MovNat Gets You Out of the Human Zoo and Back Into the Jungle

Posted April 13, 2009 in Conditioning, Workout Routines 6 Comments »
Erwan Le Corre
Erwan Le Corre

I recently read a couple articles about a type of training called MovNat, derived from something called Methode Naturelle. As a training philosophy based on functionality, I found it to be a breath of fresh air.

This, along with some of the principles of CrossFit, odd object training, and strongman training, comprise the recent direction of my training focus. I still primarily lift weights, but this is the type of fitness that is really starting to interest me.

Being able to jump, climb, throw, run, defend, lift, and swim, really makes you feel good about yourself, and this type of functional training is what MovNat is all about.

Do bodybuilders freak you out, all bulky and thick? If you say yes, MovNat might be for you.

Do powerlifters freak you out, all fat and high blood pressure? If you say yes, MovNat might be for you.

Are you an experienced athlete who wants to start exercising outdoors instead of being locked up in a room surrounded by iron? If you say yes, MovNat is probably for you.

Are you looking to start exercising from a previous sedentary lifestyle, but have no desire to set foot in the gym? If you say yes, MovNat is definitely for you.

Anyone can switch training styles to practice MovNat for a couple months. Really, MovNat can be adopted by anyone including kids and women, experience athletes and newbies.


MovNat was formulated in 2008 by a guy named Erwan Le Corre. He has been studying the science of using natural movement to maintain top physical fitness, based on the concept of hunting & gathering and inspired by a century old method of combat training called Methode Naturelle.

Based on Methode Naturelle, MovNat was also shaped by Erwan’s experience with:

  • Combat Vital
  • Ironman triathlons
  • trail running
  • rock climbing
  • Olympic weightlifting
  • Karate
  • Thai Boxing
  • Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

The goal is to transform your body into a functional machine rather than a puffy, muscle bound, non-functional bodybuilder; rather than a super strong, fat, unconditioned powerlifter.

So what is Methode Naturelle?

Methode Naturelle is a type of combat training developed to get fit while developing maximal function use of the body. Read the story below of Georges Herbert, the founder of Methode Naturelle in the early 1900’s.

“In 1902, Georges Hebert was a 27-year-old French naval officer stationed on the Caribbean island of Martinique. On May 8 of that year, he was aboard a ship off the coast when an ominous plume began rising from Mont Pelee, the volcano looming over Saint-Pierre, Martinique’s largest city.

Sometime around 8 a.m., Pelee erupted, raining hot ash and sizzling rocks on the horrified population. Molten lava gushed down the slope and spread through the streets in fiery streams, igniting everything in its path. Swarms of pit vipers poured off the mountain to flee the searing heat, tangling in the feet of fleeing people and biting at their legs.

In minutes, the Paris of the Caribbean had turned into an absolute hell.

Into this inferno plunged Hebert. Leading his troops ashore, he scouted out viable escape routes and waded into the panicky crowds, trying to shepherd them to safety. By the time the eruptions ceased, fewer than 700 people had survived, many thanks to Hebert’s improvised rescue operation.

Hebert was celebrated as a hero, but he couldn’t help focusing on all of those who’d been lost. When he returned home to France, he looked around and was dismayed to see how many of his country-people reminded him of the victims he’d watched die in Saint-Pierre.

How many of these Parisians, he wondered, would be able to carry a child on their backs? Or trust themselves to leap over a 3-foot gap? Or take an elbow to the face but manage to keep their balance and continue running for their lives?

The modern world, Hebert believed, was producing hollow men who focused on appearance and forgot about function. At the same time, they stopped exercising with the wildness of kids and instead insulated themselves from risk. The cost, he felt, was far more destructive than they might think.

Motivated to do what he could to realign our fitness philosophy, Hebert convinced the French navy to put him in charge of conditioning for a class of its recruits. Using the recruits as guinea pigs, he incubated a system he called Methode Naturelle — the Natural Method.

Hebert preached a simple philosophy — “Be strong to be useful” — and focused on 10 essential skills: walking, running, jumping, walking on all fours, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, defending, and swimming.

Next, Hebert set to work on an outdoor training facility. He designed it to look like a giant playground, equipping it with climbing towers, vaulting horses, sandpits, and ponds. Scattered about were rocks and logs and long poles to be used for throwing, or balancing, or passing hand-to-hand while running, or anything else an athlete dreamed up at the moment.

Hebert had only one firm rule: No competing. When you try to beat the other guy, he believed, you test the other man’s weaknesses and not your own.

Within a few years, Hebert’s ‘Be Useful’ system was adopted by the entire French navy. In 1913, speaking before the French Physical Education Congress, he astounded them with the results of tests he’d performed on 350 navy recruits.

On a rating system that scored performance according to strength, speed, agility, and endurance, French sailors ranked with world-class decathletes.

The time had come to take Methode Naturelle to the world. Hebert handpicked an elite team of trainers and prepared them to spread the word throughout Europe, Asia, and America. But before they scattered, the First World War erupted. Because of their superb physical conditioning and dedication to service, the men of Methode Naturelle were deployed in frontline positions against German troops armed with machine guns and poison gas.

By the end of the war, the trainers were all dead or maimed. Hebert was heartbroken, but not surprised. Methode Naturelle was never about trying to live forever — it was about trying to make a difference before you died.

Hebert himself barely survived his wounds and struggled to regain the use of one arm. When he sank into paralysis after the war, Methode Naturelle was all but forgotten, swept away by a world that wanted to pretend that danger was gone forever.”

Erwan Carries a Rock
Erwan Carries a Rock

This type of training is just what the world needs right now. In the face of the vanity of bodybuilding and the egotism of powerlifting, MovNat inspires us to get back to our roots. I am looking to get out of this zoo, and will attempt to study disciplines like MovNat and CrossFit to inspire me to get fit this summer.

With a large park across the street from my house, I have no reason not to train with these principles. Let’s see what this summer brings for Project Swole now that we are opening our minds to forms of training other than straight weightlifting. Please leave some comments and let me know what you think about functional, natural movement training.

Read all about MovNat at the MovNat website.

Check out an article in Men’s Health that chronicles one man’s week long experience on an island with Erwan: A Wild Workout for the Real Word

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6 Responses to “MovNat Gets You Out of the Human Zoo and Back Into the Jungle”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m learning new training techniques everyday. I agree that MovNat really sounds great if I can jump, climb, throw, run, defend, lift, and swim.

  2. Righteous!
    I read an article on MovNat not to long ago and have been planning to implement the philosophy into my Summer workout program.
    I look forward to reading your posts!


  3. What an interesting story. Enjoyed reading it and the philosophy is very ‘today’. Best wishes. L.

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