. Next, throw it in a different direction with the other hand.
When you’ve tired yourself out doing that, take your bag of heavy things and do literally whatever you want with it. Throw it up in the air as high as you can (just don’t let it land on you), hoist it up on your shoulders and run with it, swing it around and throw it. Or, you can refer to my playground workout post for some inspiration. There is no real routine here – the best thing about MovNat is that it employs the principle of muscle confusion, an important concept for maximum muscle growth that requires your muscles to constantly adapt to new challenges. If you do the same routine week in and week out, your muscles develop for that exact routine, which is great if the extent of your daily muscle demands are lifting a stable weight straight up and down multiple times. But by forcing them to do a variety of different movements, you build the all around functional strength that Georges Hebert and Erwen LeCorre found so important.