Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movement Efficiency and Compensation

"Movement, when done correctly, is effortless."

Movement efficiency, I feel, is one of the most important physical traits you can develop from physical exercise and training. Without it, your health and performance will suffer. Therefore any other goal you have will be harder achieve. However, few people go to the gym to improve their movement efficiency. Heck, they probably don't even know what it is.

Movement efficiency is a term used to describe how well you move your body or how well you move objects. It is a combination of your anatomy, joint flexibility, joint stability, strength, balance, muscular control, and coordination. Why should you care about movement efficiency? Well, for one it will allow you to train, whatever type of exercise or sport you play, with better technique.

When you lack any of the qualities that contribute to movement efficiency, your body compensates. Compensation is usually bad. It means that the body cannot move in an optimal manner and now finds the next best way to move. A lot of time this means that extra stress goes to tissues that may not handle all of that stress very well, resulting in sprains, strains, fractures, herniation, and joint surface deterioration. The golf swing is a good example.

The golf swing requires you to move the club head beyond 180 degrees with tremendous torque. Many people lack shoulder, hip, and ankle mobility and hip and torso strength. Therefore, they put a tremendous amount of torque through their lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is not designed to rotate much...definitely no more than 20 degrees!

Another example is the bench press. And most people you see in the gym are guilty of this. They lack mobility and stability in the scapula (shoulder blade). When the bar is lowered to the chest, the scapula does not retract and therefore, the shoulder (glenohumoral) joint and rotator cuff muscles take more stress than they should. In time, many will develop shoulder joint pain.

A final and very common example is walking. Everyone accepts the fact that walking is a healthy activity that you should be doing a lot more. Well, even something as basic as ambulating can cause problems. Most people in America don't realize that they lack movement efficiency with even just walking- not even running. There are a number of ways that you can compensate with walking, usually the result is foot pain.

As you can see, how your body handles the forces you place upon it is extremely important. Most of us are fairly sedentary throughout the day and we lose joint mobility, stability, and strength over time. If we just start an activity without preparing our body to handle these stresses, we are setting ourselves up for future problems. I prioritize movement efficiency and look for movement compensation when working with clients. The more efficient you are, the easier it will be to work towards your goal without being sidetracked by an injury or have your performance suffer because of bad technique.

No comments: