If you are reading this, you’ve likely been to my site to read my thoughts and musings on movement, strength training and physical education. You’ve also likely noticed that the physical education content has been one of my hot topics lately.

It is that important to me. It’s that much of a need.

That’s why I didn’t hesitate when Kelly and Juliet Starrett asked me to join the Board of StandUpKids, the organization they founded with the mission of getting every public school student a standing desk within 10 years.


To date, StandUpKids has 35,000 kids standing across the country and 75% of those kids are in high-poverty public schools.

Standing in school will help combat the epidemic of sedentary lifestyles, inactivity and childhood obesity.

It will also help achieve 21st century education goals.

Strong research shows that children who use standing desks at school move more, burn up to 35% more calories/day, have lower BMIs, display better attention and cognition, exhibit better executive function and have better test scores.

This year, the StandUpKids Board is participating in a targeted fundraising effort. Our collective goal is to raise $50,000 for standing desks in high-poverty public schools between now and January 5, 2017.

We need your help! Please consider donating $10, $25, or whatever amount you can afford (even $2) this holiday season to help us reach the goal.  Any amount helps!  


Thank you in advance!


If you want to know more behind why I support StandUpKids, check out Gray Cook Radio Episode 56.
You should really just listen anyway . . .

Movement Food

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Those words were very wise advice in a time, much like the present, when I’m sure factions of society were looking for performance enhancement, medical miracles and easier ways to energize the human body.

As much as a specific lesson about food, Hippocrates was stating that in our drive to succeed, we often overlook fundamental principles about how we should behave.

To paraphrase: Cover your fundamentals before you assume you have a problem—most problems break a basic or fundamental principle, then seek a complex solution.

For some reason we think with greater clarity about eating than we do about moving.  Michael Pollan, one of my favorite authors, has become known for deconstructing our assumptions and Michael Pollan's In Defense of Foodunnecessary anxieties about food.  To over-simplify his body of work: Food is a whole and natural thing. Real food is full of many subcomponents that, in isolation, may be beneficial, may be toxic or could throw you out of balance.

But we live in an age of supplements. We don’t want to drink green tea, we just want to identify the few good things in green tea that we can stick into a pill, a candy bar or some bubble gum.

It doesn’t work that way with food.

It doesn’t work that way in movement or exercise either.

Basically, reductionism causes more problems than it solves because it often creates an unsustainable solution. Your body already knows how to extract the good stuff from green tea, so don’t ask a corporation to do it for you.

If we were eating a whole and natural and authentic diet (as intended), the only reason for supplementation is if you have a problem absorbing naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. To overcome the absorption problem or whole foods that have been compromised, we have to effectively overdose that particular missing element to get you back to normal.

Vitamins and nutrients are much better used to pull you out of a state of dysfunction than to force you into a state of optimization. If you agree with that statement (and you should if you review the history and science), you can see just how skewed many of our assumptions about vitamins, minerals or nutritional supplements are.  If you lack something, and that supplement fulfills the need, then it feels like a competitive advantage. A performance octane boost, if you will.  It’s not. It’s simply filling a hole that otherwise should have been filled, authentically, through your eating, resting and regenerative behaviors.

Let’s bring the analogy back around to movement . . .

Exercise is not movement food. Exercise is a movement supplement.exercise bottle

Exercise is a movement supplement because we do it largely for hopes of a better future in movement. Furthermore, no single exercise demonstrates the whole of human movement capabilities. Now, as babies, toddlers and children, we are biologically driven to play. In those early explorations of our environment through our senses and movement, we develop fundamental patterns and even physical capacities.  As we age, certain parts of our movement landscape draw our attention and we continue to play:
Some of us want to throw balls,
Some of us want to run great distances,
Some of us want to climb walls,
Some of us head straight to the water,
Some of us choose to sample a variety of activities, and
Some of us obsess on specializing—becoming the best in our area, our region, our country or maybe even our world.

To support these activities, we often choose exercises that we think we need, sometimes without a logical analysis of which exercises truly supplement or support our favorite activities.

Regardless of the ways we choose to explore movement, we can break it down to an elemental level and find your movement food. The best starting point is to look at the four different levels of movement:

Movement Health
Movement Function
Movement Fitness
Movement Skill

Try to define each term before you read further, because we have been thinking, debating and refining these terms for 20 years . . . see if you like where we are headed.

Levels of Movement Development
Does your movement serve to provide movement health? Well, if we look at many of the movements in yoga and martial arts, fascia release positions or developmental neurological progressions we often see great ways to put the body through patterns in varying postures and physical loads.  But does that movement not also serve our circulatory system? Our tissue system? Our organ system? Our proprioceptive vestibular visual and auditory system? Every time we move, it’s a multi-sensory experience that’s either constructive, destructive or simply a wash . . . I can’t tell whether or not your investment of time and energy in the activity helped you.

How much of your investment in exercise or activity is barely distinguishable under an objective physical exam?  That means I can’t even tell you’ve been doing X, and you’ve been doing X for months. X is designed to add mass, burn fat, create speed, better agility, create symmetry (the list is endless). Yet, when I measure these things, I cannot even see the tangible benefit of your effort. Believe it or not, that’s been occurring for some time. Your effort is going largely unnoticed by the biomarkers that we use to determine whether you need the effort in the first place.

If we truly have honest tests, then we will find multiple methodologies that will address particular problems, like ankle mobility, core stability, shoulder stability, overall cardio vascular function, work capacity, slow strength and/or explosive power. As long as we can find which one of these is your weakest link, we can easily decide if it is an isolated problem at your level of physical development. Possibly, the problem has its root all the way back into movement function—the way you organize your mobility and stability? The problem could be found in your movement health—those things that serve to create a system that grows, repairs, rests and regenerates at normal, optimal or above average rate.

(Want a peek at our new screen for performance, The Fundamental Capacity Screen? Check out this FCS interview with Cody Dimak – free download at

Many people ask for a fitness solution to a health problem,
Many ask for a fitness solution to a functional problem, and
Many ask for a fitness solution to a skill problem.

That’s a quick overview of the four ways we can look at movement.

If you’re unhealthy, we need to diagnose you.
If you’re dysfunctional, we want to clearly identify the questionable movement pattern and attempt to correct it.
If you simply can’t play golf, I don’t know how many more side planks you need . . . Maybe you just need a golf lesson. Do you have a physical barrier to golf? Or a skill barrier?

Simple testing can quickly and easily answer that question. Just ask my friends at TPI.

Movement health: Do you have the basic constituents to both move in a healthful way and have that movement benefit you in a healthful way? What is the minimal effective dose of movement for your entire system? Not just your kinesiology; that tactile interaction with your world. That ‘squishiness’ where your body bumps up against the environment, where you get off your feet, you roll around, you have different textures and experiences. You have a wash of proprioceptive experience as well as visual experience, auditory experience, vestibular experience.

Movement function: Can you take all of the attributes of movement health and organize them to become a movement-competent learning machine? Movement function doesn’t mean you know or are good at anything. You simply have the movement patterns to create feedback loops. Therefore, if you don’t have any significant mobility problems, and I expose you to a balance beam, you have no excuse for poor balance except for movement control and postural control—you’ve demonstrated the flexibility to perform the move and cannot do it. When I offer you an experience that allows you to work on those faculties with a feedback loop, you become the self-movement-learning miracle that made your ancestors so adaptable.

“Here’s a 6-inch balance beam, and it’s 1 inch off the floor. Walk on this balance beam forward as many times as you can until you have to step off. Walk down the beam, pivot, turn and walk back down the beam. When you can do five passes without a fall, try to do five passes without a fall and no wasted energy, with minimal to no movement above your waist, meaning the flailing of the arm and the awkward head position and slight lean to the left. Yeah, let that go away and still show me you’re good.”


Once that’s done, instead of closing your eyes, I’m going to have you walk forward on the beam and backward on the beam. And for those of you who say, I’ve got an individual who can’t even balance on a beam . . . First: I’m sure you overlooked a mobility problem. Second, if you want to get them on the beam, use sticks, a hand-hold or some other type of an assist. Put the beam near a wall and slowly remove the dependence on that wall. There are so many ways to scale this. That said, there is no need to scale it if you address the minimum effective mobility required for the person to use the feedback of poor balance to create good balance. I don’t need you to tell them to contract any one part of your body. They simply need to acknowledge the fact that they can’t balance. They simply need to employ their own proprioceptive visual and vestibular system to figure out how to overcome that.

Let them try to solve the problem. They have all the parts of the equation: perception, time and the ability to act. Let nature do its thing and provide feedback.

Make them find the answer. Don’t give it to them. If a toddler can find the answer, surely an adult can. There is no fast track to balance—the authentic path works best. Crawl before you walk.  Walk before you run. It’s as simple as that.

Movement fitness: This is your capacity to express energy for basic locomotion or manipulation. Basically, moving you or moving stuff (or moving you and stuff). Movement fitness is non-specific with capacity and basic physical resources.

Movement skill: Is your complexity or ability to do your thing. Some of us specialize in one thing; others pick a few things. Skill is when you point your physical capacity at a specific task, activity, goal or game and demonstrate technical and tactical ability in an efficient and effective way. If you are better than most, you can get paid for it.

So, knowing these four levels, what is your best movement food?

Many times we must continually scale, adjust and even ‘over-coach’ our exercises because they’re inappropriately matched to the people who need to regain a lost movement ability. If we were to deconstruct movement, we could phrase it as, “Are you moving enough to be healthy?” Or, “If you start moving more, can you potentially create a health problem?”

We see that all the time. “I’m a little overweight. I’ve started walking and jogging and now I’ve got shin splints and low back pain.” Right?  They seemed to be movement healthy, but as soon as they attempted to move a little bit more, they become unhealthy. Yes, unhealthy, because shin splits and low back pain are best addressed in health care as opposed to fitness (barring the fact that we’re as screwed up in health care as we are in fitness.) So many times we treat the symptoms not the cause. Many times we treat the muscles closest to the area of poor movement or pain, instead of looking at movement as a whole and asking, “what is your movement diet?”

If we removed all stretches, correctives, foam rolling and appointments with the chiropractor and physical therapist, is there actually a way you can improve with slow, steady and sustainable progress and address the specific minimum effective dose of movement that keeps you healthy? What about the minimum effective dose of movement that keeps you functional and adaptive to those activities that you think are going to be appropriate for you? If 400 pound dead lifts are not part of your future, then we don’t need movements that will support that lift, but we still need movements that will allow you to squat, twist, turn, crawl, climb and maybe even jog.  If you have something very heavy to lift one day, you’ll either get help or break the job down or use a mechanical advantage. It’s as simple as that.

Move well enough to be healthy . . . Move often enough to maintain it.
Move well enough to be functional . . . Move often enough to learn.
Move well enough to be fit . . . Move often enough to adapt.
Move well enough to be skillful in what you do . . . Move often enough to perform consistently.

Move well enough, but in that prescribed order. Your nature demands it!

If you move well, often enough, adaptation will occur and none of that adaptation will be in a direction of disadvantage. That’s very important;  A disadvantaged direction promotes a more ambitious level of movement development over a fundamental one. How many times have we ever seen a pitcher throw their arm into a state of poor movement health—a torn rotator cuff, a muscle strain or a joint sprain is the result. He was doing a skill that, if dosed correctly, can actually benefit his fitness and his overall personal development.  But he exhausted that resource and created a health problem. Back to zero.

A lack of systematic feedback on well or often will get you just that.

As you move up through movement, from health to skill, or as we evaluate you down through movement, we deconstruct the minimum effective necessary dose of health, function, fitness and skill to find out where should you be working. What’s the minimum effective dose? We often learn that what we assumed was wrong with us isn’t even close to being our weakest link. That weakest link in movement is often the reason you’re not progressing or performing, the reason that you may not be losing weight or even sleeping the way you want to. Your body is extremely sensitive to the movements that you choose to do, and the ones that you choose not to do.

Sounds like diet, right?

I’m unbelievably inspired by the clarity in nutrition when compared to exercise. I don’t have an academic credential in nutrition, but I think that I can clearly recognize good logic and poor logic in nutrition.  Nutrition can easily get as poor as the pharmaceutical industry, where you’re simply directed to eat based on your symptoms alone. But it can be as all-encompassing as to create a complete, sustainable lifestyle change by giving you a few principles of good eating, bad eating, healthful eating, functional eating, fitness eating and then long-term eating.

If we looked at exercise like we look at supplements, and we considered physical activities and exposures to new environments like we consider food, we would be far more advanced in our movement technology.

It wouldn’t be obvious that you’re from a sedentary culture simply by the way you walk . . .

Americans are becoming recognizable around the world. And it’s not just because we’re a little overweight and dress slightly different than the rest of the world.

It’s because we don’t move well.

We don’t move well, yet we choose to move more often. That creates a problem. It creates obvious compensation. And even as something as simple as a walk can identify the fact that you and your body are enjoying movement supplements far more often than real movement food.

I hope you’re inspired by this. If you are, be inspired enough to look deep and break down the level of movements. Take your assumptions, throw them out the window and look at a clean measuring stick for the four different categories of movement. Are you consuming food or supplements at each of these levels? At the top level, enjoy that what you want to do the most, whether it be cycling, rock climbing, hiking, or playing a competitive sport. If you do it right, your skill load will give you an appreciative level of fitness. That fitness will bestow you with a certain level of function, and that maintained function will help you maintain your health. It works backwards.

And at the very top rung of movement, I encourage you to find those things that make you smile, those things that put you in a flow state. Does it mean that you won’t have homework and supplementary work to do? Sorry, you will. But those supplements are temporary obstacles to get you into balance and harmony for the long haul in this event called life.

If you’re using a supplement for years instead of weeks or months, I question the effectiveness of who put you there and why they did it. Many people have embraced functional movement technology and continued to do supplements, not realizing that my team and I would have pulled you off of that corrective a long time ago and readjusted your entire scope of health, function, fitness or skill/competition. I wouldn’t just be adding a particular supplement because you have a bad movement pattern. Once I show that the movement pattern could improve with correctives, the first thing I’d do is turn you around and say, “okay, how can you do without this corrective?” Well, by doing more of X and doing significantly less of Y, and never doing Z again, because it’s simply not a food that you need or that agrees with you.

Please don’t trust me . . . Test me. Start with a simple look at organism and environment, because where you need work may not be where you are working.

We use our tests that way. Not to promote one methodology over another, but to help you find medicine in your movement, and movement in your medicine.

I’m excited to have all of my favorite lectures together in one package:
Gray Cook lectures

Is performance in your DNA? We can test it.
NEW: The Fundamental Capacity Screen



Redefining Health and Fitness

Do you define health as the absence of disease?

I think that’s an under-shoot and an under-sell.

Along a similar vein, a lot of people define fitness as being lean or well-muscled.

I think we all know that you could lose weight and gain muscle in very unhealthy ways—ways that may compromise your movement, involve performance enhancing drugs and/or some tablets-623706_1920unorthodox dietary practices with undesirable side effects.

There are many ways to get lean and well muscled that aren’t good for you, so I think if we’re going to explore the definitions of health and fitness, maybe we should look at the following words:


Now, let’s define health, bounded by the parameters of these three words.

Health is the independent, sustainable and developmental way to continually heal. You use your rest, your regeneration and your activity to maintain a positive, constructive and contributing state of being.

You manage your stress levels, and rest and regenerate accordingly. After an injury, you understand your own abilities and go slowly enough for the body to heal, but fast enough to stimulate adequate stress for positive growth and continued adaptation.

Fitness can be defined in the same way—the independent, sustainable and developmental way to continually adapt. Adaptation is what we do when we become fit, and the adaptation definition must involve a much greater scrutiny of the environment.

To meet the minimums of health, you basically have to be a living, breathing, eating, drinking and sleeping being who can move. If you can move through a fundamental set of patterns, you can start to learn from your environment.

You are the most complex and accomplished movement learning system we have ever known. The entire system is jump started with fundamental movement patterns that establish movement literacy. Movement literacy, in turn, is the foundation of skill acquisition.

That’s why we have developmental patterns that are reflex driven pre-installed on the human being hard drive. That’s right, you have certain movements as an infant that you just go through that are as involuntary as your patellar tendon reflex. (You know, when the physician taps your knee with a hammer?)

reflex hammer2

They’re reflexes that we go through as infants that run those circuits at about 100%. Simply using those circuits sets up the fundamental movement patterns that allow you to gain head control, prone-on elbows, quadruped, kneeling, half kneeling, squatting, standing, stepping, running, jumping, climbing, lifting and carrying.

In a carpeted room lacking objects or obstacles, a baby will go through every one of the movements I just mentioned. Each of those movements can then be exploited, specialized and taken to a more complex level if the environment demands it.

If I take that baby and put it in a room with ladders and ropes and swings, then that baby will basically take its climbing resources and become really good and engaged at doing vertical things or off-the-ground training.

If we introduce the baby to a bunch of mud and water, that baby will actually become very good at slick and unpredictable surfaces and know how to move and transition between land and watermud2 very well.

If I introduce a ball, that baby will learn to use its movement patterns to develop hand-eye coordination to follow and chase and throw and kick that ball. If I introduce wide-open spaces, the baby may be engaged to run. If I introduce obstacles, the baby may be engaged to jump.

These are your local environments. You bring the fundamental movement patterns to it.

That’s movement health and I can’t talk to you about your fitness unless you tell me what environment you are in.

Is that environment challenging or are you simply maintaining?

Do you independently have the resources to sustain development?

Now, development for some is “let’s just not get any stiffer as I get older.” It’s active development whether you’re trying to maintain what you have or you’re trying to gain something new so let’s go back and look at those definitions of health and fitness again.

Health isn’t just the absence of disease and fitness isn’t just the presentation of a lean, well-muscled body.

Knowing your limitations, knowing how to maximize rest and regeneration, how to gauge activity are vital factors for states of health and fitness.

Sometimes you can sleep and eat less in anticipation of less activity and sometimes you must sleep and eat more in anticipation of more activity or more stress. You must learn how to adapt in environments. You must understand your own limitations and your skill-challenge ratio.

If you overshoot, you’re probably going to get hurt or fail in a way that may not be pleasurable. If you undershoot, you’re never going to adapt, you’re never going to change and you’re never going to send that stimulus—that ping—through the system that takes you from healthy to fitness.

You have to be healthy to receive the signal of stress and then create the adaptation called fitness.

Maybe if our current definitions for health and fitness were better, we would be better at achieving them.

There is one more test you can perform—now—to look at your body knowledge regarding health and fitness.

How are you feeling?
Are you meeting your goals?
Whatever your answers are, there is a follow-up question:
How many supplements do you need to pull this off?

Our ancestors did not have foam rolls, core exercises, isolation exercises, posture programs, multivitamins, energy drinks or fit bands. They knew how, what and when to eat and how to move well enough to move often enough to survive.

For more on sustainable development, check out my article, The Hardest Checklist You Will Ever Do

I delve into the interplay between organism and environment in my newest video, Three Principles You Can Apply to Any Movement


Gray Cook & Greg Rose Three Principles Video

Or check out the Principles Digital Bundle

Paleo . . . plus: Rethinking Diet and Exercise

I often parallel nutrition and exercise: I believe that the evolution and development of modern exercise mirrors that of nutrition, except that exercise is always about 15 years behind.

I love to ingest, peruse and educate myself on the latest trends in nutrition, which are certain to ebb and flow. That said, I do think the most forward-thinking nutritional advisors in our culture operate by a certain set of principles—historically represented and simply practical. Think Michael Pollan.

As long as the new methodology sits comfortably with those principles, then I think we’re onto something. If we go into nutrition without regard for the fundamental principles of human metabolism and our interactions with our internal and external environments, then we’re just promoting a “one size fits all” or “magic bullet” strategy. Again. 

If we were to observe more natural or holistic eating—both in style and substance, we might be better off. It’s not just what we eat but also how and when we eat. As far as establishing balance in the system is concerned, intermittent fasting is probably almost as important as what you eat.


The things you put in your body are vital and extremely important but the way in which you put those in your body, I think is equally as important.

I like the current interest in the art of elimination, as often espoused by a Paleo diet or lifestyle. The interest in elimination has changed marketing. Products aren’t just telling us that they have Omega 3’s and fiber. They’re demonstrating that they are devoid of hormones, synthetic additives, dyes, gluten and trans fats.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, it seemed like the nutritional trend was supplementation. Everyone acknowledged that food sources weren’t adequate or preparation time of adequate food sources took so long that they justified supplementation. Bring on the shakes, vitamin packets and creatine.

The supplements seemed to have benefits and research took off (and hasn’t stopped.) We’ve learned that if you give a supplement to someone with an obvious oversight, deficiency or other impairment in their diet, then any supplementation, by default, will appear to be a benefit when really all it’s doing is meeting a deficiency. It’s removing a negative, but not adding a positive.

Why was the deficiency there in the first place?


The mindset of the past was, “Let’s take crap and add good things to it.” The current trend (hopefully) is to find authentic things and remove all those things that are unnecessary. Unfortunately, it goes down to greed and marketing. The minute they know what we’re looking for, they will engineer a cheap and less-than-wholesome way to feed our curiosity.

Michael Pollan does an excellent job of this in most of his books by simply saying (my paraphrase), Eat whole, real food from clean, local sources as much as possible and enjoy the level of variety that makes you feel best. One of the realities underlying a Paleo approach to eating is the elimination of so many foods that are not local, not whole or not authentic.

Is there a take-away lesson for the way we move in exercise?

I was already a fitness-and-rehabilitation professional when elliptical machines entered the scene. Many of my counterparts jumped on the fact that there was about 20% more gluteal activity and no impact on these devices. Even though these represented a great way to exercise for people who did not respond well to impact or who wanted to do their exercise in a stationary place while watching TV, the elliptical machine offered something different than the treadmill and stair stepper.

Did it make us better? Did we generate elite runners, fit hikers, great cross-country skiers and cyclists because ellipticals were invented? Or was it just another variety of a way that we could ambulate with training wheels? We got the temporary benefit of the metabolic load, but did we stand straighter, stride cleaner and walk with less biomechanical errors?

This is not the article to answer those questions. It’s a great article to ask them.

Whether you remember the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet or you’re a fan of Paleo, each one of these asks you to eliminate much more than you add. Many of us enjoy Paleo foods every day. It’s the other stuff that we wrap around them or put in front or behind them that complicate the issues. Synthetic foods, extra grains, poor quality dairy products, refined sugars and the dependence on energy supplements have all created complications.

We can’t clearly see if a Paleo approach is really helping us because of what it adds or what it eliminates but I think common sense would tell you that the elimination load is greatly more than the addition load. New foods aren’t being introduced. They’re just being made more of a staple with less synthetic enhancers. Right? The sandwich without the bread is called a meat salad. I think the current science in nutrition has instructed us that the elimination of non-authentic food and the elimination of habitual grazing are both going to help us.

Intermittent fasting along with whole authentic food that requires preparation can enhance your life. Add in a few psychological bonuses like a cheat day and you may be well on your way to a nutritional life plan that feels less like a diet and more like a cool way to exist.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get exercise to that state?

diet to exercise

There’s a good general path in exercise just like the one I described in nutrition. But that nutritional path won’t help everybody because some of us have deficiencies. These deficiencies aren’t necessarily because the whole foods are lacking; we absorb nutrients and vitamins at different rates depending on our genetics, our environment, our stress level and our age.

Isn’t exercise the same way? Absorption rates may vary. One person loses weight with kettlebell swings and the other loses their back. What would the process to help you achieve a great diet look like? First, check and see if you have any deficiency. Most of us will probably have a deficiency somewhere. Then, follow as many of the general principles as possible.

After about eight-to-ten weeks, recheck those deficiencies and see if a good, general approach addressed the issues. For some, those issues will still not be addressed. On top of the good general nutritional principles you’ve adopted, you may have to supplement due to a previous disease or other factors that could interfere with natural absorption of vital nutrients.

That statement carries over to functional exercise. If you find out through the movement screen or some other assessment that you’re not functional, first follow some good general principles of functional exercise. I think we each have a pretty good idea of the exercises or activities that may cause us difficulty.

Some cause pain and some cause a significant amount of soreness or tightness (far beyond the normal muscle fatigue that we enjoy) after the workout. Maybe these are red flags—our body’s way of communicating that we may have overdosed the experience or compensated our way through what we thought looked a lot better than it did.

Unfortunately, we’re at the point in exercise evolution where we’re still in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We’re consistently looking to add a supplement before following general principles that would easily produce better function. If we follow those general principles and still don’t have a positive experience, there is corrective exercise—the supplementation in the exercise that’s equivalent to the protein shakes and multi-vitamins we often use to hedge our bet or improve our absorption.

Unfortunately, I see the Functional Movement Screen and other functional movement practices being labeled as ‘bad’ because they ask you to eliminate something from your workout.

There are two logical reasons for eliminating something.

First, if you eliminate it and all gets better, you just learned something. Second, if you eliminate it and nothing changes, you’ve also learned something.

Where’s the fear in learning? I think the number one fear in sports performance and strength-and-conditioning is that somehow you will lose a performance edge, but how? Are we testing performance on such a frequent a basis that we can see all of those environmental factors that would interfere with performance?

Most people who are serious about performance plan to peak at a certain place, which means that we can follow their performance on a graph very easily. If you took a more functional approach and noticed a huge dip in performance, you could take action on that dip so quickly as to keep it a mere blip on the graph.

I think the fear of giving up performance time to regain authentic movement and a good functional base comes from a lack of objectivity and a lack of frequent testing. If I’m not helping you meet your goals or all of your goals, I’ll be the first to know. I’m watching the gauges in a systematic and objective way. This should not be the exception—it should be the rule.

I will have the data to both justify an elimination of a particular exercise and also introduce a new functional move or correction that, for the same amount of time, gives significantly more tangible benefits either in general physical preparation or skillful performance in a specific endeavor.

Now, here’s where the title Paleo . . . Plus comes from. If you follow the rules of an elimination diet such as Paleo and you’ve gotten good results, then it’s okay to reintroduce things that give you pleasure, convenience or allow you to look forward to something. You can introduce that as a little every now and then or in the form of a cheat day.pluschips2

I try to eat local/whole/simple/Paleo whenever I can. If I want a bowl of ice cream, a slice of pizza or some really salty potato chips, I’m going to do that too. If I notice that I’m going overboard, I’ll cut back a little bit.

If I can achieve nearly the same results by cheating a little bit and adding a little plus right alongside an otherwise elimination diet, good for me.

Take that advice to your exercise program, your clients and your athletes. Take that advice to the patients headed back to their active lifestyle after you rehabilitate them (hopefully having learned the lesson that all injuries should provide.) ‘Could I have done anything to prevent this, or at least lessen the severity?’ In some cases, you will say ‘no’ but in some cases, you’ll say to yourself, ‘Well, I couldn’t avoid the injury but my rehab is taking longer because I have 15 other problems that were exposed when I went through the rehabilitation process.’

Remember, the purpose of elimination in your nutritional plan is to provide a competitive advantage in your current environment. You want to maintain muscle, be lean and have more energy. If eliminating something provides that, it is a competitive advantage and performance enhancement.

Cleaning up a dysfunctional movement pattern can have that far-reaching effect and change many of the performance metrics that may have plateaued for you. You won’t know unless you look and you can’t retest unless you test something the first time.

Set your movement and performance baselines:

Eliminate exercises that look supplementary or body part-oriented.

Embrace whole movement patterns first: run, jump, carry, climb

If you’re stiff, breathe and get healthy. Then get mobile.

If you’re not strong, carry stuff and lift stuff.

Own your movement patterns. Simple and basic first. Without load and then with load. Always with integrity.

Watch your body and movement patterns change.

Eliminate the things that don’t make a lot of good sense or seem to be supplementary. See how good you get against your baseline test.

Watch your performance so that you’ll have no excuse for making an unqualified statement about what you think performance is and what it’s not. The first requirement of performance is participation and if you’re jacked up, you’re not a participant today.

Enjoy your simple, basic and whole exercise program. Once you own it, add the plus for fun . . . you earned it!


Click here to learn more about Three Principles you Can Apply to Any Movement

Gray Cook & Greg Rose Three Principles Video

Or check out the Principles Digital Bundle

The Hack Test

THE HACK TEST: To Hack or To Adopt the Culture

Tim Ferriss is all about the lifehack, and he’s had great success at it (and been very fun to watch in the process). He gets us thinking about possibilities . . .

Ferriss books-4 hour-lifehack

As we seek to make changes in our lives—in our health and fitness, what is a test to see if a hack is appropriate or inappropriate?

In an emergency situation, I would say “anything goes.” In a situation of long-term physical development, I would say it should be done if the hack supports both independence and sustainability.



In The Story of the Human Body, Daniel Lieberman writes that, though human evolution is potentially at a standstill, humans continue to evolve by creating evolutionary culture. The culture that shapes human beings is what evolves first.

Maybe the things that change culture are hacks and the ones that stick become cultural wisdom. The ones that don’t are the shortcuts that we seem to master in the west—the ones that don’t seem to be sustainable.  We don’t seem to be able to maintain them independently.

For some reason, the best hacks in the world take us closer to both economy and ecology—those things that are extremely efficient and have a fair exchange of value, and those things that also support a harmonious balance over long periods of time without exploiting either side of the equation, the organism or the environment.



In Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall has given us two opportunities to see that culture might be the best way to approach something as simple as running and/or something as complex as becoming a hero.

Simon Sinek has warned us to always Start With Why. Many of the things we do culturally just seem to work.  Why we do something is often because it is a thing that will occur whether we intend it or not. When it does occur, it is so profound it becomes part of our culture. We don’t necessarily even identify its impact. We do it because we do it.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of metrics, we’ve become a culture that loves tests and their accompanying numbers. The problem is that we’re shortsighted and teach to the tests.  We directly confront blood pressure and cholesterol with drugs that make pharmaceutical companies rich and continue to not solve your problems. They simply cover your symptoms . . . pain management, not cure.

To create independence and sustainability with cholesterol and blood pressure, first, make sure that these measurements mean something and second, find a culture that rarely has problems with either.  If we apply that simple litmus test to whether we should hack something or not, then when it is time to develop a hack, maybe there’s already a recipe that keeps us from wasting time.

In my attempt to improve both movement health and movement function, I came up with some principles that seem not to just apply to movement but to almost any behavior. Move well always comes before move often. A minimum level of quality should probably precede pursuits of quantity. Anything you do ceases to have value if a minimum standard is not met.

When would this quality requirement be inappropriate? First is a situation where long-term sustainability is not necessary and quantity has a significant value regardless of quality, but these opportunities may be few and far between.

What if you are thirsty? There is a point where water quality can be so poor that it would actually behoove you to avoid that water source because you will experience a greater decline in your health by drinking poison than by going another 10 hours without water.


The second is human intervention. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, warned us to “do no harm.”

In our enthusiasm to step between the organism and the environment and say “Let me teach you. Let me train you. Let me coach you. Let me help you heal,” those of us who teach, coach, train and attempt to facilitate healing should heed Hippocrates’ advice.

Sometimes, our enthusiasm clouds the big picture. If we’re focusing on metrics, we may strive to improve one biomarker while creating side effects and erosion elsewhere in the human system.

That’s why most drug commercials (the ones that tell you that you absolutely need their product) have two benefits and 35 pitfalls.  It’s not natural, it’s not independent and it’s not sustainable. You could not derive that drug on your own.  It is not given freely. You cannot be independent.

If you’re poor, you can’t afford it. If you’re not a chemist, you can’t engineer it.  However, it’s great business and that’s the company aspect of pharmaceutical companies.

Healthcare and fitness are not immune to this shortsightedness. We find biomarkers in healthcare. We find biomarkers in fitness. Without focus, we fail to understand the entire cultural embrace that changes these markers.

Our educational system is a prime example. We came up with Standards of Learning (SOL testing – or whatever your state’s equivalent may be) to ensure that teachers were doing their job and to identify children who were not functioning at proper levels despite effective teachers.  Basically, the SOL gives us a gauge.

If all the children in the class are not making the standard, the focus should probably be on the teacher. If a certain percentage of the children in the class make the standard but some don’t, the focus should probably then be on the individual student.  Sounds simple, right?


The problem is that so many teachers have been limited and handcuffed by this new style of analysis of quality that many simply submit and teach to the test.

Physicians, trainers and coaches are sometimes no different. We find the one standard that seems to dictate our success and instead of creating a culture that gets there anyway, we create a shortcut. We take our machete and hack a path.

That path may require high levels of maintenance. It may be unsustainable. It may not teach life lessons or create independence in those people we’re trying to develop and help.

In short, we should try to find biomarkers that both cause and correlate those things that we prize in culture—the ability to exist in harmony with our environments and to live a long, healthy and happy life.

Hopefully, these caveats are self-evident. But all too often, it seems they are not: when we try to gain a competitive advantage, it can only be done for a short time. Rarely can it be done and sustained for a long time—the same way we don’t always see success transfer through generations.

Those very qualities and behaviors that could make a parent unbelievably successful by societal standards may make their children choose behaviors in exact opposition. Remember, that which makes us successful in one aspect of our life could actually be borrowing equity from another part of our life.

So, if there is such a thing as hacking and if it is good, hacking is simply working your way through a maze. If there is a shortcut, then use it if your life is threatened and if time is of the essence. If you discover a shortcut in other circumstances, it might be better to heed the warning that many shortcuts lead to pitfalls, and often, the detour—the long way around—is the safest.


Testing creates detours. Testing simply provides metrics and the opportunity to see or predict failure at the next level. If you can’t pass the eleventh grade, there is a significant statistical chance that you will not find success in the twelfth grade.

If we look at tests as windows into the future and use them accordingly, then we wouldn’t necessarily teach to the tests. We would simply want to adopt a culture that was independently sustainable that got us to the next level.

Now, if it takes a little longer than you want or if it’s a little risky, that’s where human intervention comes in. The job of the teacher, coach or even somebody who’s helping you heal is not to do it better than the natural environment could do these things for you. That said, in every situation we should ask “can these things be done with less risk and with greater economy? Can they be done faster and safer?”

There is a natural cycle of things that requires both qualitative and quantitative balance. A little extra is sometimes what’s afforded and a little less is sometimes what you get.  Human intervention, because of our very short timelines, is focused at success. But nature simply says that non-failure is the best option, especially if tomorrow is in play.

If the physical hack test works for you in your own life on your own body, maybe it can be applied to things like diet, work, relationships, recreational pursuits and lifelong goals.

When the terms independence and sustainability are used, it does not imply that you do not continue to have teachers or learning opportunities. It means that you are self-sufficient at learning.  Sustainability speaks to long-term movement development.


Obviously, we can never be completely independent and nothing is sustainable forever but the higher levels of independence and the greater rate of sustainability are indicators that the culture is the best environment for adaptation and long-term movement development.

Remember, Lieberman says that the reason we’re evolving is because our culture has evolved and then those things evolve us. When development is inefficient, not ecological or not impressive, it’s an indication that the culture is not beneficial and has not evolved in the correct direction.

Let’s look for efficient and ecological development. Let’s explore those cultures.


Click here to learn more about Three Principles you Can Apply to Any Movement

Gray Cook & Greg Rose Three Principles Video

Or check out the Principles Digital Bundle