Improving Fitness Movement Technique with Henry Torano - Part 1
I wanted to ask Henry Torano about how he helps his athletes and clients improve their movement, but we quickly realized as we discussed it prior to our call that we weren’t going to finish this discussion in one conversation. So, look at this article as part 1 of ____ of improving how you move in the gym!
On this call, we discussed two critical parts of moving better:
- Strengthening the parts and pieces of movement
- Improving technique with the proper amount of fatigue
Prior to getting into the discussion, though, we mentioned that our avatar was based on somebody having passed a simple movement screen to ensure that they didn’t have movement restrictions. By no movement restrictions, we mean that you have been assessed - by somebody who is qualified - to physically show that you don’t have restrictions such as:
- Shoulder weakness or mobility
- Core stability
- Postural endurance
The more complex and challenging the movement, the more thorough the assessment must be. Some of those more complex movement restrictions manifest as:
- Hip hanging
- Squat patterns and squat depth
- Dorsiflexion of the ankles
- Overhead mobility
With those movement thoughts in your mind, let’s dive into how to move better. We’re not just talking about bar path or how to kip, we’re talking about what will make you better at doing those movement patterns - today those things are strength of the movement parts and improving movement in the right fatigue environment.
How Do You Build Strength In The Parts of A Movement?
Henry was careful to say that you must be capable of moving through the entire movement with the right technique and posture even when the movement is explosive. That means you must have the proper strength in each of those positions to maintain your technique the whole way.
The way Henry breaks this idea down is to give context first. He shows his clients the way the movement should look for their body type and talks through what he wants to see.
Then Henry watches them move to see where their deficiencies are. He prioritizes the parts of the movement that require the most work - safety always being the top priority - and then he works those movement pieces with proper training progressions to ensure that you improve your strength and posture throughout the entire movement.
If an individual is capable of moving well in a non fatigued state but breaks down when you add components like speed or load a few things are often “on the table” to improve:
- They seem to know the movement path or technique
- They can’t translate that same movement when speed and weight come in
- The means you must train proper motor control of the movement so that their brain becomes capable of speeding the movement up
- To progress through these stages, you must move properly throughout all of those stages so that you teach your brain how to increase intensity - otherwise you learn how to move poorly with intensity which will “stick” deeply in your CNS which causes you to revert to poor movement any time intensity comes into play
How Do You Strengthen The Parts Of A Movement Once You Have Context?
Firstly, you must assess the movement factually. How does it look, how does it feel, where do you break down? Where are things going wrong? And then, what do you prioritize?
When you identify what the priority part of the movement that is deficient you’ll see the biggest bang for your buck, you go at that part of the movement with progressive training over weeks and months.
From there, you re-assess both the specific parts as well as the full movement as you are progressing so that you ensure that the parts you’re working on are correlating to the full movement improving with it. Sure, you may have a few awkward sessions putting pieces together, but you want to ensure you don’t build great parts without translation to the whole movement.
On a side note, Henry and I discussed that this whole parts process is essentially habit creation. You cannot try to do 5 things until you can effectively do 1. You can put multiple parts of a movement into your training, but you must earn that right and you must continue to progress forward 1 step at a time if you want your work to translate over to the whole movement and stick.
For example, if you are looking to improve your muscle ups, you may need to work a lot on strengthening your strict chest to bar pull ups to ensure you had the strength in the pull for the muscle up. However, you could also include kipping practice to make sure that your movement pattern, itself, improves right along with your strength. You must note that this is for people who are improving the movement, not trying to go from 0 to the movement having never done it before.
How Do You Improve Movement By Using Proper Levels of Fatigue?
When Henry talks about layers or levels of fatigue, he means that waaaaay too many people are trying to improve their movement in the exact opposite of the right way.
To improve movements, you must remove them from challenging workouts. You must bring them up front within a training day so that your CNS is fresh so that you can attack the weakness of the movement first. Only after you work a movement in a non-fatigued way can you begin to challenge it.
If you do movements in a fatigued environment when you haven’t built the skill, you will move poorly and train your brain to do that movement the wrong way. It won’t know how else to do it, and your body doesn’t forget. Breaking those habits, according to Henry, requires 20 to 1 good reps to bad.
If you have been training by overly fatiguing these movements and not improving your technique, you are not alone. Henry would very masculinly tell you that you are going to do “this specific work and progress it this specific way.” He doesn’t mix his words here. You must build volume:
- Without fatigue
- Low fatigue
- Light aerobic fatigue
- Complementary fatigue
- Non-complementary fatigue
- Aerobic fatigue
When you take the proper time to move through this process, and when you strengthen both the parts and the whole movement, you will put yourself into a much stronger position to move better in any scenario be it on a Saturday in an empty gym or in Madison!
Thanks for having a quick read! Cheers!