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Updated: May 23, 2023

Many authors of exercise blogs, lifting pages and movement disciplines are constantly talking about building a “strong foundation.”

Most of those articles agree that having strong fundamentals insures that an athlete will have a higher work capacity, be less injury prone, while making faster, more long lasting gains.

However what these authors don’t necessarily explain or agree on is which strong fundamentals are necessary.

Most authors worth their salt will probably explain that the fundamentals are the basic human movement patterns that translate to exercise, squat, press, pull, run, jump, throw.

This assessment of the basics is both rational and useful. These basic movement patterns help to ensure athleticism, correct bodily function and promote strength and longevity. The problem with this assessment is that these movement patterns are both basic and advanced. They are what we progressively load and complicate over a long period of training. A good coach or athlete is constantly refining and re-teaching these basics to gain strength and efficiency. Having strong fundamentals are tantamount to having a life long training plan.

I will contest that within these fundamentals are more basic concepts that are overlooked and under utilized.

#1 Breathing and Bracing

The most basic of training concepts that underlie all of the above mentioned exercises is the ability to breath and control the muscles of the abdomen.

A trainee starting out, or a person with experience that wants to improve on their current ability should dedicate a large part of their training schedule to diaphragmatic breathing and bracing of the abdomen. Learning to breath deep under pressure and stabilize the trunk is the single most important aspect for strength and safety in any exercise. This must be done several times a day everyday.

#2 Mind Muscle Connexion - Flexing

Next a person must look to their ability to contract and relax the muscles they intend to use in the movement. If we are going to work the legs, it is imperative that we feel the leg muscles contract and expect force. Many trainees begin exercising without any consciousness to whether the muscles they are intending to work are functioning in a meaningful way.

Spending time feeling and squeezing the muscles of the body will prime the organism for the work that will be done. Coaches around the world are constantly telling their clients, “Activate your glutes!” “Squeeze your obliques!” ... their clients have no idea where these muscles are or how to “activate “ them because they’ve never consciously done so.

This is a skill that’s must be learned and practiced regularly from the very beginning. I recommend being a little vain and spend some time in front of a mirror everyday flexing different parts of the body.

#3 Visualisation

The third fundamental skill is using the imagination. Practice daydreaming about the exercises and physical characteristics that are desired. Visualisation is a skill that is spoken about by high performers and coaches regularly but few people practice. This is a skill that transfers to all aspects of life but for now we will look at its repercussions on training.

It’s been shown through fMRI studies that the same neurological centers in the brain activate through visualisation as they do during the same exercise. That means that a person can accrue hours and hours of learning and practice without the wear and tear of physical training. Doing basic visualisation work for exercises and physique training can push the trainee into quicker more long lasting results.

Although visualisation sounds simple and almost too good to be true, it’s a demanding practice that requires consistency. Daily practice is encouraged, and with time the results will be outstanding.

Please consider employing these three “fundamental” practices into your training plan and see your results sky rocket.

Robert Gannon is a Crossfit and Special Strength Coach with Crossfit Gala, Barcelona and Westside Barbell. He is also one of the founding partners of Happy Fat Rings, makers of the world’s only 36mm premium thick grip gymnastic rings. He has more that 20 years teaching experience and strives to help people from around the world get better.

Get your pair of the world's only FAT GRIP gymnastic rings today: CLICK HERE!

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