True to form Filex2011 offered us a delicious smorgasbord of presenters and sessions, from yoga to plyommetrics, marketing to corrective exercise, from pre-choreographed group exercise to award winning researchers and professors, and everything in between to suit the fussiest of delegates. As I expected it brought the latest and greatest information in fitness and exercise, but I question if it was all delivered in a context that makes it useful for actual application.
its easy to get a crush on sexy new information
We need to be aware that its easy to get a crush on sexy new information that may make a lot of sense when presented by a dynamic, convincing and well meaning educator (or two). The question I always ask myself is: would I be comfortable to introduce this sexy young thing to my friends (colleagues) and family (business and clients).
As we all know trends come and trends go. The pendulum of beliefs swings from one end to another. You know what I mean, don’t you? one day something is the MUST do thing, later to find out that it wasn’t so good after all, to then find out that… you get the picture. So its important to be able to discern those solid principles that guide good practice. On the other hand it is also necessary to be open to new approaches that arise out of our ever-growing understanding of this most amazing machine that is the human body.
So at Filex this year I witnessed the pendulum swing right in front of my eyes, and I think its gone a bit far – as matter of fact it was accelerating rapidly last year. I’m referring to the ‘whole body movement – we are just fascial lines’ argument. Now, I risk putting a few people I respect off-side with this post if they read it, and if you know how we practice and what we teach, then you may be raising an eye-brow at the moment as well, So please let me explain:
The argument I refer to proposes that the best way to activate a muscle is to pre-stretch it, therefore the best way to ‘rehab’ a muscle that is ‘dysfunctiona’l is through exercises (movements) that put those muscles into a stretch. The proposition also states that focusing on the muscle in isolation contradicts the ‘rules’ of neuromuscular function. On face value this makes sense, as we know from PNF principles that we can create ‘reflex’ actions by the way we load muscles. We also know from plyometrics that if you stretch a muscle rapidly, a rapid contraction follows that is more powerful and efficient than if the pre-stretch hadn’t occurred.
Now, this is where I believe the weakness in the argument lies:
the context of the training application is important!
a reflexive loading of healthy and functional tissue for the sake of performance is different to re-establishing neuromuscular coordination and control.
Let me give you a practical example to illustrate my point: we know that a lot of clients present with a dysfunctional Glut Medius (which is functionally responsible for maintaining the pelvis level when standing on one leg – and for rotation of the hip). This typically results in what is called a trendelenburg posture, where the musculature on the one leg that is on the ground is unable to maintain the pelvis level, so the non-supported side of the pelvis drops – imagine a model walking down the catwalk for an extreme example!
The new swing of the pendulum says that the glut medius should not be addressed specifically, or in ‘isolation’, to improve its function. Rather, exercises would be prescribed that place the individual standing on one leg, with the hip in internal rotation (to stretch the gluts) and the pelvis in a trendelenburg position (to stretch the glut medius) – refer to the exercise picture.
Now, while I’m certainly attracted to the sexiness of this exercise and the concept behind it, I ask myself one question (and I hope you follow my logic): if all it takes to activate a muscle is to pre-stretch it, then certainly the model with the swinging hips should theoretically have the best glut medius development around – considering that she stretches each one with every single step she takes!…right??!
I think you would agree with me that the answer to that question is a resounding NO!
And the reason behind this is that people in pain or injury behave differently.
That’s right, we know that ‘normal/healthy’ neuromuscular patterns are disturbed by injury and pain – and this argument was very well presented by Prof Hodges at the very beginning of the Filex conference. Its important that we listen to the whole message!
My approach agrees strongly with Hodges’s theme for that presentation: the answer depends on the context! and the skill of the exercise professional is to determine the right approach! no stress, hey??!
So, my approach? Scientific evidence and clinical practice have shown me, time and again, that the first step to re-establish function in a muscle/pattern is to address that muscle specifically and to recreate appropriate neuromuscular function to that muscle. THEN, we integrate that muscle into complex, integrated, functional movement patterns – like the sexy exercise in the picture above – performed, by the way, by our program developer Scott Wood – so yes, we do believe in exercises that encourage whole body movements, and that load along fascial lines! – just in the right context!!!
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