Friday, September 2, 2011

Quality of movement matters

''First move well and then move often''
Gray Cook
When I find the time, I do my best to contribute to the online fitness community in my home on the Internet - the JP Fitness forums. It's a place that has helped me grow tremendously, meet amazing people, learn from professionals and pass on what I can, to the members who need help. JP Fitness is also home of the forums for the New Rules of Lifting books, legendary work by Lou Schuler, with the contribution of Alwyn Cosgrove and Cassandra Forsythe - you will not find a more focused concentration of people who understand the importance of intelligent programming anywhere on the Internet. Lou also pops in to discuss certain topics! What a treat!

Most of the questions we answer are connected with fat loss, a specific program, some type of injury, not knowing what to do with a specific food or supplement. I am sure you have all seen forums before, and believe me I have asked my own fair share of %$%#$@! questions on forums, but just to remind you, it kind of goes like this:

A: My knee hurts when I run
B: Please tell us more.
A: I just have this pain when my miles go up. Should I change to X type of shoes?
B: How about you get this evaluated by a specialist and see what is causing the pain?
A: I have to run 5k next week. But I will go to check it out after.

A: I am doing this program, but I am not sure if it's right for me. I have this nagging shoulder pain.
B: I am sure you can meet with someone to assess you and you can determine if it's right for you.
A: I really want to do it on my own, this program is so cool. Everybody loves it. Just tell me what not to do and what exercises to change.

A: I am not getting stronger in the bench press. Please help.
B: How much do you weight and how much do you bench?
A: Well I bench 235 and I have been stuck for 1 year.
B: Have you met with someone to assess your bench press and your ability to do it well?
A: I really just need a new program.

(Insert something from the Bulgarian or Russian programs here, at random)

Do you see a common theme? I feel like oftentimes we end up beating a dead horse. People tend to take movement for a given, and quality movement for a given. They just assume, like the air we breathe, when we wake up, good movement is going to be there and we can count on it. They just assume they can hop on a treadmill, or go to a body pump class or start lifting weights in the gym, and their body will respond with breathtaking awesomeness!

baby horizontal press
baby model Dina, 11 mo. has no trouble with stability

Let me illustrate that for you: as a baby and toddler you move perfectly. Nature figures out a way to make you stronger and get you where you need to be in space, so you can get hold of a toy or your momma's skirt. You can stabilize your body in crazy positions and do it right. Once you start playing repetitive sports, or sit at your school desk or at your computer or gaming station, things change. Most people looking to get in shape are already not moving well due to lifestyle challenges, work environment or previous injury. Unfortunately, most discover this when they start a training program and they start experiencing pain or discomfort or when they see that their program does not yield the desired result. Did you know not moving well can stress you out so much that your workout can actually make you eat more and you may not see fat loss?

I am a firm believer that people should be in charge of their own training and programming, but just like everything, that takes an educated approach and experience, because guess what lies an the bottom of your movement success pyramid? Quality of movement. If you don't have it - you can build fitness on top of it all you want and you will keep getting less than what you expect.

Say you wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. You would not just pick up a violin and start scratching away. Doesn't sound well? Try scratching away in the other direction or even better find a buddy and you can produce the horrible sounds together. Now produce them in interval fashion? 30 secs on and 30 off. How about joining a violin competition for who comes up with the best random sound? This may be an extreme example, but man, does it illustrate what we see in how people approach their fitness. Want more? You get a new TV. You read the manual. You program the remote. Now watch away.
Your body - well - you just get in the gym or go run outside and expect results. That simple.

This is my point: if you want to be serious about your results, whether your goal is to look good naked, get healthier, faster, stronger, have more energy, be more productive: look at your honest current situation. If you are not educated to do your own assessment of the current quality of movement, hire someone to do it for you. If money is your concern, find a time bank that you can use those services from and donate your own services. Lisa Wolfe over at Miracle Fitness has a lot of experience helping people from time banks. Shoot her a note and find out how to do it. If it's important to you, you will find a way to get assessed by a physical therapist, knowledgeable coach or personal trainer. If you already have a personal trainer, but you have never been assessed properly, suggest that they get educated or go to someone who can provide a better service. It's in your own best interest.

If you are a trainer, fitness professional, coach,  movement therapist, or whatever it is that your business card says, I cannot stress out enough how important it is to get other professionals to look at your quality of movement. Who is writing your programs? You? Not bad if you have been assessed by someone else and you are taking the results into consideration. Never work alone. I cannot thank my coach and mentor Bill Hartman enough for the wisdom, knowledge, methodology and patience he has taught me. I hope one day I can pay him back.

I bet these ladies probably did better when they were babies, don't you?
This is a photo I took during one of the hands on sessions at Perform Better last weekend at Long Beach. 800 of THE BEST personal trainers and coaches in the country were gathered to learn from the giants in the fitness industry. The two poorly executed dynamic planks you see in the shot are not done by clients, they are done by trainers. It's not that those girls were not doing their best, they lacked movement quality and I am sure they didn't know it.

Don't be that person who prefers to keep their eyes closed and pretends everything is OK. If your program isn't working, if you have pain or dysfunction, if you want to know your body better than you do now, get assessed and develop a system for assessment, use every workout, every movement, to insist on movement quality. Get surrounded by people who understand it. Get educated. Look beyond the first program that you happen to like or love. It may not like you back and if it doesn't it's not the program's fault - you are simply not ready for it.

And while we are at it let me close with this: there is no perfect system for movement: you will not find peace in Pilates, Yoga, kettlebell sport, strength training, dance, martial arts or gymnastics. The only system that matters is your body and the quality of movement you can get out of it. You will only find peace in good health and happiness and none of those systems or programs guarantees it if it's built on poor movement quality. It's so important I will repeat it:

Gray Cook

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