Whether I’m evaluating someone at work or watching them move in the gym, my thoughts are always on mechanical efficiency and the basic principles governing movement. There are a few rules that guide these basic principles and I would like to share my thoughts on how these rules apply in everyday life.
My first rule of efficiency is mechanical load, the first joint that moves gets the greatest amount of load distributed through it. Let’s use the most basic and common movement, the squat. Have you ever heard me say “the hips go back first when we squat,” well that’s because they are a big stable ball in socket joint and they can tolerate the most load. If our knees move first than they are going to get loaded the most and that will definitely lead to knee pain and problems. Now that the hip is the first joint to move, how it moves is also extremely important. Rotation creates the greatest amount of stability. When you hear a coach say, “screw you feet into the ground when you squat” or “drive your knees out” it’s because they are trying to get you to engage your hips with a rotational force to increase the stability. Rotation = stability in a ball and socket joint, (the shoulder or hip).
The second rule is one of Gray Cook’s founding principle to human movement. The concept is called the joint by joint approach and it allows for a frame work of how our joints should have stability and mobility in an alternating pattern in order to provide the greatest amount of movement efficiency. Everyone has a tendency to follow this pattern but like most things in life there are exceptions to the rule especially when an injury or trauma was involved. If we start from the ground up each joint or group of joints has a tendency towards mobility (the ability to move freely and easily through a full range of motion) or stability (not moving in the presence of a force that is trying to move you). The toes are mobile, the foot is stable, the ankle is mobile, the knee is stable, the hip is mobile, the low back is stable, the thoracic spine is mobile, and through the whole body we follow this pattern of a joint that needs to be stable and a joint that needs to be mobile. Let’s look at our squat again to provide an example of how this concept works. If we are trying to squat to full depth, (hip crease below the knee joint) in order for that movement to be safe and efficient, we need to have enough mobility at the hips and ankles so that we don’t have to put undue stress on the knees and low back. Now this is over simplifying the squat but it’s an example we can all relate to when we do that first air squat of the day. This concept will lead us to most of our problems such as why your knee hurts when you squat or why your shoulder hurts when you do pull ups. If the mobile joint is not moving, then the stable joint will and that is going to end up causing pain and problems throughout your lifetime. Remember Move Well, Live Well.
The last rule that governs how we move pertains to our tissues. Think about what is the tightest part of your body? Your hamstrings, your shoulders, your quads, your ankles? All of the tightness in our bodies, no matter how we refer to it can be attributed to one thing, tissue. It’s not necessarily that your hamstrings are tight, it’s that your muscle, fascia, tendons, nerves and anything else that falls under the umbrella of connective tissue has gotten restricted. Once all those structures or any combination of those structures has gotten restricted, than you will experience restricted motion. We have the most influence over this final principle and it is the biggest limiting factor to moving well. Since we can control tissue extensibility problems or Tissue Extensibility Disorders (TEDs), we need to put the time and effort into improving them. So what does all this mean? It means do your mobility work! Work out the tight tissue with lacrosse balls (LAX), foam rollers, bands and voodoo wraps. Dynamically warm up all the structures in your body before you put them to a test at the box. If you want to move better, move more efficiently, and move without pain than do your daily maintenance on your body. Be a student of how you move, listen to your coaches when you are lifting or during that chipper WOD so you can always be improving your quality of your movement. Strive for virtuosity in your squat and with every move you make. Make moving well a way of life. In short Move Well, Live Well.