Using the Ground as a Constant

featured photo credit:  @movnat instagram (Carlos Condit)


The ground is a safe, secure place.  It is not something to be avoided or stepped lightly onto.  It can easily absorb our falls and placements and pressures.  If we become afraid of it, or unsure, we lose the helpful guide of gravity.  The linear pull has a singular direction.  This is why postural alignment and pushing up through our feet is so important.  Our necks and traps and shoulders will attempt to carry us if we don’t stack properly.  Feet will flick forward instead of push.  Things tense when they should relax.  Our sureness that ground will hold us up defines how we move against it.  Constants are controllable.  They provide us with the perfect set up for play.  

Rolling or crawling on the ground connects you to the ground.  It builds confidence.  The pushing is mutual.  We can be fully supported and explore freely at the same time.  Muscles are reflexive.  They react to forces placed upon them.  Living anatomy learns.  The ground is the most reliable environment for us to figure things out and get things right.   

It starts with the set up.  As you become more in tune with your body, you develop an assured sense of what feels ‘correct’.  Orientating yourself with the ground becomes part of your movement readiness. Notice what I automatically do with my feet when preparing for a quadraped hover:

I knew I was going to move my arms, so the only grounding force I needed to establish was with my feet.


Confidence in the ground leads to control.


Being able to push wherever you want whenever you want allows for supported joints to move as you intend them to.  When attempting to master mobility, joints you wish to move cannot also be asked to hold you up.  Encouraging suffering within contradiction leads to stalls, cramping, and frustration.  Free joints to move by utilizing the core as a primary point of stability.

Both limbs are pressed into the ground to create rotation from the hip through foot.  The arms, connected to the linking torso, help facilitate the twist.


The limbs you’re not focusing on can assist the core in generating force by pressing into the ground at specific angles:

Country music recording artist Maggie Rose enjoying the sweet suffering of passive range lift offs. #functionalrangeconditioning is such a wonderful system because you already have the equipment requirements. That is, as long as you own a body. Learn and educate yourself about yourself. What a wonderful tool for humans on the go, traveling, running errands, sitting idly by, or traveling across the country singing for thousands of fans. It is meaningful for her to keep up with the physical demands of a lively crowd pleasing show. FRC helps you put the effort in the right places. @iammaggierose #nashville #movementculture #mobility #frc #kinstretch #controlyourself #thebalancetraining #countrymusic @drandreospina

A video posted by Joel Paavola CSCS LMT (@joel.paavola) on


To lift something off the ground, something else needs to press into it.


We tend to understand this in upper and lower halves.  Leg lifts naturally utilize extra support with the arms, and arm lifts instinctively rely more ‘push down’ with the feet.  In singular limb lifts, however, pay special attention to the sister limb still in contact with the ground.  It’s the magic bullet.  In the video above, that grounded left leg is doing some serious work.  The push-pull relationship is proportional to the demands necessary to perform the task.


While there are evolving definitions (IsoMPs) of the term, isometrics, the ground serves as an excellent, always accessible surface to perform overcoming isometrics.  It is an immovable surface, recruiting maximal motor units to build strength in deliberate positions, all without the fear of any equipment failure.  Since you’re already on the floor, the threat of falling is minimal.  Every instant and action is meticulously calculated between your brain and tissues.

Not just for legs.  The ground serves as an ample playground for the arms and shoulder.  Here I get a bit stuck at the :21 mark.  Notice how I use my hands against the ground in an alternating fashion to right myself.


Isometric work can also be used to expand upon end range of motion.  Here I keep my shoulder in its maximal internally rotated position, and add variable rotational load:

I end up much more comfortably than I started.  All stress of the roll (speed, direction, initiation, driving force) was carefully and consciously controlled.


Finally, the benefits of ground work doesn’t have to stay on the plane of the ground.  It may sound contradictory, but a safe, secure surface can act as the ground at any level you wish.  High boxes are a common example of this concept.  They add specificity and creativity to the convenience of the floor.

In pressing down on the box at the point I got stuck, with the intention of opening the hips (not crushing the box), I gained just enough neurological ROM to smoothly clear the object.  My ‘happy feet’ in-between the box drive and the hip flexion-aDduction skim was intuitive and not intentional.  This video was shot and presented in real time.




  • Our confidence that the ground will hold us up affects our posture, gait, and motor patterning
  • The ground provides the most reliable environment in which to perform movement explorations
  • Muscles are reflexive and will feel their way toward ‘correct’ with jostling
  • The variability of movement needs the constant of the ground to reset to baseline
  • The core musculature works with the ground to hold you up so you can access mobility
  • A force needed to lift-off needs an equal and opposite force to push-down
  • Isometrics agains the ground can both strengthen and increase ROM
  • The floor can be elevated to varying heights


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