In my last post I provided a brief history of Swedish Drill. In this post I will elaborate on the principles and positions, as well as how to interpret The Swedish Drill Teacher, which is our best resource for implementing this form of physical education in our home schools. At first glance this manual might seem overwhelming but I hope to help you see the big picture rather than getting caught up in the wordy details. While there are wonderful benefits to be gained from doing more complicated Drill routines, families can benefit greatly from regularly implementing simple routines in an effort to develop the habits of attention and perfect execution while obtaining postural (i.e., whole body alignment) and other physical benefits as well.
The premise of The Swedish Drill Teacher is that exercise promotes not only physical but also optimal mental development. Swedish drill is “a methodical adaptation of all the natural movements of the body.” (page 1) Unfortunately, life conditions don’t always allow for such movements to occur spontaneously, as when students are seated at a table or desk doing school work, and the exercises that comprise Swedish Drill aim to counteract the negative effects of these conditions that generally result in poor posture and prolonged physical inactivity. Swedish Drill aims to promote general health rather than specific muscular development.
In the preface of The Swedish Drill Teacher we read that
…there is grave risk of the teaching becoming mechanical when ready-made tables are used, and in this way much of the value of the work is lost.
However, we don’t all have a background in physical education, nor do we all have access to face-to- face instruction. I believe there is still value in performing pre-set routines aimed at preventing common postural faults so long as the exercises are performed properly. I have culled the manual to narrow it down to those straightforward exercises that would be valuable to implement without necessarily having a solid background in physical education. While the manual itself is comprehensive, my aim is to direct you to the simple yet effective moves that are safest to incorporate into your home schools.
As with all things this system is built from the foundation of principles that must be understood in order to properly apply Swedish drill and obtain the benefits that it espouses. The principles of Swedish Drill “are directed towards the co-education of the mind and the body with a view to the improvement of the health and the cultivation of control.” (page 2) The 6 Principles of Swedish Drill, according to the manual itself, are as follows:
- Principle #1: The exercises have been selected with regard to their effects on the body as a whole.
- Principle #2: The exercises have been classified according to their effects on the body.
- Principle #3:The exercises are strictly progressive. — Each lesson begins with easy movements, and there are also definite ways in which the exercises can be made harder from lesson to lesson.
- Principle #4: The exercises are done to command. The pupils learn the power of quick and correct response to the command, and this involves concentration and quickness of thought, alertness of action, and effort of will.
- Principle #5: A special point is made of the use of breathing exercises.
- Principle #6: The exercises can be adapted to the special requirements of the pupils.
The system is divided into different classes of movements that each have a specific purpose. These classes are briefly described on page 3 of the book. They include:
- Introductory Movements (i.e., a warm-up)
- Arch Flexions and Extensions (i.e., movements in which the trunk/spine is bending forwards or backwards)
- Heave Movements (i.e., movements in which the arms bend and stretch)
- Balance Movements
- Dorsal Movements (i.e., movements that involve the shoulder blades, which serve as the foundation upon which our arm musculature works)
- Abdominal Movements (i.e., core strengthening exercises)
- Lateral Trunk Movements (i.e., movements that involve side bending and twisting of the spine)
- Jumping (however, I will not be reviewing any of the jumping exercises presented in the manual, as jumping involves significantly greater forces upon the body and have greater potential for injury.)
- Breathing (i.e., cool down)
There are fundamental positions that must be mastered prior to putting everything together into a drill format. These are covered in Chapter 3 of The Swedish Drill Teacher. These basic positions include (we are linking images because we don’t have the right to post them within this article):
- Sitting (specifically, long sitting)
- Kneeling (specifically, kneel standing/tall kneeling and half kneeling)
- Lying (specific back lying or supine and stomach lying, or prone lying)
I will conclude with how the exercises are named. Chapter 4 goes into detail about this as well as what specific exercises are included. The exercises are named according to the starting position (i.e., Standing, Sitting, Kneeling or Lying) and the exercise or movement itself.
In my next post I will present my recommendations for you to incorporate into your own home routines based on my time immersed in The Swedish Drill Teacher. Stay tuned!