Gray Cook’s Movement Principles

Movement: Functional Movement Systems
Gray Cook, Chapter 15, Movement Principles

This is part 10, the final piece of a 10-part series in which Gray further develops the 10 movement principles he presented in Chapter 15 of his book, Movement.

Here’s a pdf of the full set of 10 Movement Principles.
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Principle 10: The routine practice of self-limiting exercises can maintain the quality of our movement perceptions and behaviors and preserve our unique adaptability that modern conveniences erode.

When corrections have done their jobs and it’s time to get back to exercise, this is your opportunity to prevent future problems. The addition of self­-limiting exercises to the exercise program or as preparation or cool down can keep authentic patterns maintained. Since self-limiting exercises offer greater challenges, you can create situations to use these as a form of play or self-competition.

This is the bow I hope everybody gets to when reading Movement, because if they stop at Principle 9, they’ll literally think Gray Cook is a corrective exercise geek who doesn’t appreciate ‘bad ass’ strength training and exceptional feats of athleticism.

I like getting after it. I have accidents. I hurt myself all the time. I’m very much into pushing the limits. I really want people to explore as much physical capacity as they have.

If you’ve done your homework and have gotten your body right, go out and have fun. Run a marathon. Do an ultra. Fight somebody in an organized setting. Play some golf. Do whatever.

But self-limiting exercise means exercise that’s the 180-degree opposite of climbing on a treadmill, plugging into your iPod and just blindly becoming a rat on a wheel.

Self-engaging exercise and self-limiting exercise is balancing on a beam. It’s doing an inverted bottom-up kettlebell press or a Turkish getup. It’s doing some tumbling or gymnastics. These are all things that require us to be fully engaged. This engagement really closes a loop on the mind-body situation.

Here’s my thing if you have dysfunction. Our standard for this is anything below a ‘2,’ anything that’s an asymmetry or anything with pain in your movement screen. If you have a dysfunction, work on it. Clean it up. Get it fixed — get some help. Once you get above that cut-point, you don’t have to necessarily do six hours a week of foam rolling, then do your correctives. Make sure your corrective is solid and that you’ve made a true change.

Some of the activities I put in the Movement book are true examples of self-limiting exercise where they require engagement as well as a good blend of mobility and stability. Use some of those exercises in your weekly routine to really challenge all the different faculties you’ve brought together by recapturing some of your movement. Do this in exchange for becoming a corrective junkie.

I’d like to think that a few times a year I get back in shape after all this travel. My movement screen is not great, but it’s adequate. Without any stretching or foam rolling, I can maintain a great movement screen just by doing a few Turkish getups on each side, whether I’m weight training, doing stand-up paddleboarding or doing a little jogging.

All of those planes of movement and all of those movement patterns are in a Turkish getup. Many of them are also in a yoga sun salutation. Grab something that works for you and do it. It’s not so much done for corrective strategy. It’s self-limiting.

Please click here for a longer discussion of self-limiting exercise.

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