In this lesson plan we are going to look at a way to activate parts of your body that might have “switched off”. There are a couple ways to do this: massage, breathwork and exercises. All these methods work and all these methods have their place in working the body and I definitely recommend using all these methods. However, it is difficult to convey the nuance of both massage and breathing work via videos and so I have decided to begin with mentioning a little about the exercises. After all, even if one uses massage or breathwork to activate the body, the mobility is only truly useful if it is in movement.

Let’s get to it.

The warm ups

This first video shows a warm-up drill you might want to try. Basically, this is a joint mobility exercises in the plank position. In this video, I show mainly some rotational movements from the elbow and the knees at two different positions. The idea here is to bring to your mind the possibility of activating the lesser used body parts through movement centered around a linking section of the body. You can do this with your chest, hips and neck as well. Really, we are just moving away from the “endpoints” such as the fists and feet.

The next drill I would like to share is the wall walking drill – a drill that was a staple at Toronto HQ when I first went down. To best receive from this drill, take particular note of your fist alignment and elbows as you navigate the levels at more challenging widths and odder angles.

The drills

Where would we be without the humble push up? Naturally, the push up is a part of the body activation type exercises. Of course, there are many ways to do it and here I am showing a couple variants which you can use to activate a large amount of your body and shoulders in order to yield greater and greater powerful range of motion. The last push up which is like a bridge is one that draws the whole body together instead of focusing on one area. This sort of exercise is good for developing strong body integration as well as quickly identifying weak areas in the body where more work can be done.

If you’ve found the previous bunch of push ups reasonably easy, you can try this for a greater challenge. I personally find this type of push up very helpful for waking up the whole body together at once. The drill is simple to understand – simply hold a plank position except with your feet against a wall or if you will, do a couple push ups in that position. The key to being able to hold this position is to have sufficient relaxation in your hips and legs so that rigidity does not prevent you from moving or making micro adjustments in your body. This sort of balanced relaxation has the benefit of being a self perpetuating type of attribute – a little success in this will generate greater success and higher performance. My preference is to hold a plank, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting video.

That wasn’t good enough? If you are in good health and can safely (I bear in mind that many of you might be attempting this at home and you might no have someone around to help) hold your bodyweight in a handstand this is a good drill to try. The key to this drill is a full body sensitivity through relaxation as well as the relaxation of your head (it should be not be kept up as you walk side by side). Be careful to not overdo this drill despite it’s benefits – the blood pressure that goes to your head could be too much quite quickly and tension makes this worse.

Doing the reversals

We focus a lot on the push up in Systema and for good reason. At the same time, we don’t want to build our body in an uneven way (although it probably already is). One way to bring some balance back is to work on the opposite side of the exercises you do. I show a simple version here, but feel free to do more challenging versions and certainly do them a little more. I recommend holding the told position for a period (maybe 10 seconds) before slowly relaxing down with good breathing.

Restore yourself

Once you have done all these exercises, it is always a good idea to end of by bringing your body and psyche back to a calm state. This helps you to drop any excess tension you accumulated through the exercises (you know those weird movements people make post weightlifting?) as well as to reset your mind from the hard work which enables you to go back to your other activities. In this exercises I am using a breathing pattern Vladimir encourages us to use – inhale tense up the whole body and exhale relax. I begin with shorter and sharper inhales and exhales before slowing down to a very relaxing slow inhale and exhale. Once you feel relaxed, you can continue the breathing without the tensing part and just enjoy the breath as it moves through your body. When that’s ready, be sure to get up comfortably without bringing in extra tension to yourself!