Fit, Part 3: Movement Ability

Two weeks ago, I explained my concept of “Fit”.  In my system, this is made up of 3 umbrella categories: endurance, strength, and movement ability.  I already wrote about Endurance and about Strength.  Today, I am writing about Movement Ability. 

Movement Ability

This is your ability to move. It includes movement in all the possible planes and orientations, movement at all the joints in the body, and even artistic or rhythmic movement such as dance. When I talk about movement ability, I’m talking about two distinct categories: mobility and movement skill. There are arguments to be made for why these aren’t actually distinct from one another, but I draw a line there and I’ll explain why.


In my mind, Mobility represents a baseline level of functionality. If you can’t stand up straight–for example–then you lack mobility and that is impairing your function. Being mobile doesn’t mean you have to be highly-mobile or extra-mobile. You don’t need to be capable of contorting your body into a pretzel or balancing on one arm. If you’re capable of standing and walking normally, then you have basic mobility. This is the foundation of movement ability: being freed from any restrictions in normal joint range-of-motion that would stop you from moving in a normal way as necessary to your daily function as a human.

If you lack normal mobility, this will prevent you from developing higher-order skills. Even if you have the mobility you need for normal function, some lack of mobility in your shoulders or hips might prevent you from developing a skill. One example of that is the snatch. Most people don’t ever need to do this, and most wouldn’t be able to, but the ones who want to do this will need to open up some of the necessary shoulder mobility first.

There are a lot of tools and tricks for increasing mobility. The fitness industry will sell you foam-rollers, lacrosse balls, and myofascial release tools of all shapes and sizes. There are a wide array of active strategies out there, from extreme heat to extreme cold, to joint distractions and taping. However, it is the passive strategies that work best: rest days, longer nights’ sleep, more water, more protein in the diet, chewing food more slowly. Your body’s mobility benefits more from a relaxed, well-recovered system than it does from all the poking and prodding.

Movement Skill

Movement Skill, in my system, represents the skills to take your movement into new areas that are beyond your daily function and outside your normal movement landscape. For example, learning to walk on your hands or do complex routines on the gymnastics routines. These are not normal activities for most people, they are skills that we develop through challenging our bodies with irregular and exceptional types of movement.

Movement skills require a baseline of mobility to be able to do them–that’s like starting at the ground floor and building up–but just being mobile won’t automatically enable you to develop a skill. Skills have to be practiced to be learned. Practice creates neuromotor patterns: brain communicating with nerves and causing muscles to fire in a coordinated fashion, then sending feedback to the brain. Learning is done through reps. Reps also have the added advantage of giving you mental familiarity with all the demands of the skill and all the effects it produces on your body.

So, my understanding of movement ability begins with mobility (that’s the actual capacity of your body to move in certain ways) and develops with movement skill (the necessary strength, coordination, balance, and motor patterning to perform the movement). If you want to increase your own movement ability, then starting with the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines and building a relaxed, well-recovered body is the first step (greater mobility). The next step is to work with a coach or instructor (or out of a well-illustrated manual even) to develop some new movement skills. This could be a martial arts class, dance class, yoga video, or gymnastics program. It’s all good. Movement ability is a cornerstone of physical fitness.

Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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