Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fitness on Dysfunction

This past weekend I took the opportunity to attend the Perform Better training summit held in L.A.. The fitness pros PB brings in are among the best in the business and I always come away with knowledge worth it's weight in gold.

One of the themes this year appears to be using kettlebells, but that's a topic for another day.

One of the big ideas I came away with was from Gray Cook, co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen, the best way I've seen to assess a person's ability to move and stay healthy.

Gray talked about how vital it is to not put fitness on dysfunction. What this means is that if your trunk stabilizers (core) are not firing well, or if your hips are not as mobile as it should be, by continuing to push ahead you are running the risk of injury.

I'm a victim of this myself when I ignored my own stiff hips and thoracic (mid-back) tightness, which resulted in back spasms and lost days at work. Instead of fixing the issues I continued to train hard and before long - wammo. It took some Chiropractic and ART (Active Release Technique) to get me back on my feet, and I really learned a valuable lesson.

I see it all the time in the gym: A new member comes in a wants to get in shape ASAP, however their shoulders are tighter than a drum and they can't squat past parallel. What happens if this person simply started bench pressing and squatting hard is that bad movement patterns are re-enforced (putting fitness on dysfunction), and it's only a matter of time until they will have pain and be forced to back off or get injured.

Better to take a step back and fix the problems, and still get good workouts in the process, then to be forced to take 10 steps back due to injury. One of the analogies Gray used was continuing to run your car with a bad wheel - sooner or later larger problems will occur.

A poor trainer, in hopes of retaining a client, will often just keep hammering them with cool, trendy exercises while ignoring the underlying issues.

The smart trainer will begin each session with a few minutes of specific mobility work and dynamic stretching, then use exercises designed to help achieve better joint range of motion, posture, and core stability.

It doesn't take a Malcom Gladwell to figure out who will ultimately attain their goals and move without pain.

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