Corrective exercise

As a healthcare professional, I was heavily trained in anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics and taught to assess movements/posture and identify dysfunctions/impairments then prescribe corrective exercises to "fix" their problems. Biomechanical ideals are just the average across population, and in reality everyone is so different structurally and functionally. "Average" doesn't mean correct.  Similarly below the average doesn't make it wrong either.  Who decided human beings should move certain ways??  No other animals learn movements from "experts."  I find this very interesting.  Babies/kids don't learn movements the same way we adults do.  How do babies learn to move?  Do they even care about learning movement?  They are just curious about the environment and exploring with their mouth and hands.  Curiosity drives them to explore lots of different movements so they can reach for a toy and bring it to their mouth.  Movements emerge out of these explorations. Adults don't often learn in this manner.  One big disadvantage of corrective exercise is that you could potentially eliminate your authentic movements which some experts call "wrong" movements and are forced to "correct" your movements, which may be "wrong."  In my opinion, no movements are wrong or right.  Even what experts consider ideal movements can be wrong if they're the only movement option available.  What's more beneficial is to expand movement options.  The nervous system is smart enough to figure out what's best in each situation given it has many options.  In my movement education sessions, I guide my students to explore a variety of movement options as opposed to "correcting" their movements.  

Working with Structures vs Functions

Have you ever wondered why some muscles get tight or weak? Many people are probably told by health care professionals that their muscles are tight so they need to stretch or their muscles are weak so they need to strengthen. But how did muscles become tight or weak? In case of acute tissue trauma, some muscles guard and some muscles become inhibited. Structural changes (acute trauma) cause functional changes. Except for traumatic tissue injuries, muscles don’t suddenly become tight or weak. Muscles and other tissues (ligaments, tendons, fascia, etc.) adapt to imposed demands. Over time tissue structures change based on functional demands placed on them. Structures follow functions.  

Habitual patterns of movement place high demand on some tissues and very little demand on others. Does it make sense to stretch tight muscles or strengthen weak muscles while you’re moving the same way and reinforcing your habitual movement patterns that led to the tightness and weakness?? I think it would make more sense to recognize your habitual movement patterns and train out of those patterns. Most importantly new movement patterns that will lengthen tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles need to be integrated into daily activities. When you start to train movement patterns, you’re no longer separating stretching from strengthening. You’re just working on improving functions, which will lead to improvements in strength and flexibility. Over time, structures will follow functions.

© Taro Iwamoto 2015. Please do not reproduce without the express written consent of Taro Iwamoto.

Motor Performance vs Motor Learning

In fitness and rehab settings, it’s very common for trainers/practitioners to demonstrate exercises and have their clients repeat the exercise  and give them visual/tactile feedback to “correct” their movements before they give their clients a chance to feel/sense how they are moving. While showing them “correct” form of the exercise first and providing them external feedback would allow them to perform the specific motor task quickly, the motor task may not carry over to other functional tasks.
We often confuse motor performance with motor learning. Motor performance is the ability to perform a motor task. Motor learning is to have a carryover between one movement pattern and other functional movement patterns.

I think many people often use external feedback (visual/tactile/auditory) too much and don’t teach clients how to access their internal senses (proprioceptive-kinesthetic sense) to learn how they’re moving. The problem is that clients often don’t know how they are moving and can’t tell when they are moving “wrong.” When they are “corrected” and learn to copy the exact same movement, they still haven’t recognized the pattern of movement. Therefore, they just learned to perform that specific movement well, but they will probably go back to their old habitual patterns when doing functional tasks. I suggest we start directing clients’ attention to certain body parts and helping them become aware of how they are moving in space by asking them questions, before we jump in to put our hands and “correct” their movements. Let them explore movements and make some mistakes and let them make a choice. If we don’t allow them to make any mistake, how would they know what mistakes are? Learning always involves lots of trials and errors. We can help them recognize their mistakes so they can learn from the mistakes. We can become a movement tour guide for them so they don’t get lost.

© Taro Iwamoto 2015. Please do not reproduce without the express written consent of Taro Iwamoto.


Changing Habits

In the previous post, I talked about our habits as obstacles for improving our abilities (physical, emotional, and intellectual). If we want to improve our movement abilities, we’ll need to expand our motor habits. We all know that it’s not as simple as it sounds. Let me share my thoughts on this.

In order to change our habits we need to recognize our habits first. What makes it difficult is that habits are for the most part unconscious, so they are invisible. We somehow need to make invisible habits become visible or make them become conscious.

Awareness/proprioceptive-kinesthetic sense is our sixth sense. It allows us to sense and feel our bodies and movements accurately. Without sharp sixth sense we’ll not be able to perceive what we’re doing. This allows our habits to come to the surface and allows us to “see” our habits. This opens the door to new motor habits.

Mindfulness and paying attention to how we’re moving and relationships between body parts, sensations in our bodies and with movements, are ways to sharpen our sixth sense. As we pay close attention to our body and movements, we will start to notice how we use our bodies habitually with each movement. There’s many tricks to improve our awareness, which I will discuss in another blog.
Unfortunately there’s no shortcut to improving our abilities. But, if we can acknowledge this idea and become more aware and mindful of how we move, I’m very confident that we will continue to improve the quality of movement and the quality of life.

© Taro Iwamoto 2015. Please do not reproduce without the express written consent of Taro Iwamoto.