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Natural movement training: Beyond gym machines.

In the realm of training, strength training has become essential for anyone aiming to achieve peak performance.

But if we specifically focus on strength training, in recent years there has been a shift in how athletes prepare for their maximum performance. This change revolves around going back to basics, aligning with natural movements of the human body, and leaving behind the reliance on conventional gym machines.

It's the rise of natural movement training (functionality), a philosophy that promises significant improvements in strength, coordination, and athletic agility. It's functional strength training.

What drives this paradigm shift? The answer lies in a deeper understanding of biomechanics and human physiology. Studies such as the one conducted by James Steele et al. (2017) and published in the Journal of Sports Sciences have shown that natural movements of the human body, such as pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, and rotating, involve greater muscle activation and recruitment of motor units than using isolated gym machines. This more comprehensive activation not only leads to more significant strength gains but also enhances the functionality and transfer of those gains to real sports performance.

One pillar of natural movement training is the incorporation of exercises that challenge stability and coordination, such as using free weights, bodyweight exercises, and training on unstable surfaces. Research conducted by Behm et al. (2010) and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research supports this practice, showing that training on unstable surfaces increases the activation of stabilizing muscles and improves neuromuscular coordination, resulting in greater joint stability and a reduced risk of injuries.

A paradigmatic example of this approach is the squat movement. While on a traditional gym machine, the squat is performed in a predetermined plane of movement, using free weights allows for a full range of motion that more faithfully mimics the functional demands of sports and everyday life. Studies such as the one conducted by Escamilla et al. (2001) and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research have shown that free-weight squats not only activate more muscle groups but also improve core stability and strengthen the ligaments and tendons surrounding the hip and knee joints.

Another crucial aspect of natural movement training is the integration of multi-joint exercises that mimic specific movement patterns of each sport. For example, a soccer player could greatly benefit from exercises like single-leg deadlifts, which not only strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain comprehensively but also improve the stability and balance required for rapid changes of direction and explosive jumps.

In summary, natural movement training represents an exciting and highly effective paradigm shift in the world of sports training. By focusing on functional movements and challenging stability and coordination, this approach promises not only to improve strength and athletic performance but also to reduce the risk of injuries and enhance functionality in daily life. It's time to leave behind the limitations of gym machines and embrace the wisdom of the natural movements of the human body.


  • Steele, J., Fisher, J., Giessing, J., & Gentil, P. (2017). Clarity in reporting terminology and definitions of set endpoints in resistance training. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(6), 573-577.
  • Behm, D. G., Anderson, K., & Curnew, R. S. (2010). Muscle force and activation under stable and unstable conditions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1220-1227.
  • Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Zheng, N., Lander, J. E., Barrentine, S. W., Andrews, J. R., & Bergemann, B. W. (2001). Effects of technique variations on knee biomechanics during the squat and leg press. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(9), 1552-1566.