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  • Writer's pictureMat Harvey

Building your foundation

The pace of life is speeding up. Much of life is designed now to give you instant positive feedback, progress is measured in continually shorter periods of time.

Your physical, mental and emotional development is not something that can be rushed. Developing patience, persistence, and tenacity is crucial to all long-term athletic growth or weight change. Basic motor patterns lay the foundations of all physical performance and health. Developing sound basic movement patterns takes persistence and often a temporary reduction in intensity.

Persistence beats intensity every time.

The foundation

The squat, hang and hollow body positions are key to the development athleticism. To attain proficiency we must develop mobility, technique, strength in that order. Get the order wrong, the chances of injury Increases. Take the time to build a foundation, you can never be too good at the basics.

Building an athletic body takes time. Don’t compare your 1-year achievements to someone else 5-year achievements, it’s not fair. Also, it doesn’t recognize all the hard work someone put into where they are currently at.

How do you move forward? By breaking up a difficult exercise into an achievable exercise that when mastered will form the foundation upon which more difficult exercises are built. Look at a baby learning to walk (or foot balance), they crawl, then supported stand, they stagger, then finally walk. This is progression. Progression is breaking a movement up into tiny achievable pieces or deloading a movement. Progressions are important, so you don’t get hurt and so you can do this longer.

Hollow Body

In order to hold a full hollow body position you require core strength, otherwise referred to as mid line strength and / or trunk stability.

Why is core strength important? How many people have you heard talking about a sore lower back? The progressive weakening and deformation of the core is partly a result of the chair sitting epidemic in the western world. Really, how much work does the trunk of your body really have to do in daily life?

It is common place to ignore core strength development other than in the pursuit of aesthetics. People also love to load up a squat or dead lift, drive hard with the legs and butt and often after a few reps discover our lower back is a little sore?

People training with body weight exercises are often working towards mastering a free-standing handstand? Try hand-standing against a wall, very soon you will discover how heavy your hips and legs really are as you struggle to maintain a straight line and engaged core.

So what is the common theme here? Weak core.

Many of us are seeking athletic gains while neglecting our relatively weak core. The muscles that make up your core are very important, if you neglect your core not only will you struggle to attain smooth progress toward your goals but you also run the risk of injuring yourself.


For most people on earth, the squat is a resting position. Unfortunately for us in the developed western world – have replaced squatting with chairs and force our children to sit still in chairs for a large part of their development. Most of us at the age of 2 had perfect hip mobility which steadily declines throughout our life.

To reach athletic potential and increase resilience we need to redevelop our squat. Mobile strong hips allows the spine to maintain its natural curvature, while reducing load on the knee during flexion. The squat position is used extensively in weightlifting and is the landing and take off position for jumping.

Develop the hip mobility to be at rest in a squat. Your knees, back and hips will feel great and your athletic endeavors will improve.


Shoulders are often neglected and notoriously weak in the majority of adults. Our modern lifestyle tends to reinforce a slouched internally rotated shoulder position often leading to chronic injust over time.

Most adults are unable to put the arms straight above their head, yet will persist in training strength through a limited range of motion . This is a mistake and will likely result in shoulder injuries.

The simplest and most effective exercises to restore shoulder health in the long term is to hang from a bar regularly. Rock climbers have known the health benefits of hanging for many decades, however only now is the mainstream fitness community starting to understand the effectiveness of hanging. Gravity will open and stretch your shoulders as your grip strength and endurance increases. All of which is very useful in many athletic and life endeavors.

Mat Harvey

Master Calisthenics Trainer

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