Why do we work with movement?

Some of the questions which are frequently quite validly raised during our courses are “don’t we all have potential movement dysfunctions? Who is to say what correct and incorrect movement is? Why do some people get hurt and others don’t?”.

Very good questions!

Ideally we have a wide range of strategies for creating forces and for controlling forces acting on the body. If our strategies effectively share load across large surface areas, transmit forces through the body and disperse forces from the body, we have a fair chance of minimising our injury risk.

This requires adaptability from the system, because bodies fluctuate from moment to moment, and the functional environment that the individual inhabits may also fluctuate to different degrees, sometimes a little, sometimes a great deal, sometimes gradually, and sometimes suddenly.

A good mover has many options and can responsively cope with fluctuations in order to achieve an optimal outcome. He or she has what we would call a large functional window. They can make the best of a situation, whether it is tripping over a crack in the pavement, lifting a wriggling toddler or just trying something new.

A poor mover has fewer options. Often their habitual compensations dominate, repetitively driving forces into certain focal body structures and demonstrating poor adaptability. Their functional window is relatively small. Something unexpected or new is likely to cause stress on the system.

We all have our own individual movement strategies, and as long as the functional demands upon us don’t frequently or excessively exceed our functional capability, we can be uninjured.

However, if the functional demands upon us exceed our functional capability and  ability to compensate, we become vulnerable to injury.

A sudden shift to barefoot running without modifying initial mileage, poorly supervised progression when lifting in cross fit, or simply the mid life crisis decision to run a marathon or climb the Himalayas without sufficient preparation time are obvious examples.

Factors which are often overlooked but which may unexpectedly contract your functional window include a tiny loss of strength, balance or timing through relative inactivity (perhaps work deadlines keeping you at the computer, or even the common cold), stress, poor sleep or even an unwelcome blister half way through a long mountain hike. Your functional window needs to be robust enough to cope with the small ups and downs of life.

How does this idea work when you are training to push yourself further?

Well balanced training expands the margins of the functional window, making it a little bigger all the time.  The body can accommodate this in small systematic increments. However, should you go too far and too fast beyond your current functional window, you may start to demonstrate coping strategies instead of new capabilities, leading to potential overload problems. Establishing base line movement capabilities and progressing sensibly from this point should avoid this.

In working with movement, use the “three V’s”, variety, variation and variability, to work towards increasing a person’s movement options, expanding their window of functional capability, developing their adaptability, and making new possibilities available.


First posted: July 2013.
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