‘It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it’ - John Wooden
It turns out Mr. Wooden was not referring to anything fitness related when he said this, however it could certainly be applied.
In last week’s article, I mentioned how we can struggle with basic bodyweight movements. To elaborate on that point, here are a couple of scenarios that you may find relatable.
Scenario A; You’re walking through the gym, minding your own business when you can’t help but notice what seems to be someone suffering some sort of fit…hanging off the pull up bar, shaking like a leaf, holding on for dear life. The victims head cocked back with their chin pointing north to the ceiling, en route to completing their version of a pull up. Not a rare sight.
Scenario B: How about this…you find yourself caught amidst the carnage of a ‘HIT’ class. 5 euro, pay as you go, time to go ballistic. Elbows, knees and torsos flying everywhere. You know the scene, an ‘instructor’ jacked up on Red Bull, blaring tunes that should be in a museum, roaring at the top of their lungs to “go hard or go home”. Send help. If you haven’t been stuck in a sweatbox like this, perhaps you’ve watched a class of similar description, from a safe distance.
If enjoyment to you means going to the gym with a goal of pulling yourself over the bar however you can or if you do take HIT classes 3 times a week with the priority being ‘to sweat’, that is A-OK, continue! Most people however, I am assuming would like to get the best results for their efforts! If you are wondering why you may not be making progress or perhaps you have constant niggling aches and pains, please read on.
Is the ‘fitness’ industry missing the point? The success of a session seems to depend on how ‘messed up’ one is upon completion or how much sweat is pouring off them. This is an issue. Training to me, is about enjoyment and improvement.
Noted; we all have different goals as to why we exercise. Examples include wanting to build strength, improve our endurance, stress relief or lose weight. Whatever you aim to get from your session, efficiency of movement can only help you get there.
Strength cannot be built on dysfunction. Movement quality is the foundation upon which all other physical attributes are built. You see, our bodies can be a bit lazy. World renowned physical therapist Shirley Sarhmann, puts it by saying, “the body will take the path of least resistance”; especially true when you’re a bit tired. So when your half way through your workout and sh*t is really about to hit the fan, your body may feel it’s more metabolically efficient for your knees to kiss each other when you’re coming out of your hundredth squat or let your elbows flair out wide while you peel yourself up off the floor as you complete another burpee. Of course, you may get away with this for a while, however, over time you are putting yourself in the danger zone. Sooner or later, session by session, as stress accumulates you’ll be hampered by injury. Remember, non-contact injuries are 100% preventable!
Some reasons for movement restrictions include mobility issues (ankles and hips are common culprits), poor motor control or just a lack of awareness, which is something we all suffer from time to time. The good news is these can all be improved relatively easily with an extra bit of care and effort, being put into wherever you may be limited. If you are unsure, ask a coach in your gym where it may be your going wrong. Squats and lunges are technical movements. Small tweaks make a big difference. It can only help you!
This is why there needs to be a focus on mobility. Life as we know it has us stuck in offices hunched over at desks and in the car for many hours throughout the week. On a very basic level, over time our posture is affected negatively, our breathing is compromised and that is before we even get to training! By adding in simple mobility drills each day, you could improve your health hugely. Areas to focus on include your upper back, hips and ankles. Not only will you decrease the risk of injury, you will delay the onset of fatigue as you save energy through correct movement patterns. As you improve your mobility you’ll have access to muscles which may have been restricted for quite a while! This also will only be of benefit to you.
The fundamental movement patterns have to be nailed down. If you are unable to squat without your chest dropping, complete a pull up without shrugging your traps to your ears or run without getting back pain, there are movement deficiencies that need to be tended to. ‘It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it!’ Although this has been a very brief article on the importance of movement quality, I hope it has hit home. Take pride in how you move and remain consistent. As always, please do reach out if you feel you need some assistance. I’d be delighted to help.
Billy O’Regan is a strength and conditioning coach in Cork City. He has been working in the fitness industry for the best part of 10 years. During this time he completed a BSc in Food Business. He helps people to achieve their fitness goals through enjoyable group training and online coaching. With a passion for all areas in health and wellness, he is currently studying a Masters in Strength and Conditioning where the main focus is athlete development and sports performance.