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Correcting the weak link

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Gray Cook, the extraordinary physical therapist who was instrumental in creating the “Functional Movement Screen”, is renowned for asking the question, “Why do we put movement on top of dysfunction?” Dysfunction is a harsh sounding word, but it only means that something is functioning sub-optimally.

In Cook’s case, he’s referring to physical movement; specifically, workout programs, and the tendency for us to want to play into our strengths and ignore weaker areas. In the CK-FMS* Instructor Manual, he describes how, with the rising popularity of high-intensity workout programs and classes, most athletes lack the foundation to excel at these programs in a healthy fashion. He questions the popular “wisdom” of stacking strength and conditioning programs onto shaky platforms.

We all have strengths and weaknesses; are good at some things and bad at others. Fitness experts advise that we should do what we enjoy. Choosing an activity at which we’re not so good almost assures that we won’t stick with it for long. But choosing a program that we enjoy, one we’ll stick with, can have its disadvantages, too. Chances are that playing into our strength without addressing our weaknesses; our dysfunctions, will eventually show up as injury. Or, at least, diminished performance.

A certain balance has to be achieved which addresses the dysfunction, while still allowing for the exhilaration of an enjoyable program. Being calorie-conscious, nobody wants to pause during a run to mobilize a pesky joint. There’s that incessant little voice urging “GO, GO, GO”. In group classes, there are dynamics at work which don’t lend themselves to “breaks in the action”. No one wants to be seen as falling behind the group by taking a couple of minutes to address a weak body part, although this practice would be an integral part of a truly effective class.

It should also be mentioned that spinning classes, though they may be beneficial for the cardiovascular system, wreak havoc on posture. Modern-day posture is already a culprit in so many musculoskeletal troubles, that reinforcing bad posture (the biking position) further exacerbates the situation. Once again, Cook’s “putting movement on top of dysfunction”. In spinning, the effort of the movement (cycling) reinforces the dysfunction (bad posture).

Is it a case now, of “no good deed goes unpunished” in taking up a fitness program? No. Below are some easy moves that can address some common trouble areas, put some balance into your program, and actually give you a few peaceful minutes. They take little time and can be done at home or work, so you won’t run the fatal risk of being singled out in fitness class. At work??? Hey, some people pray at work, some play solitaire; what’s the trouble?

Ask a doctor if you’re OK to perform the following, as they are by no means a substitute for a personalized assessment. All exercise below link to short videos.

It would be wise if you are, or will be, starting a fitness program, to spend an hour with a professional who can assess your posture and movement. You’ll avoid lots of pain and expense on your fitness journey. With today's access to unprecedented quality of instruction and equipment, there is no need to be exercising ineffectively or painfully. These resources can only be optimized if you uncover dysfunction and address it. Facing a little weakness will help you to find true strength.

*CK-FMS is "Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist", a designation given to those who specialize in assessing movement and integrating kettlebells into performance enhancement programs as well as injury prevention and recovery..

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