Tuesday, 8 September 2015

An Exercise in Fluidity

Question: What do Roger Federer. Pele and Mohamed Ali all have in common apart from being masters of their chosen sport?

Answer: They all have or had an unrivalled grace and fluidity about their movements.

Another question: How many times have you known Roger Federer to be injured?

Answer: Not many. A smooth, flowing manor allows for a much gentler, body-friendly execution of technique without losing power or accuracy. Take Rafael Nadal. He is one of te greatest tennis players off all time – arguably the greatest, but his high impact approach to the game has caught up with him and before his time. Too many injuries have riddled his body and sadly he is not the player he once was.

Is it mere coincidence that the world’s very greatest athletes in their respective disciplines are also the most fluent moving competitors? They all seem to have pretty long careers too.

Every day, training clients in my gym JW CORE, I endeavour to teach them how to move gracefully. This works very effectively in both gym sessions and martial arts classes. Some clients find it easy but many do not.

Teaching points:

Firstly I begin with correct starting posture. Are all the joints in strong alignment?

Secondly I instruct my client to breathe WITH the exercise, utilising all their lung capacity and especially in Martial Arts classes, their stomach. Then I will encourage them to stay relaxed.

Finally I instruct them to move as smoothly as possible maintaining an even pace and balance. Being smooth and graceful is not easy but is always worth aspiring toward. It does not necessarily equate to being slow either. Once my client has mastered the technical aspects of an exercise I will encourage them to inject appropriate pace. For example when lifting weights, be explosive but smooth. When focusing on speed and agility drills try to “glide between / over /around hurdles, cones and ladders” Keep impact to a minimum and reduce wasted movement.  Try to avoid hyper (over) extending muscles and joints especially in an uncontrolled environment.

Personally I think movement is an expression of one’s self and I can often tell a lot about a person’s character from the way they exercise in the gym.

As you exercise, be relaxed, free, smooth and graceful. Like Bruce Lee said. “Be like water my friend”


Mental Approach

Instead of focusing on the difficulty of the movement immerse yourself into it. Be at one with your body and the movement pattern. I appreciate it all sounds a bit airy fairy but I truly believe in the benefits if you give yourself over to it.

Take virtuoso guitarists like Eric Clapton and Brian May. Fast, smooth and immersed in what they are doing – expressing themselves through their music in a way unique to them. It’s the same with exercise.


Everyone is built differently and will achieve grace in motion to varying degrees with practice. Fluidity in exercise is more of a personal preference than an industry standard. I just like to see people working at it in my gym. I am convinced it is not only conducive to reducing injury but also great for physical and mental wellbeing.

Your approach to exercise is what you want to make of it at the end of the day but if it’s good enough for some of the greatest sports stars of all time is good enough for me and probably you too.


On a related side note I have an old friend who also happens to be one of the world’s premiere piano teachers. He shares a similar philosophy in his teachings to great effect. He founded the idea of “Water Pianism” - well worth a look at his website: http://www.danthecomposer.com/


Thank you for reading,


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