Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quality Movement

When looking at movement quality, it is generally agreed upon by physical therapists, strength coaches and other movement specialists that gross motor patterns, as they apply to exercise, can be broken down into a few basic movement patterns:

  1. Squat
  2. Lunge
  3. Vertical Push
  4. Horizontal Push
  5. Vertical Pull
  6. Horizontal Pull

It is also generally agreed that there are several inhibitions we place on our ability to perform many of these patterns by living a 21st century lifestyle.  These inhibitions are generally related to the amount of time we spend sitting.

At its worst, sitting will inhibit the glutes and hamstrings, tighten the hips, cause distorted arching of upper and lower spine, and creating a stiffness in the lower back.  Think about how you used to squat when you were a little kid, or how a member of a primitive culture is able to squat down and sit back "on their haunches."  When was the last time you were able to do this.  The reason that you can't is that you spend so much time sitting in a chair, that you have developed many of the issues mentioned above.

If you are an endurance athlete or weightlifter, who is not currently performing a mobility routine, it is likely that these problems are even worse for you.  The reason being that not only have you developed improper movement patterns, but you are reinforcing them on a constant basis, under load.  Thereby further ingraining them in your central nervous system, the place where all of our movement patterns are stored.

At age 20, these problems are minor inconveniences for everyone except the highest performing athletes.  In our 30's and 40's, the stiffness starts to set in, and begins to inhibit our lifestyles (getting on the floor and playing with the kids becomes uncomfortable, shoveling the driveway leaves us stiff for a couple of days.)  By our 50's and 60's it's no longer "It's not comfortable to do that", it becomes "I can't do that."  By our 70's and 80's, these same inhibitions are what lead to many of the issues that lead to helath problems, including slipping and falling. It is also a large part of what leads to the inability to perform daily tasks, and the accompanying need for additional support from family or professionals.

The good news is that regardless of age, we can all make significant improvements to our movement patterns through a simple stretching and mobility program.

Over the next few posts, I will discuss each of these problem areas and give you some tips to help you improve them.

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