Can’t fire a cannon from a canoe

From the commencement of my fitness career I observed movment being broken down into categories. Multiple areas of the gym riddled with machines labeled biceps, triceps, chest, back, legs and the popular abdominals. A well intentioned member without knowledge on exercise can simply sit in a chair adjust the seat setting and push or pull their hearts away without needing to think twice. Not a bad trade off when you have spent  all day driving your kids around town, making decisions at the office, and paying bills. Sometimes it is nice to have someone do the in depth thinking for you. From my personal perspective as a dancer, I never thought of the body operating in a compartmentalized fashion. If I wanted to learn a move I had to contemplate it in my mind, implement repetition developing specific motor learning skills, recruiting my entire body. Even if regression was needed to develope the desired skill all parts of were still utilized.

I am writing to tell you there is no such thing as a shoulder. No such thing as the hip, or even knee. An arguable paradox indeed. But why do we refer and think of the Human Movement System as inanimate objects that operates autonomously? If the big toe is hurt are not your your entire movment capabilities? If a shoulder is injured does it not force compensatory actions to adapt to the damage? The Human Movment System operates on laws of global synergistic harmony.

There lies a superficial muscular system that is referred to as Prime-movers and there lies a profound muscular system at is know as the stabilizers. Think of the stabilizers like the guide wires on a large boat, keeping the ship stable and rigid to withstand the wind, water currents and sometimes a violent storm. Bringing me to my main point and the title of this posting, You cannot fire a cannon from a canoe. What do I mean by that? A cannon is powerful, large and can cause a severe amount of damage to an intended target. A canoe is slender, formed of light framework and propelled by paddles capable of handling the most calm currents of water. A cannon on a canoe and attempting to fire it would prove disastrous for the canoe and its passengers. This is precisely what is occurring in fitness and sports programming. The obsession with svelete figures, round pectorals, firm buttocks, and toned arms is creating a generation of dysfunctional people from a movment perspective.

Exercise selection and reccomendations by coaches, instructors and trainers is littered with flexion inspired movements  such as; crunches and sit up variations. Linear exercises such as Olympic  inspired weight lifting, dead lifting, bench pressing and many others. These exercises are not entirely wrong, the question is how much do they consume in a program? Placing an undo emphasis on developing the superficial musculature can lead to a dysfunctional movement capabilities, deconditioned deep stabilizers that or out of sync with the superficial system. Imbalances such as these contributes to length tension relationship unevenness, discordant movment patters, proprioceptive inefficiency, and decordination. In contrast, introducing and integrating exercises that are multiplaner, multidimensional, multidirectional that is propriaceptivly enriched creates a more rigid, more functional system that allows the body to be more effective at ballistic demands as well as, dynamic system that works in congruency with the outer unit.  This allow the neuromuscular system to recruit muscles at a higher level based on the demand.

Paul Check gave this topic headlines in the early 1999 in his segment tilted ” Scientific Core Conditioning from the C.H.E.K Institute. The “Guide wires” or inner unit of the spine are the transverse abdomens, multifidus, internal obliques, pelvic floor, and diaphragm. The outer unit of the trunk are the rectus abdominas, external oblique and erector spinae. Of course the outer are important to the overall balance of a well built ship. It would however, be functionally ineffective without the stabilizing support of the unner unit which stabilizes the spine and provides the outer unit with the support it needs to be strong and rigid. Over developing the superficial components creates excess tension, disrupting the harmony between internal and external structures. Furthermore, the superficial front line which originates at the dorsal phalanges of the foot and works its way north to the mastoid process, linking many parts together such as the sternocleidomastoid, sternum, rectus abdominis patella and quadriceps can become locked in a concentrically shortend loaded position. This has been shown by Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains.

So what are you suppose to do now? Should you throw away the machines, barbells, kettle bells, and heavy dumbbells? may be wondering- not necessarily. Back to my original illustration, you must rebuild your canoe to handle the load of a cannon. A canoe decorated in war paint just can’t do the job necessary for tasks of daily life, performance and weekend warrior actives. Within the REFORM method, I systematically address each area the body with an inside out approach versus an outside in. It’s not always about how much weight you can push, pull, squat or throw. Prime movers are taken into consideration however, that is a small piece of the program.

REFORM’s foundation is centered on building an internal structure that is first neuromuscularly sound, applying instability as a core stimuli. This leads to a stronger outer unit. Do not build a canoe with skull and crossbones painted on its ports with a cannon bigger than the canoe itself. Instead build a warship with multiple cannons, that is structurally sound, with the war paint on its ports.


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