The Hero's Journey: Introduction to the Fundamental Movements
I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s work on the Hero’s Journey. Campbell believed that all mythology follows an archetypal plot, which he called “the soul’s high adventure.” This legendary framework helps to navigate the personal journey that every individual must take: finding and achieving their true potential.
The hero myth exists to teach us how to reject the status quo, conquer our fear, and find meaning in our short existence on earth. Usually, the hero accomplishes this through physical action.
The human body is the vehicle through which we, the hero, explore our grand adventure. To illustrate my point, watch the opening scenes from the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In a span of 4 minutes, we witness Indy sprint through tough terrain, throw with precision, jump a chasm, climb up that chasm, sprint some more, and finally swim to his escape. Throw some tumbling skills into the scene as well, and you have the physical archetype of a hero.
Most advanced movement can be categorized into 7 athletic movement patterns: Run, Jump, Lift, Throw, Climb, Fight, and Swim. The ability to confidently perform these archetypal movements is the mark of a hero and well-rounded athlete. These movements allow us to fully experience the world and all it has to offer.
As common as they seem, these complicated movements require a foundation of coordination, strength, mobility, cardiovascular endurance, and joint durability. How do we build this foundation?
Enter the Fundamental Movements. If we break down the 7 athletic movements into their most basic components, we find that all human activity stems from 5 fundamental patterns:
Think of these fundamental movements as the building blocks for all advanced movement. When we vary, combine, and add explosiveness to the fundamental movements, we form the 7 athletic movements.
The fundamental movements are the basis of the Adventure Athlete Training System, and should be the foundation for anyone who desires useful, real-world strength. These movements hold great power. They strengthen the muscles and joints, teach us how to move correctly, and translate to broad variety of realistic activity.
As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, one of my pet peeves is when people tell me “I’m so out of shape, I need to start running again.” Running is a complex athletic movement that has a strong impact on the body. If sedentary behavior has eroded your foundation of strength, your body will not be able to handle running. How many times have you heard someone you know get into running, only to stop a few months later due to shin splints, stress fractures, tendonitis, or low back pain. You are attempting a movement that is beyond your current fitness level. You do not run (or play sports) to get fit, you get fit so that you can run safely.
For those who do resistance training, most still follow a machine-based, traditional bodybuilding approach to fitness. Thanks to Arnold, everyone is familiar with the age-old muscle splits: back and bis, chest and tris, quads and calves. This a-la carte approach to fitness focuses on the muscle, rather than the movement.
The way we train in the gym reinforces how we move outside the gym. While a muscle-focused approach can stimulate growth, it fails to teach the body how to actually use those muscles in real world situations.
When we train the fundamental movements, we are building more muscle per exercise, reinforcing useful movement patterns, and teaching the muscles to work together as one unit. With so many people struggling to even find the time to exercise these days, why wouldn’t we devote our training to the movements that give us the most benefit?
Train the fundamental movements often. Focus first on the form and technique: this reinforces how to position the body for the greatest safety and optimal force transfer. For example, learn how to align your knees with the ankles during a squat, and they will remain aligned during a run.
Finally, focus on improving strength. Strength in the fundamental movements translates to improved performance in more athletic movement and better protection from injury. By truly learning how to move, we are building the confidence and durability to freely explore our world.
Rather than focusing on individual muscles or exercises, The Adventure Athlete Training System teaches the principles behind moving well, so that you can apply those principles to any exercise, piece of equipment, or real-world situation. Maximize your ability to experience the physical plane, and truly become the hero of your own adventure.