This is Part 1 of 2
When asked what’s the big deal about training upright (you know, standing while weight-bearing in gravity), I could only come up with one simple word: Balance.
Balance is a word that’s often reduced in the fitness culture. The moment you read it, I’m sure most of you envisioned a static representation of someone standing statuesque in quintessential zen perfection … on one leg … with or without kettlebells.
That’s not exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about dynamic whole-person balance! This kind of balance integrates the body and mind in states of readiness and relaxation. It is the balance we refer to when life feels satisfying and proportionate when you feel mentally and physically satiated. It’s a renaissance view of the word which invites into consideration how well your physical/mental/ and emotional faculties are regulated and harmonized.
What we’re talking about is the nervous system.
Let’s first talk about why upright training is so vital to our nervous system fitness. Then circle back around to why this conversation is valuable, and finish off with how the CoreAlign is such an essential tool for whole-person wellness.
A few years ago, I began talking about “non-transferable skillsets” within fitness and exercise. A non-transferable skill refers to an ability/dexterity one has practiced and achieved finesse at, but does not transfer over to another power even though they appear remarkably similar. For example, perfecting your push-up does not transfer to being an expert at benchpress. Increasing your weight load on a Lat-pull does not mean you can successfully do a pull-up. In effect, one has to DO the specific movement they want to get good at it.
What I’m not saying here is that some movement is more valuable than other movements. All movement (well, most movement) is good movement. I am proposing that while seated and supine exercises may increase joint mobility/flexibility, develop muscle mass, inspire mindful awareness, and improve coordination (all great stuff) – what it does not directly do is improve upright standing balance.
For that, you have to practice standing upright – in a lot of different ways with various stimulation to inspire and provoke your nervous system to be more fit for the task, which seems functionally essential since we’re bipedal animals that (ideally) spend most of our life upright.
If you’re a nervous system nerd, I’m sure that you’re super excited about this conversation. If not, I can hear your sighs from here.
Let me invite you into (maybe even convince you about) considering the nervous system when training a client. Right off the bat, nerves are how muscles communicate. Do you want to train muscles? That’s a given nervous system conversation. For me, it’s also the most tedious part of the conversation.
I’m an exercise expert that has NEVER cared about waistlines, biceps, and fixing injuries even though I’ve been successful at achieving all of the above. By helping someone to move well, those aspects of physicality are already likely. What I’ve always cared about is helping people to feel resilient, overcome outdated physical narratives (the “I can’t” conversations), and be expressive, creative, capable humans.
The brain hot spot for motor control and balance, and the key to remaining upright, is the cerebellum. That portion of our brain is also highly influential in cognitive functions like attention, language, and the emotional control of fear and pleasure. The vagus nerve (the fight/flight social-connection whole body regulator nerve) roots into the brain complex.
Because our nervous system exists on a continuum, the same nerves that control physical balance ALSO influence emotional balance by “exercising” the cerebellum you exercise. Not just motor control and balance, but the very human qualities of aware attention/language / emotional intelligence/self-regulation of the nervous system, and personal experiences of fight/flight or fear/pleasure.
“Upright Training: What looks like whole-body exercise is a direct path to balancing whole-person wellness.”
Now, you could spend years studying neuroscience, or you could train your client on a CoreAlign. The CoreAlign’s upright design, supportive ladder, variable degrees, orientations of load, and thoughtfully curated exercises still allow room for creative expression. It’s the perfect space to upgrade your students’ physical and mental balance – whether they are athletic movers, fitness fanatics, somatic types, post-rehab recoverers, or golden-agers looking to feel secure confident while actively aging.
Look for my 2nd installment in this series, where I give you my 3 go-to upright training exercises, which you can execute using the CoreAlign OR try it at home with a prop.