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The Naked Warrior Assessment

July 11, 2007 12:23 PM

Musculoskeletal assessment is a fundamental prerequisite to conditioning and training. I often lecture on the benefits of assessment since we know very little about the past history of those we train. We know what they tell us but many times that does not include the total training and injury history. When I speak I often reference The Naked Warrior by Pavel. My quote usually goes like this; "If we all trained like The Naked Warrior implies we should train we would need very little assessment." It is a compliment on many levels. I would like to take the time to explain each level:

Level One

The Naked Warrior promotes body awareness in a slow progression of body weight exercises. There is nothing but you. There is always a way to make the movement easier or harder. This system allows you to gauge your current level of ability and target a new level as you set goals. The numerous distractions of equipment, mirrors, and chrome are not there for you. It's not a work out it is learning at a basic and fundamental level, what you can do and what you cannot do. It's not a work out, it's a movement education session and if you can't already do it, you need it.

"Know Thyself"
- Inscription on the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, 6th century B.C.

Level Two

The Naked Warrior promotes mobility and stability at the same time. Many who attempt the moves will have mobility issues that will require mobility work. Many will have stability and strength issues that will require better muscular effort and coordination. The beautiful simplicity is that the exercises promote both at the same time. In this age of technology we think if we identify the cause of a movement problem we can fix it. I call this the name game. The simple fact is you are only moving as well as the combined effort of your mobility and stability. Most people will admit they need to stretch or strengthen but most will only focus on one or the other. When I teach, I say if you want to gain length at one place add strength to another place. The place that you thought was tight was actually holding you up temporarily while you figured out the right way to do it. Like wise to add strength somewhere you usually need to add length somewhere else. Basically, better stability centrally allows for better mobility distally (see, Pavel, I did not say core — ha ha). The goal of The Naked Warrior is movement. Pavel has already broken it down for you. Focus on movement and muscles will take care of themselves. Muscles can go unnamed, undiagnosed, and un-isolated and if the movement is correct and appropriately dosed they will respond and perform. Pavel emphasizes correct movement. He promotes practice when you are fresh and warns against mindless repetitions and workouts. He champions the correctness and efficiency of movement. He takes the opportunity, provided by of the difficulty of the single arm push up and single leg squat, to teach you how to overcome a movement problem. He knows that few will be able to perform the movements correctly or at all. He knows that your inadequacy will make you listen and learn. Each fresh and frequent session will prove the techniques work because they are a reappraisal of your work and learning. You could say that Pavel takes the opportunity to teach you how to be stronger as he improves your movements or he teaches you how to move as he makes you stronger. Either way it works for me!

"To be ignorant of motion is to be ignorant of nature"
- Aristotle

Level Three

The Functional Movement Screen — a set of tests I developed is used to detect differences in the right and left side of the body. The tests don't look at the static body; they look at the dynamic and moving body. They look at movement patterns.

Example: lunging left looks great and lunging right is all over the place (poor balance, poor coordination, poor stability)

When the left and right patterns don't look the same, problems are more likely to occur. Research has proven this. Asymmetries in movement cause compensation. Compensation causes poor efficiency. Poor efficiency increases fatigue. Fatigue destroys body awareness. Loss of body awareness increases the risk of injury. The Naked Warrior functions remarkably as an assessment in this way. The single arm push up and the single leg squat are excellent demonstrations of body control and symmetry. In the event that you cannot do these moves the book still makes you consider the left and right side of your body independently. Pavel shows you how to modify and breakdown the exercises so the moves can be accomplished regardless of your level. The focus remains on the symmetry. Most of us will have asymmetries, and the "grease the groove" approach will help bring up the weaker side. The rules work amazingly, and fast if you use them. When you have achieved your goal of the single arm push up and the single leg squat you have actually demonstrated a blend of strength and body control. You have learned the skill of strength and it will automatically become a foundation for all you do. Revisiting The Naked Warrior will only remind you of how balanced you are or put your asymmetries back in your face. Either way you needed to know!

"It's the way that creates the warrior."
- Dan Millman

Level Four

A slice of humble pie is a welcome addition to any diet. I know many people who log long hours of time in the gym to achieve and maintain fitness. I also know many who log countless hours of running and cycling on the road who feel that the great volume of work is their key to success. I would venture to say each one of these high volume athletes could benefit from temporarily deleting two to three workouts and inserting some "Naked Truth" to their conditioning plan. Most will not do this because of small minded, habit driven lives that think more is better! But if they did they would achieve better body control and overall balance. They would also notice general improvements in their given activity and sport. They would receive this gift because they worked on the fundamental structure of performance. They would improve the basic foundation of their movement and then and only then could they add more volume of activity. The extra volume would now sit atop a broad and stable foundation without cracks or flaws. Every step toward achieving advanced levels of performance should be prefaced with reappraisal of the foundation. It is so completely simple and yet so hard to actually do.

I also know young athletes who wish to excel at a sport and they want to train like the pros. They want to lift and sprint and train like the big boys and girls. There parents come to me, and say could you put them on a weight-training program. I say sure let me look at a few things first. Part of my assessment is the ability in a basic push up (not a single arm push up) and a deep squat (not a single leg squat). With out even noticing that their child can do neither of these movements the parent looks up at me and with out a blink says… "So when do we get started on the weights." I look at them and say your child cannot even manage their own body weight. They need to learn to move first, then, I will teach them to lift.

Push-ups come before lifting, and squats come before sprinting. Mechanically speaking, all the mobility, stability and symmetry, that these two basic moves promote, is used efficiently when you lift and sprint. Sure you could do these activities without the basics but your coach or trainer would have to over train and over coach to simply get the basic move. If your fundamentals were there this would not be necessary. In my book Athletic Body in Balance I use the push up and basic jump rope to teach the user how to become quicker. Pavel uses the single arm push up and single leg squat to teach you to move and allow you to feel real usable strength. I think we both discovered that when teaching quickness or strength skills it is best to start with simple, familiar, and basic movement. My book was published in 2003 and Pavel's was published in 2004, which is the only reason why I do not heavily reference this timeless call to sanity.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
- John Wooden

1) Promotes body awareness
2) Evaluation and correction of whole patterns not isolated movement
3) Exposes asymmetries - the hidden robbers of movement efficiency
4) The KISS principle at it's finest — Keep It Simple Stupid

Gray Cook MSPT, OCS, CSCS is one of the most sought after lectures in the country, developer of the Functional Movement Screen and consultant to many professional teams and military groups. You can learn more about Gray and the Functional Movement Screen at