Back Flat and other terms that make no sense

Everyone who has ever trained with me at the Unit knows the flat back drill. I manage to infuse into most people a sense of back and knee paranoia that many may never experience outside of our backyard at Boat Club Road.

And yet, for most of you, when you first walk in, these are just words that make no sense. Is this normal? Does the inability to follow a seemingly simple set of exercise commands make you incapable of exercise? Do you wonder how it is, that you can perform the most complicated tasks required to hold a high position in your company, but a simple squat can fully ruin your confidence?


Fear not. You are a normal, healthy non-exercise-er(oxymoron). You have very little movement history. We were all there once and I’m going to let you in on a secret. You WILL get better if you stay with it.

I started playing a sport at the age of 9. I stopped 14 years later at the age of 23, when my job required me to go abroad and finding a basketball team to play with got impossible. During my years playing basketball I learnt how to defend(squat), collect rebounds(vertical jump) and sprint.

Many years later when i stopped, I took up other forms of exercise and always got the same reaction from those coaching me…. “you’re pretty good for a beginner” followed by some variation of “are you sure you haven’t done this before?”. I never really understood what they meant. Until very recently. Now that i’ve actually been in their shoes.

The NSCA says that 60 percent of all exercise is neural recruitment. In simple terms that means that all the muscle in the world cannot help you lift a spoon if your brain did not know how to lift it. Back flat only makes sense if you actually know that pulling your chest back will get your there. Otherwise, its just words.

Therein lies both the problem and the fascinating awesomeness of the human body. A person who has played a sport or has regularly participated in any kind of organised exercise will find it easier to pick up a new form of exercise.The movement itself might be different from anything they have done before. But it is still JUST movement. Not a shockingly different way of living.

Does this mean the rest of us will never be any good at it? Heck no. If, as babies, we gave up on walking, the first time we fell, the human race would more closely resemble slugs. And yet, here we are. We know, instinctively, as kids, not to give up on a move that we cannot do well yet. Our reduced motor skills don’t matter to us when we our young. And yet, its an important lesson that we choose to ignore all too easily as adults.

So don’t give up. Fall over, make fools of yourselves and try your best. One day, it will all make sense.

Does this mean you’ll have to work harder? Yes. But you are getting older anyway. Why not work towards owning a body that obeys your commands and mind that understands how to move?

Why not get stronger and not just older?  You have the rest of your lives to achieve this and the race is really only with yourself. Why give up?

One thought on “Back Flat and other terms that make no sense

  1. Nicely written… I especially agree with how easy it is for someone who has been active to pick up a new sport/ form of exercise… I have been less active since childhood and now at 33 trying to learn new sport (like skiing) and getting active (running/ playing badminton) has not been easy… I seem to take longer to learn than most ppl in my group… on the other hand, my hubby who has been active in some form finds it easier to pick up new movement… It took me a week to learn basic skiing for which he took just 3 days… However I am enjoying being active.. I have understood that I should work harder than most others and I will eventually get there.

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