Coming off my three week summit conference with my canine companion, Noelle, I am refreshed, rejuvenated, revitalized and ready to blog. Here’s your weekly blog post for the next two weeks:
The internet is saturated with thousands of ‘experts’, pushing black and white opinions on the grey subject of movement. It’s very confusing for the average person trying to go from not moving to moving. People are now faced with difficult questions like: should I do Jen Selter’s summer booty challenge? Or should I do Crossfit because I think I could win the games in 2020? The internet is a horrid monster that has bastardized movement… so before I give my opinion, lets first take a deeper look and survey the popular movement genres sweeping the good people.
This one will be a bit long, because it hits close to home. I see many ‘movement gurus’ performing outrageous feats of mobility, like straddle L-sit end range hip flexion work and various versions of handstands. Let’s zoom in on handstands for a moment and ask: Is the human body even designed to do a handstand? Probably not. From an anatomical standpoint, we are not designed to walk on our hands based on the biomechanics of the shoulder, but really that’s just common sense. Have you ever seen someone hiking up a mountain on their hands? If you have, I suggest switching mountains. Only two things arise from long term handstand adaptations, 5k instagram followers and a laundry list of shoulder pathologies. When determining if a joint would be positively affected by a movement or by increasing mobility, the joint must be understood completely. The shoulder has four complex joints, but let’s focus on the big ball and shallow socket called the glenohumeral joint.
Like all synovial joints, the glenohumeral joint displays specific biomechanics. The osteokinematics (bone movement) are flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and medial/lateral rotation. While, the arthrokinematics (joint surface movement) are spin, inferior/superior glide, and posterior/ anterior glide. The arthrokinematics additionally follow the concave-convex rule. In order to understand the joint deeply, the arthrokinematics must be superimposed onto the osteokinematics. Continuing to build depth, the joint is stabilized both statically and dynamically. Statically, the joint is stabilized by glenohumeral ligaments, the glenoid labrum, articular congruency, and a negative intraarticular pressure. The joint is dynamically stabilized by intrinsic and extrinsic muscles that are controlled by the the C4, C5, C6, C7 spinal nerves running through the suprascapular, axillary, and subscapular nerves. I share this superficial overview to not only demonstrate how smart I am, but to also provide some insight as to how complex mobility training is and why so many people are doing ridiculous things.
Before you follow one of these Mobility Monkey’s routines, I suggest asking yourself, “does any human being really need to perform that movement?” There are absolutely mobility pre-requisites to movement, but I can assure you they are not as complex or advanced as the internet likes to make them seem. What happens when these Mobility Monkey’s get old and lose control of these vast ranges of motion, generating huge amounts of flexibility? From my experience, they fall apart. Later in this blog, I will give my two cents on mobility and how it fits into movement.
I jumped onto this bandwagon for a bit. Fortunately, I did not post my squat, press, and deadlift numbers in my IG bio, but I was committed to a linear progression for about 5 months. I got strong, grew out of a my over-washed cotton t-shirts and lost my ability to move in a fluid manner. This meant I could no longer salsa dance. I like to salsa dance. Therefore I describe my experience with powerlifting as awesome, until it wasn’t. There are some great strength coaches and doctors in the world of powerlifting. I have learned a lot from them and my experience, but I do not think homo sapiens sapiens were designed to lift a 600 lb barbell off the ground. I say this understanding that there are thousands of meaty Powerlifting Turtles who would try to rip my head off upon reading this, but fortunately I would evade them thanks to my lateral quickness. Besides my loss of salsa dancing, the physiological adaptations were not optimal for me as an athlete playing a dynamic sport. Most sports are played across multiple plains of movement, therefore only training the sagittal plain is suboptimal. The social media influencers in the sport of powerlifting are cool, smart people and love lifting heavy objects. There is nothing wrong with them trying to grow their sport, but I don’t think it’s for most people from a movement standpoint. Overall, there is a definite place for barbell training and even for a linear progression. More on that to come.
Surprising, there are few people who genuinely want to look like the potbelly bodybuilders of 2018. There have been numerous questions floating around my head like, do they even exist? Where are they? Were they hatched from an egg? Because they are clearly not on social media, which is of the utmost importance to pretty much everything. Thankfully, I have not lost sleep over these perilous questions, though I still do not know the answers. For the sake of society, don’t take their movement advice, if its out there. When utilizing machines for muscular hypertrophy, many aspects of static and dynamic postural stability are lost, along with various righting and equilibrium reflex reactions. Thus, turning into a Human Robot.
Lifestyle, Fitness Instagrammers
“Hey guys, Mike Sammarro here. Before I drop some knowledge bombs on you or share my vacation highlights from Ibiza, I want to first give a quick shout out to my new pre-workout supplement sponsor: Beyond Raw Lit. I don’t understand the big words in the ingredients, but it gives me a sick pump and random erections like back in the seventh grade. Beauty is sacrifice. Promo code in bio. I did a google search last night, and read that the biceps brachii have two heads, so I created a new workout program for each of them, independently. That program just went live in my online store for $10. Link in bio. FINALLY, my girl and I just got back from our trip. Much needed TLC from our busy lives of recording our lives. Swipe right for a thirty second trailer. To see the whole video, click the link in my bio. Videos only $4 for members.”
Let’s not take movement advice from these kinds of people. Or lifestyle advice. Really, any advice at all. Thinking about it, I think nature could select for them at any moment. Link in bio. *No picture included because you have seen enough.
There has been an outcropping of a scientifically minded people writing movement programs. It seems they realized that they can not only use their mind to control their body as a vessel, but can also use their mind to build other peoples bodies. You will see many pubmed citations in their posts, paired with fancy barrier words like actin, myosin, periodization, and motor units. They are selling ‘evidence based workouts’, which seems cool at first, until you realize how difficult it is to create peer reviewed exercise literature, how most of it is not clinically relevant, and how difficult it is to appraise a research article. There are only a few people who seem to do this well because they are doctors who are not participating in the newest fad. I wouldn’t take advice from someone who doesn’t take their own; your mother was right when she told you, “actions speak louder than words”.
Compelled Crossfit Athletes
I want to preface this by saying crossfit has been the best thing for the population in regards to movement in the 21st century. But it seems to be moving awry.
Have you heard about crossfit? Have you? Have you? Have you? Crossfit seems to be more of a blind faith than anything else. There is no critical appraisal from within and it seems to be moving in a general direction of entropy. The lifts it’s members undertake are very complex and require practice. It is impossible to learn how to properly and safely olympic lift by performing the movement once per month. Additionally, the ‘AMRAP’ sets are inherently dangerous because they call for members to perform complex movements in an exhausted state. Finally, one does not get good at crossfit by doing crossfit. The randomness of the programming does not cause proper adaptations over time to succeed in the sport. This is why all of the top crossfit athletes do not follow the crossfit ‘WOD’ like the members do.
I recently moved to a new area and considered joining a crossfit gym to lift at during it’s open gym hours. I drove there one day to check it out and ended up getting dragged into a two hour group workout class. It was interesting. I was taught ‘how to crossfit’ or as I call it, ‘how to cheat’. My strict pull ups were rejected and my dignity was lost. After the workout, I was invited to a birthday party the following evening being hosted at the gym. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t move that fast with anything other than buying girls vodka sodas, just for them to walk away. All in all, the crossfit people are cool and friendly (I guess), but I don’t agree with their movement program.
My Two Cents
Theodosius Dobzhansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. The human body is adapted to move. We evolved over time to be hunters and gatherers, therefore we have the capacity to do so. A couple hundred years of desk sitting is a drop in the ocean of human existence and will not cause an evolutionary adaptation. So, if we move the way we are designed, our bodies will adapt and we will be happy. There are 7 primal movement patterns that humans evolved to perform. They are to squat, lunge, twist, bend, push, pull and walk/jog/sprint (1).
I suggest training these 7 movement patterns, rather than training muscles. The literature is becoming abundantly clear that each time we perform a repetition of a movement, the nervous system responds in a unique manner to conserve energy expenditure. This means there is no such thing as training your gluteal muscles by squatting (insert peach emoji). You train your squat by squatting and your nervous system subconsciously decides what muscles to contract and when. Clinically this means, that all we have to do is move in the 7 ways that we are designed to, without having to worry about all of the little details of anatomy and biomechanics. It’s when we move in etiological ways that problems arise. That’s why I am a fan of having a movement teacher/ coach/ doctor, who has a serious depth of knowledge of these 7 movements.
This is how I would go from not moving to moving:
- Acquire the prerequisites to move by performing the desired movement progressively and regressively. This is where mobility will begin to be increased. Essentially, don’t waste your time doing pointless stretching/ mobility movements that are distant from our primal movements. Each of us will be at a different point and it is important to learn the proper movement patterns first.
- Learn the 7 primitive movement patterns through repetition (Hebbian theory).
- Adapt soft tissues for the movements. For example, fibroblasts lay down collagen along lines of stress. So if you stress the body by squatting to learn how to squat, your body will adapt to squat. Think on that for a moment.
- Progress from unloaded movements to loaded movements (TAKES TIME).
- Build a strength foundation. For many biomotor abilities, strength is the limiting factor, so it is important to focus on gaining strength at first.
- Run a linear progression of these 7 movements. Basically, add 5 pounds to each movement or increase the difficulty of the moment in a quantitate way every week.
- When performing movements, standing > sitting > laying.
- Integrate upper and lower body movements.
- Create a relationship with your inner unit. The core is very complex and vital in every movement, so here is an abridged version of it of how it works:
- Take a breath in, thereby contracting the diaphragm down (conductor)
- Stack the pelvic floor under diaphragm
- Contract core musculature as if you were about to get punched in the stomach and let nervous system control the rest. This will provide segmental stabilization of spine allowing your arms and legs to move.
- *Rather than a mover, your core is an anti-mover that works as a force transducer
- Simple movements are better than complex ones. Master the basics.
- Drive adaptation in desired biomotor abilities by doing them. They are agility, balance, coordination, strength, endurance, flexibility, and power.
- A good movement usually encompasses three or more of these abilities.
At the end of the day movement is individual. It is important is to clearly identify your goals, then chose specific movements to help you achieve them. The health of your body and mind are one in the same, so take ownership of your movements and create a high level of consciousness over your body. It’s okay to cycle through steps 1, 2 and 3 as you continue to move. Your body is a beautiful adaptive mosaic, so be creative and use it in many ways. I’m not going to cite the literature stating the many health benefits of moving because it should be obvious. In order to be a healthy human being, we must live the way we are designed to and that is to move. I think using a 10/20/70 rule is a good one. You should spend 10 percent of your time doing vigorous movements, 20 percent of your time doing moderate movements and 70 percent of your time doing light movements and relaxing. Movement is an integral piece of the health puzzle, so MOVE.
Finally, social media is a toxic information monster, that provides instant gratification with zero long term rewards and lots of confusion. I would not rely on it exclusively to learn how to move. Most people on it have monetary incentives to post and do not genuinely care about you. Of course, there is sound information to learn on it, so be weary in sifting out the good from the bad. I want to emphasize that the groups I made are overarching simplifications and that an individuals competence is what matters. Keep it simple and enjoy moving.
- Chek, P. (2011). Movement that matters: A practical approach to developing optimal functional movement skills. Vista, CA: C.H.E.K. Institute.