Growing up I often wondered why kid’s who worked outside with farming, and other such things, were always stronger than kid’s who didn’t perform hard manual outside labor. The indoor kid is like the gym strong kid, they usually have larger muscles and more aesthetics but the farm kid from a whole-body perspective is tougher and more sustainable. The environment of the farm kid is reactive and variable. Farmers move sub maximal loads in a variety of angles, postures and directions, often for long periods of time. The gym kid typically moves load in one plane of motion typically with maximal loads for short bursts of activity. How can we glean the benefits both the farm strong style training which is variable and the gym style training which builds large muscle groups? Let us examine some physiological principles to explain why variability is critical for performance as well as health.
Our tissues are highly adaptable, but compared to the nervous system, they take a long time for adaptations to occur. In our connective tissues (fascia),Davis’ Law states that our tissues remodel along lines of stress. Wolff’s Law states that our bone has a capacity to remodel along lines of stress. The mechanism behind these adaptive properties is called Mechanotransduction. How this relates to variable training is that our tissues need exposure to variable force/stress in order to function optimally and stay healthy. Many Musculo-skeletal injuries are really injuries of the fascial system. The advances in the past two decades has given us clarity as to how we can enhance this structure through training. It is evident that variability is vital to supporting healthy connective tissue, we need variability in:
- Direction of force application (Variable postures and planes of motion)
- Speed of movement
- Load (Both Bodyweight and moving external mass)
We must recognize that training for aesthetics is highly repetitive which may lead to dysfunction. From a motor perspective, in traditional weightlifting, we see an increase in Type-two motor fiber recruitment which innervates large phasic muscle groups. These Type-two motor units have a potential of producing high amounts of force. This is good but, we also see a decrease is Type-one motor fiber recruitment with this type of training. Type-one motor fibers are close to the joint and are stability-based fibers. Lack of synergy between Type-one motor fibers and Type-two can lead to a decrease in joint stability and ultimately greater wear and tear on the body. (Optimal Movement Variability: A New Theoretical Perspective for Neurologic Physical Therapy
Imposed demands for both athlete and the everyday person is reactive and instinctive. It is different every time. Variability fosters many befits such as, enhancing sensory motor integration. Sensory (input) and motor (output) is critical for movement health and performance. If we can sense a change in our environment and quickly produce a motor response, we can potentially decrease the chances of a critical fall. Sensory motor integration is paramount for elderly fall prevention. Athleticism itself requires a supercharged nervous system. High performing athletes need high nerve conduction velocity. These quick action potentials turn on muscle on and turn them off quickly. When muscles turn off, stretched skin and fascia recoil to their resting length. Bone, Fascia, and Muscle are omnidirectional tissues. Omni-directional force stimulates collagen and elastin production in the skin. Training that is robust and variable supercharges the nervous system by training the nervous system, fascia, skin, bone, & tendons harmoniously together.
In order to become better movers, we must move more. When we move and load the body with a variety of vectors, we enhance our internal coordination and synchronization of all muscle fiber types for various motor patterns, creating greater sustainability. Variability also enhances neurogenesis (production of new brain cells), synaptogenesis (formation of synapses between neurons). I utilize a 4 quadrant-based training and recovery system. This neuromechanical model takes into consideration loaded and unloaded linear based exercises and considers multi planer unloaded and loaded movement. Implementing a wide variety of stimulus into a training program can offset the repetitiveness of an aesthetic based training program thereby enhancing our ability to be unbreakable.