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The tool you're not using is the floor.
Most of us spend way, way too much time sitting around - enough that people are starting to wonder out loud if sitting is the smoking of our generation. When we get to the gym, we're faced with a roomful of machines that encourage us to sit back down while we work out. But we're not taken in that easily. We're smart. We stand up.
Great. That's the right way to go. But that still means we're leaving a great, easy-to-use and free tool for improving performance out of our training.
Ladies And Gentlemen, It's Time To Get Down
Let me explain.
Back when Royal H Burpee (yes, really) invented an exercise, I forget which one, he wasn't sold on any particular exercise our technique. He was just looking for a simple way to put general fitness to the test. How could he test agility, strength and cardiovascular fitness all at once and easily - so easily that any raw US Army recruit could do it?
Royal's answer to that question is being used across the world as the exercise of choice for conditioning, something that begs its own questions. But you can certainly get a solid training result from burpees, and they still do what Royal wanted from them - everyone will fail at burpees pretty quickly. Yet, they're just a stylized way of getting down onto the floor and then back up.
What's So Hard About That?
Well, that's the same thing we're doing when we lift a barbell. Say you're doing power cleans and push presses. You start with the bar on the floor, and end with it as high as it will go - pressed right out overhead.
A move like a burpee or a get-up is pretty similar, but the weight is mostly you. The result is a massive improvement in proprioception - body awareness - and better mechanics in your other movements.
Burpees have their problems - you can hurt yourself doing them by thrashing your soft tissue structures. But you don't need to do burps. Anything that means you're getting up off the floor is a great addition. Try starting out lying on your back on the floor, and getting to your feet, any way you like. The only rule is: you have to do it the same way on both sides.
Not so easy, right? Now try it starting on your front.
The point isn't that these drills smoke you or make you sweat - they make you pay attention to posture and alignment and force you to care more about how you move. Then, when you pick up your barbell or kettle bell or whatever, you'll move with better awareness and alignment.