Roundtable #7 – Standards


Roundtable #7 – Standards

Feature Photo by Miguel A Amutio on Unsplash.



If so, what are they?  If not, why not?



Everyone should be able to do what they want to do, with their body, as long as they live (as long as it does not hurt anyone else, of course). When their biology cannot do that, then intervention of some sort is necessary and most appropriate.   — Austin Einhorn


When I think of standards, I always wonder what would be most useful if there were an apocalypse. I would need to be able to walk for long distances. I might need to be able to pull my body up and over an obstacle, and I need to be able to sleep on the ground/get on the floor. So my basic standards to be a human that wants to survive an apocalypse are: you should be able to walk for at least 60 minutes on varied terrain without stopping, you should be able to perform one pull-up, and you should be able to get up and down from the floor easily, in a variety of ways. — Jenn Pilotti


The first thing that comes to mind is that everyone should be able to breathe.
Wait, isn’t everyone already breathing?
Sure.  If you’re not breathing, you’re not living.
Well, if you’re not breathing well, you’re not living well.
I spent a good portion of my life breathing through non-ideal mechanics…mostly through elevation of the ribs which put me into a heavily extension-based pattern.  I was locked up.
It was when I was shown other means to take in AND get out air (maybe even more importantly), that I was able to free myself from decreased degrees of freedom and repetitive thought patterns, among other things.
Learning to respire well allowed me to manage gravity better.  If we can’t breathe, we can’t manage gravity, and if we can’t manage gravity then, well…we won’t be able to do much else well.
Any other “fitness” endeavors you may want to chase…flexibility, mobility, strength, endurance, etc. are going to be limited if you don’t address the foundation first.  Matter of fact, your whole quality of life outside the realm of fitness is going to be hampered if you don’t address your breathing mechanics.
It’s complicated.  Then it’s also simple.  It takes practice, just like anything else.  There is no one right way to breathe and if you only have one way then you’ve got your work cut out for you.  — Tyler Wall


It is the skill that is most intimately linked to our survival. In the presence of a powerful predator or in the midst of a catastrophic event, running well is the only imperative.  — Gary Stockdale


First of all, that is a very tricky question, since it contains the word “should”. I do not consider myself a person anymore to say what each person should or should not do. I am aware of this mindset, which leads to statements like: “Everyone should be able to do a deep squat hold”, “the bridge is the best exercise ever”, “swimming or rock climbing are the most holistic forms of movement”, etc. Ask thousand people and you get thousand different answers possibly. For me the question, in order to be able to answer it, would sound better this way: “Is there a movement standard a specific person SHOULD do within a specific context, in order to achieve a certain goal?” For me this question is definitely better framed to be answered and then my answer would be “dancing, DSH, bridge, Yoga, Feldenkrais, whatever, but it should make you feel good…”. Unfortunately the first question I cannot answer, without sounding like a dictator. But in a nutshell, I would recommend every person to move, because life itself is movement, and it would be really nice, if every person learns to use and appreciate this faculty as long as it is present (use it or loose it). When it is gone, the complaining is on the rise…so we need to think about that before and make certain adjustments, like going for a walk in the evening, or doing Yoga three times a week, or or or.
My personal take is this. For me it is important to work on the following. Strength (Squat, Deadlift, Handstand, Pull Up, Bridge, rotational boxing), Mobility (DSH, Bridge moves on the wall, hanging work, specific Yoga poses), Coordination (Feldenkrais and some kind of Functional Training stuff and Dance), Speed equals Strength for me, Endurance (being on my feet instead of the car or bus…), Relaxation and Entire Body connection (Meditation and Feldenkrais). That is something I do, it may seem like a lot, but sprinkled throughout the day, it is quite doable, but again, this is my personal view. Other might disagree.  — Christian Rabhansl


Lately, typing seems to be an absolutely necessary movement that every human should be able to do! Jokes aside, I do not believe in standards, I believe that human body have not completely evolved yet – hence our incredible capacity for adaptation- and will do so depending on the demands of the future activities.
Think about it, 500 years from now, If we are never gonna be hunter gatherers again, what is the point in keeping that movement pattern? We can use the same effort to develop more needed aspects of our future lives, rather than trying to keep the past alive. When I imagine how it is going to be in 500 years from now, I see different human bodies evolved to do different things. Maybe, some people will not even be walking anymore! Obviously I will be on the more “traditional bodied” who still focuses on physical effort group, but who am I to dictate what should be or shouldn’t be?  — Sev Gurmen


This is a very hot and contested topic, and I often find heavily dependent on the background of the individual spouting what said standard should be.  Strength coaches will, no surprise, say a woman should be able to lift their body weight for a squat, or deadlift, do 10 pushups, or do a bar hang for 30 seconds. A circus person may say people should be able to sit in a butt to floor squat and have ‘x’ amount of flexibility.  If we look out at the majority of the population though, you will find people go about their daily lives with nowhere near this amount of physical ability.  So they would argue ‘I get along fine!’, why do they need to have a movement or strength standard?  They have a valid point but…
The answer I usually give to people is that sure they can go about their lives fine without having the above standards.  But if they work towards a standard of strength, mobility, or endurance it helps them to endure and meet a challenge that may come their way.  They usually will agree that life tends to throw curveballs and has challenges.  They often agree that when they have more strength, and fitness they are able to deal with the step they didn’t see, the curb that came out of nowhere, the grandchild that jumped up on their shoulders, or the bus they had to run for.
It is hard to say definitively exact standards for everyone.  There are lists of values out there, and some come from simply looking at strength averages across the population.  I am usually working with individuals, so on an individual level, in general I ask what people want to do, or get out of their daily lives and then we can work from there.  If people want to be able to get up and down from the floor, then you have to work on the prerequisites for that. First, you have to see can they move their knee past 90 degrees passively, then with load, and finally with a majority of their body weight on it.  Now I have an exact amount of strength and mobility that I need.  Depending on the way they are getting up they may need strength, and flexibility in their arm, as well as balance. In general I get my standards from the person standing in front of me, and assessing what they want or need from their body.  — Cat Cowey


Mmmm… my answer to this one is “no”, but then I think that if you’re happy sitting around playing video games, with your only “movement” being between your chair and the refrigerator or the bathroom, who am I to tell you otherwise?  If a person wants to do more than that, I’d start with the squat as a sustained position — heels down, hips below knees, ideally. You’ve got a lot of possibilities with that for hip mobility, bowel health, maybe even release of low back tension.  After that, the arms and shoulders — a 30 second straight arm dead hang. You’ve got some strength in your grip, a real link of the strength of the arms to the shoulder girdle, some bracing through the torso. Then a one minute plank, and we’ve got some control of core tension.  The list gets much longer very quickly, but what’s priority depends on what a person wants to be able to do, exactly. — Chris Davis


I would say that the movement standard everyone should be able to complete is a full, complete breath that moves as a wave form from the bottom to the top on inhale and from the top to the bottom the exhale.  As this wave form moves up and down it actually begins in the lower abdomen right on top of your pelvis and even moves you perineum.  Then it moves into the abdomen, it moves the kidneys/lowerback area, then the solar plexus. It also expands the ribcage laterally, and then finally the upper back and chest (but not the shoulders).  The exhale then works it way downward in the exact opposite fashion.  This all happens without tension.  For most of us, this complete tension free synchronized breath will take the rest of our lives to allow.
This capacity we are all born with, and gradually lose overtime. Nowhere does stress, immobility, and trauma show up as readily as in restrictions in the breath. The breath is treated as the gateway to life in most ancient somatically oriented cultures, and for good reason. Your degree of aliveness and mental, emotional and physical freedom can be seen in how you breathe. The more completely you breath, the more energy you end up having and the less you restrict feeling in your chest the abdomen, which are two really restricted areas for people.
You breath more than you do any other movement pattern. There is no movement, that is visible to the external world, and hence is a “measure”, that our bodies perform more often than breathing. Countless breath across lifetime, every minute of every day, many of us cannot breathy naturally.  Every day the average human being breaths in 2000 gallons of air, which has a total weight of 25 lbs. That is easily three times the total weight of food and liquids taken in by the average person on a daily basis. That is a lot of weight moved.
Breathing better will impact every over movement you choose to perform, and is a foundational aspect of a movement practice. Depending on how you look at it, it’s the first movement we are asked to perform when we are born. It also the most “inclusive” measure, I can think us because there are people out there without arms and legs, or who are paralyzed, and cannot perform other movements, but they can breathe.
All this is not say that other breathing patterns besides the one mentioned above are not useful to practice, as there are a ton of different applications for the breath, but it all begins with the basics, and that pattern above is fundamental.  — Ramon Castellanos


I don’t believe that anything can serve as the measure of everyone.  Standards, in my mind, are invented benchmarks that serve as an individual’s marker of progress.  They exist because it has been etched in their mind that ‘this’ is a desired outcome that signifies a desired capacity.  The most pressing example is ‘running the mile’.  Why is this such a common measurement used in physical education?  Tradition?  Objectively, what it does is get a lot of kids to hate PE or running … what is negated is that for many you have to teach the skill of running and the principles of endurance and conditioning — assuming improved scores means increased ability and learning and application is how we are failing kids in the current educational system.  We should adjust the task to meet their appropriate levels of challenge and interest, and only build upon that challenge if the student is intrinsically motivated to do more.
Glaring movement deficiencies are entry points of investigation and inquiry, not necessarily points of progress along a particular (typically given and accepted) path.  — Chris Ruffolo


Depending on the person and their desires they should able to perform skills, movements and have the strength to manage such. If you sit in a desk 10 hours a day and want to start __________ (insert activity) , there are a list of prerequisites one must have in order to do so safely and efficiently to counter a sedentary lifestyle.  If we are stripping away all identities of that person, they must be able to perform some basic human movements such as walking, running, hanging, throwing, squatting, creeping, crawling, balancing, and have hand/eye coordination (to rattle off a few). Fundamentals are key to advanced skills, as you can only build as high as your foundation will allow for.   — Brian Fox


The rise in interest in movement is a good thing. Gray Cook, creator of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) calls it the “Movement Movement”. We are living in a time of great growth in our understanding. However it is not a moment too soon. It is clear that in recent decades there has been a major increase in the “physical inactivity” crisis, such that the Lancet has termed it a pandemic: a “physical inactivity pandemic.” Inactivity is tied to numerous non-communicable diseases and metabolic disorders, from depression to diabetes. Given this serious situation, movement is indeed something that we are starting to see as a moral imperative—a “should.” We should all move more. Every human should be able to move freely, safely, and fully.
In terms of a movement standard, I have no quibble with either Cook’s FMS, Liebenson’s Magnificent 7, or the Prague School developmental kinesiology progressions. These are clinical tools designed to facilitate the administration of a focused therapeutic intervention. Among the three, I find the developmental kinesiology progressions to be the most interesting and helpful.
The problem as I see it is not as much about what standard we should set but how to create an environment where that outcome is natural and easy for all people. It is clear from the study of developmental patterns that healthy movement is something we pursue through instinct and play. Babies do not need to be taught how to move. They explore, fail, practice, and invest themselves fully. In fact, the more we get out of their way, removing things like too much furniture, sharp objects, restrictive clothing and shoes (!), the more freely they explore and grow. In other words it is natural to move freely and move well—if we are in a natural environment. Instead, we have created an environment that fundamentally restricts freedom of movement.
While modern society is the most pervasive and productive civilization we have known, it is also the most repressive of movement. We are often unaware of the environmental constraints on our movement which our society creates. Despite appearances of luxury, speed and power, our movement is deeply restricted and this is occurring across lines of class, race, age, and gender. The current “physical inactivity pandemic” is not a result of too many opportunities to move. We can fly in jets, travel in automobiles, or create new virtual realities unlimited by physical laws. But all of these require our bodies to be strapped into a seat.
Simple freedom of movement is the standard that we should set for every human, eroding it only at great peril and risk. The peril is the pandemic of non-communicable diseases and musculoskeletal disorders we are plagued with today. Can we imagine a world where this kind of freedom of movement is possible? What can you do today to change your environment to create more opportunity for natural, easy and healing movement? I like to suggest a simple solution: remove a chair. Remove one or many chairs. There is no shortage.
If I restrict myself to a more concrete answer than “freedom of movement,” I would argue for touch. Touching oneself, touching others, and being touched by others are basic movement tasks that require not only high levels of motor control but complex cultural and social skills. Touch is where movement and meaning intersect. Touch is what makes a movement functional. Touch falls into the category of a “should,” a moral imperative, because of its importance to our physical and mental health, our relationships, and our exploration of the body and the world.
Movement does not exist without touch. Touch is often the goal of movement as well as the impetus for further movement; when touch is restricted culturally we are left with little reason to move. Touch is not only about the hands as sensory tools. Touch is a basic gateway to self-knowledge. Touch stimulates physiological and psychological processes needed for growth, integration, and healing. It is a natural product of shame-free embodiment. Touch is something all people need to experience in rich and diverse quantities at all stages of life.
I suggest exploring touch in slow, gentle encounters. There is a rhythm to different kinds of knowledge. Mathematical reasoning is faster than narrative thought, and bodily knowledge is even slower. Slow down, sip tea, listen to music, touch yourself or be touched, and explore freely. Avoid the impulse to verbalize and instead practice honor, safety, and trust.
All people should have the right, in a safe and respectful environment, to freedom of movement and freedom of touch. The most challenging problem, in my opinion, is not as much about what movement standard we set as about how to create an environment where that outcome is natural and easy for all people. — Jim Freda


I think when we say what other people should do, we tend to really be talking to our past, present, or future selves. At the basic layer, humans who want to keep living need to do things like breathe, sleep, and eat.
At a more interesting layer, we live in a time when you can choose to be a hunter-gatherer or sit at a desk all day. Your choices are own–if your life doesn’t require an overhead squat, then feel free to ignore someone who tells you that you need it.  Some sort of awareness of your choices and their impact might be a good place to start!  — Jeremy Fein



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