Image credit((Source: “Man demonstrates cycling strength and endurance,” CC0 Creative Commons License via Pixabay »))
As part of our Corrective Movement Program, Hands On Healing provides hands-on assistance and training for those interested in strengthening their body.
We’re located in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I can’t wait to get back to the gym, I’ve gotten flabby.” Have you ever made this statement?
Perhaps this will ring a bell, “Yeah, I seriously need to do some sit-ups, I have no ab strength.”
And of course, our all-time favorite as therapists, “I don’t want to bulk up, I just want to get stronger.”
Don’t fret, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel empowered within your own body and gaining a sense of strength, but we think it best if we clarify many of the misconceptions surrounding strengthening for good health.
We have explored the notion that form in exercise doesn’t guarantee that the practiced exercise will do as it’s intended and that good form is developed through proper movement principles and neuromuscular function.
When taking an approach that requires solidifying good movement behaviors, we are interested in seeing proper function between two systems:
Using this simplified view of prime mover and stabilizer systems helps connect many complicated muscles systems into more basic functional units allowing for a therapist to observe and improve movement function in their clients.
An example of this connection would be the shoulder.
Therapists often see a number of clients who struggle with basic arm mechanics.
When the arm and hand are raised up above the head, towards the ceiling when standing, the brachium (upper arm/bicep) should be in line with the ear. Dysfunctional patterns often leave the arm out in front of the head when viewed from the side.
The different colored shadings in Figure 1 (click to enlarge) represent how an active primer mover (blue) engages to lift the arm, while the assistant/stabilizer (red) activates to properly time the movement of the scapula to match the shoulder joint. The green areas represent other stabilizers groups that keep the shoulder joint organized.
In dysfunctional patterns, the wrong group muscle work to stabilize (green), and the body attempts to mimic good Range Of Motion (ROM) at the shoulder by moving the scapula around the ribcage (red).
In many of these cases, we treat to improve the flexibility of the scapula through soft tissue work on fascial adhesions, which can greatly impact appropriate muscle function.
Once general elasticity in the tissue is improved, stabilizer muscles can be properly trained to do their work and prime movers can be exercised to achieve that “empowered” feeling that comes from a good and healthy workout.
The most common mistake made in trying to improve healthy movement is using specialized exercises in an attempt to strengthen stabilizer group muscles.
Stabilizers are not meant to overpower prime movers with strength. Instead, they require proper motor control or healthy neurological timing.
Healthy and balanced stabilizer muscles should always fire first, and maintain basic motor control to assist prime movers.
As we carry out our daily tasks or engage in exercise, we often discover some tasks are easier to accomplish than others.
Some of our movements have nothing to do with the amount of power we place behind it.
Let’s take for instance doing a push-up.
The abs are supposed to fire first above all things to stabilize the hips and ribcage, pelvis musculature fire next, and last of all the shoulders and chest to lift the body. Many people don’t have the ability to lift from the ground without a sag in the back.
This is largely a motor control issue and strength will not change its outcome. No amount of crunches can change this and there are specific exercises designed to resolve this. Ask us how we can help.