The first time I trained with Derik Broadnax he instructed me to get on the ground and crawl. Not like a baby, more like a ninja or a large cat stalking prey. This was among other seemingly odd movements—skipping, shaking my limbs, circling my joints, playing games with sticks, jumping like a frog and hanging from a pull-up bar (not necessarily in that order)—that rounded out the afternoon.
I didn’t understand his reasoning at the time, but after training with Broadnax for a few months, I now see he was testing me, assessing all sorts of things crucial to his method of training—strength, but also joint mobility, active flexibility, balance, coordination and my willingness to play and have fun with movement. He is interested in all these components of physicality because he falls in line with an emerging group of trainers more accurately described as movement specialists.
“If I had to boil it down, what I’m interested in is gaining control of the body,” Broadnax says. “And I like teaching people ways to do that. My training early on started with traditional strength training. That’s pretty simple, to get people stronger. But I found that’s just one way to develop the body.”
Broadnax, a Maple Valley native, began to focus on a career in personal training in high school after attending a job shadow with the player development coach for the Seattle Sonics. He went on to attend Western Washington University, earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science, and since he has worked at a variety of local training facilities and clubs, coming to the Bellevue Club in October 2015.
But he says it wasn’t until just a few years ago that he started to expand his idea of fitness and what type of training the human body really needs. “As a culture, we tend to be addicted to fatigue and intensity,” Broadnax says. “For the most part, people just want to be crushed when they work out. This is not bad, but the goal of training should be to improve in a specific way, not just get tired.”
That’s not to say training with Broadnax isn’t challenging; ninja crawl across the room a few times and your thighs, shoulders and abdominals certainly will burn. It’s just that the purpose behind each exercise is greater. For example, he explains the crawling, jumping and skipping drills are known as locomotion exercises. “Locomotion tends to reveal how everything is functioning as a unit. How you’re integrating all your abilities.” And that’s just a sample of the thought process behind his exercises.
Another example is his insistence on hanging from things.
“Hanging is big time; it’s so important. People who hang a lot—climbers, people into parkour—they don’t have as many shoulder issues,” Broadnax explains. “Because there’s this great thing that happens when you grip something—it stabilizes the shoulder joints. And that’s really important because nobody climbs anything or carries heavy objects anymore. There’s no necessity for it. But you also don’t want to lose that ability in your shoulder. It’s also great for complete spinal decompression.”
A big influence on his training method is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). “The FMS is a screen of seven movements—the deep squat, hurdle step, in-line lunge, shoulder mobility, active straight leg raise, trunk stability pushup and rotary stability—and once I take someone through a screen, it helps me figure out if they have any painful patterns or dysfunctional patterns that need correction. Then I make lists of things they can and are currently unable to do.”
Once the parameters have been set with the FMS, Broadnax talks with clients about goal setting. He says weight loss and increased strength—the two most common reasons people see trainers—are good goals, but he encourages people to think a little outside of the box. He lists being able to sit in a resting squat for 60 seconds, do a pull-up for the first time, or have the space and mobility to bend over and touch your toes as examples of good goals.
“Those are just basic abilities that you should be able to do if you want to do it,” he says. “They should be thought of as basic, but they are really foreign to people in the gym.
“In the end, I want people to have more energy, be able to pick up their grandkids, be more effective for their family. I want them to be free to do what they want—strong enough, flexible enough and mobile enough to do anything they want to do,” Broadnax says. “In order to attain that you need to train a certain way.”
Once clients understand and trust in his process, Broadnax might incorporate a whole host of activities to help solve movement problems and increase what he calls their “movement literacy.” These exercises include dance, martial arts, Olympic-style weight lifting, gymnastics, hand balancing and even simple playground games.
“Play is huge because it’s the highest form of expressing all of your abilities. Most people don’t play enough. Kids have very few restrictions in their bodies, and as we become adults we play less and less,” Broadnax says. “Plus it’s fun to see my clients playing and having fun. They get a positive reaction to physical activity versus just pushing and pulling weights, dead lifts and squats. That’s huge because as technology becomes more integral to our culture we don’t need to do a lot of physical stuff, and a lot of people are uncomfortable working hard physically.”
Broadnax continually trains and attends workshops with movement specialists both locally and internationally, and he says more and more elite athletes and trainers are going in this direction that focuses on movement quality versus pure intensity. He encourages everyone who simply wants to move better to give the process a try. “I have an agenda too though; I want to work with people who want to be the best version of themselves.”