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Loaded Movement Training: The Missing Link?

Back in Canada, when my colleagues and I developed strength and fitness programs for hockey athletes, we began to notice something fascinating: Farm kids had distinct advantages when their “farm strength” was transferred to the ice. These young athletes were stronger on the puck, stronger in front of the net when battling their opponents, and stronger in odd body positions.

What was going on here? Farm kids did not exactly have training as they grew up. They had chores—throwing hay bales, hoeing weeds, herding livestock and so forth. And because chores must be done every day, these kids exemplified the bedrock principles of what we came to call loaded movement training: consistently combining an external load with specific, task-oriented motions to strengthen the body in ways that do not happen with standard weight training or body weight exercises.

This article will highlight the key concepts of loaded movement training and demonstrate how it can be a missing link in training and conditioning.

Why Chores Make All the Difference

As we worked with young hockey players, the strength differences between farm kids and city kids became so pronounced that we felt compelled to scrutinize what the farm kids were up to. Our journey of discovering how farm kids moved mass became the genesis of developing the ViPR® and of articulating loaded movement training as an authentic fitness concept.

Think about tossing, lifting or shifting bales of hay: Mostly it’s all about moving around a mass, moving with a mass, and lifting a mass up and down. We know this as manual labor, something few us do these days. Sitting for hours at a stretch, combined with moving in fixed patterns, has been our “norm” for two generations. Compare this with the thousands of previous generations who spent their entire lives moving their bodies with a load, be it bales of hay, piles of wood or farm implements.

Simply put, our bodies evolved to move with loads. That’s why it’s so critical to explore ways to include more loaded movements in our training philosophies.

Forces at Work

Moving with external loads provides the motion that our biology requires while subjecting our bodies to various “lines of stress” that trigger the remolding of tissue. This is how muscle, fascia, bone and skin self-assemble (Kjaer 2013).

The organic stimulus of different lines of stress in loaded movement offers the right amount of motor and mechanical variability to build strong and stable bodies that are mobile and resilient enough to function optimally. Moreover, loaded movement training helps provide stability and strength in a multitude of positions. Thus, this type of training can be a key component of a well-balanced conditioning program.

Key Concepts of Loaded Movement Training

Studies have found that loaded movement training challenges and conditions muscle, fascia, the nervous system, skin and other systems of the body (Hinz 2013; Leonard 1998; Shanahan 2009; Siff 2003). The intention is not to replace current training methods with loaded movement training, but rather to add loaded movement training into a structured program.

For information on beginning loaded movement training with clients and matching training tools with training concepts, please see “Loaded Movement Training” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2014 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


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Michol Dalcourt

Michol Dalcourt is an educator, author, trainer, inventor and an industry leader in the areas of human movement and performance training. He is a director for the Institute of Motion, adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco in sports science and co-founder of PTA Global certification. Michol is also the inventor of ViPR™, a fitness tool being rolled out in top clubs and with professional athletic teams. His innovative techniques have been adopted by many of the top international fitness certification bodies.

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