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A different view on what it is to  BE STRONG & CAPABLE

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Most people primarily look at *strength* as a capability marker for themselves in life.  Additionally, some may look at flexibility as a marker as well.  Unfortunately, few will look at usable strength across available flexibility (aka dynamic range of motion).  An example:  many people could stand on a chair, grab a pull-up bar with both hands (elbows and shoulders half-flexed) and hold themselves there lifting their feet in the air (image figure middle). Fewer people could start at this position and pull their chin up to the bar (image figure right).  Fewer still, are the people who will be able to start fully extended (image figure left) and pull their chin all the way to the bar.  

This is because generally we rarely move (or train) at the extreme ends of our range of motion.  And if you do, there is the very likely possibility of compensatory movements occurring in order to achieve the goal (arching back, jutting head, etc...)  Joseph Pilates was astutely aware of this as he developed his own brand of functional exercise - catering mostly to dancers in the early 20th century.  Eve Gentry took this a step further when she developed the "pre" pilates repertoire - a suite of very effective rehabilitative fundamental exercises that seem to have been largely dismissed in the pilates exercise world due to the shallow focus of form over function.

Lately, Ab / Core training has also become misunderstood in this respect.  Bracing has become all the rage.  Again where is the thought of strength across a dynamic range of motion?  Humans shouldn't move like walking bricks.  Well they do, if they are bracing all the time.  Movement training should include strength capability in a plethora of dynamic positions in order to be more efficiently functional in our preferred lifestyle activities.

Another idea to consider is that of "prerequisites" for a desired movement.  Generally, our everyday movements are complex from a biomechanical point of view.  Squatting for instance gets multi-articular contribution from several joints in the foot, the ankle, the knee, the pelvis and low back.   

An extreme example for illustrative purposes (less extreme examples are no less relevant to the concept).  Let's say you want to be able to hold a handstand.  Here is a brief list of the more obvious fundamental capabilities that would be required in order to do so:

  • Full finger extension and spread in the hand
  • Wrist joint extension greater than 90°
  • 180° elbow joint extension
  • Shoulder joint flexion ~ 180°
  • Arm rotational range while in full flexion
  • Thoracic spine extension
  • Load bearing capacity for the aforementioned ^ joints in their respective positions

If any of these preliminary prerequisite elements are not available, then other adjacent upstream or downstream components have to compensate for the lack of capability of the primary element.  This is where a pain complaint can occur.  Not "will occur" - because everyone is different and each individual's neurophysiology will dictate the outcome.  The possibility exists no less.

Interestingly enough when one trains with an eye for these details (& others like them), potential for injury and painful episodes become minimized.  Strength becomes more functionally appropriate and efficient.  This is a win-win situation when one becomes more capable while reducing the potential risks.  It all begins with the investment in focus and movement awareness.

If you have any curious questions about our strength training philosophy or our practice in Santa Rosa, please send us a message by clicking the "Contact Us" button below...