Movements instead of muscles: is it time to look further?

When you see a person move, you are witnessing how they are creating, controlling and expressing themselves through the management of forces in real time. Every person, no matter what their age of functional capability is doing this, some more effectively than others.

It begins with how the person creates a force, whether it be drawing a breath successfully or just getting out of bed, to throwing a javelin, playing a violin or climbing a mountain. Any time you move, there is a force involved. We sometimes forget that we are creatures suspended in physics!

Having committed the energy to creating a force, can we use it effectively? If we want to climb a stair or to cycle efficiently, we need the principle of containment, which maintains the force within a defined area, in this case between the hip and foot, rather than losing it as it travels further up the kinetic chain.

Sometimes containment is the opposite of what we need –to walk and run fluently, to throw or kick a ball, or to swing a golf club, our forces need to transfer between body segments. For this, we need to access our elastic strategies, as the coordinated sequencing of our body parts engages our myofascial system to store and release the energy we have generated.

Sometimes a person’s pain is because they hold forces in the body which they could release. When we see a stiff legged landing from a jump for example, we see someone fighting forces instead of letting them go with ankle, knee and hip bending.

When we consider functional force management, it might make us consider our approach very differently. An exercise that you dismiss as “not functional” suddenly becomes critical when you realise that it is a missing puzzle piece in the person’s force management sequence. An exercise you safely consider to be functional, for example a step up, might reveals itself as non functional for the patient who cannot achieve it until another puzzle piece is in place. They could practice that “functional” exercise for the next three months and make only marginal progress, but make a big leap in progress when we identify what the force management issue is. Once we start to see it this way, it becomes marvellous fun for us and the patients – a puzzle to play with rather than a problem to solve.

The beauty of functional force management is that it connects us all as human beings. It doesn’t matter who we are, how old we are, or what has happened to us. We are all suspended between gravity and ground force. We all perform a range of tasks and activities in our lives, and those activities require different aspects of functional force management. We all need to make our way in the world, but most of us would like to do it with a little more ease, a little more comfortably and a little more effectively.

If you would like to learn more about functional force management, I introduced it in Stability, Sport and Performance Movement 2nd ed (Lotus  Publishing)  back in 2015, and explored it in The Power and the Grace: A Professional’s Guide to Ease and Efficiency in Functional Movement (Handspring Publishing) in 2019.

To really access the power of this approach, the most up to date and in depth information is presented in our flagship course for healthcare professionals, JEMS Movement ART Online Mentored Learning Programme.

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