First of all, what is movement? Movements are normally ‘goal directed’ (i.e. happen in order for us to do something) and start with the body’s need to move. This then sets a sequence of other events into action: idea to need to move – excitement in the brain – message to brainstem – message to spinal cord – message to nerve cells – message to relevant muscles to contract or relax – create required movement. Damage (or malfunction of) to any part of this route will result in movement and its control being affected. “Normal movement maybe considered as a skill acquired through learning (or development) for the purpose of achieving the most efficient and economical movement or performance of a given task and is specific to the individual.” (S. Edwards, 2002). Although no individual is the same, we can get a good idea about ‘normal movement and posture’ by looking at the way a person without neurological damage holds themselves and the way they move. Movement develops from gross, big movements to fine, selective ones.
I specialise in helping individuals achieve correct movement patterns (optimum biomechanical efficiency), whether it is completely changing the firing patterns of muscles (in bad cases) or finessing the details (thus making it even more effective and efficient) of an existing, relatively good working order. There are specific ways to work towards accomplishing it. The first and utmost is to perform certain tests (i.e. overhead squat) to find out the current state of the individual’s functioning mechanism. To see the big picture” the individual needs to be assessed “GLOBALLY”. Based on the findings, corrective exercises can be performed to retrain the neuromuscular system to act in the desired manner. Dealing with the findings and addressing the issues “LOCALLY”. This process involves any or few, perhaps even all of the followings: lengthening short muscles, loosening up stiff and tight or tense (usually overactive) muscles/areas, awakening underactive (or inactive in worst cases) muscles, strengthening weak muscles (structures) increasing the range of motion of joints, etc. Throughout this process the individual must be monitored what kind of changes are taking place in the body “GLOBALLY”. If progress is being made, gradually compound, structural and functional exercises can be included in the training regime for the body to adapt progressively with the (new) demands. Yet again the individual is being looked and treated “globally” and the correct biomechanical patterns are being developed and engraved in the mind. It’s a “mind game”. Hence, yet again, the term: “MIND YOUR BODY”.
In layman’s terms it is all about allowing you to use the right muscles at the right time with the right intensity to meet the demands, execute a physical task safely and effectively. You learn to be economical with your energy: not doing more than you have to, but doing enough to complete the task. It fascinates and motivates me more than anything else and I take pride in it and do it with passion and utmost dedication.
THE A B C OF INCREASING PERFORMANCE & ACHIEVING BETTER RESULTS
Alignment is often confused with posture. Whereas posture is defined as “the position of a body while standing or sitting”, describing rather static positions, alignment factors in function. Although posture could play an integral part of one’s alignment, it is the latter I am concentrating on more as it defines and helps create effective movement. When the body is in a state of alignment, its every component is working in cooperation for proper function! Alignment is the relationship between the positions of different body parts. It can be used to describe: big areas (i.e. alignment of the whole body) or small areas (i.e. alignment of the arm). ‘Normal alignment’ is the alignment that an average individual without neurological or other physical problems should have. Poor posture and alignment (or misalignment) is often a source of health problems, particularly pains associated along the spine and around joints, but could be the cause of illnesses and disorders not necessarily musculoskeletal related.
Alignment can be improved by doing specific exercises that are designed to achieve that. Relaxing the body and mind, relieving tensions built up over the years, freeing up the areas of restriction will not only help bring the body into better alignment and release those repressed emotions but help the body function with greater efficiency and ease. “For movement to be effective the body must be in a ‘state of readiness’, which involves the body parts being in appropriate alignment.” (Carr and Sheppherd, 1990).
Putting the subject to layman’s terms: PREPARATION is of paramount importance. The ultimate #1 in achieving optimum performance. The body must be properly and thoroughly prepared (ALIGNED) to have a great foundation in order to get correct:
Biomechanics is the science concerned with the internal and external forces acting on the human body and the effects produced by these forces. In sports, biomechanics (the laws of mechanics) are applied to human movement in order to gain a greater understanding of athletic performance and to reduce injuries as well. Biomechanics in sports can be stated as the muscular and skeletal actions of the body during the execution of a given task, skill and/or technique. Proper understanding of biomechanics relating to sports skill has the greatest implications on sports performance, rehabilitation and injury prevention.
Functional exercises are designed to improve the athlete’s biomechanics, thus help master the specific skills required in his/her chosen sport. Furthermore, the muscles that are week must be strengthened, muscles that are inactive or underactive must be stimulated/awakened, and muscles that are short must be lengthened. There are certain movement and functional tests to determine which muscle falls into which of the previously mentioned “categories”, and based on the finding will have to be dealt with appropriately.
Putting it to layman’s terms: CONNECTING the body parts, LINKING the muscles in the correct order. It is called the recruitment pattern of the muscles in which they should be activated by the nervous system to create the required movement. It is a chain reaction of events in which each muscle is meant to take place at the right time, otherwise some will be overloaded, others will be underactive and these factors create dysfunction and eventually could lead to injury. Once this connection (BIOMECHANICAL efficiency) is achieved, the body can be in total:
Consciously being able to create and deliver the required move with precision and accuracy. The communication and trust between mind and body is of utmost importance and mutual. The mind is totally focused on the task and is aware of what set of action is required to accomplish it. The mind is in total charge of the situation from start to finish without being rigid. The muscles are constantly “listening” to the instructions in supple mood, ready to act and react. Actions take their course – it means that rather than forcing them, one must guide them through smoothly with grace, elegance and in style.
Putting this subject into layman’s terms: EXECUTING a movement (or exercise, task) is all about knowing where we are and where we want to be and finding the most efficient and effective way getting there without losing form and technique. It may not be the easiest way to start with (cheating is not an option as it is detrimental), but the most rewarding and beneficial. There is always a way: progressively setting targets and working towards them. One step at a time though: first one needs to learn to walk properly, before they can run…