We are born with the urge to roll, rock, crawl, stand, walk, and run! I have the perfect examples of this at home.
My 6-month-old, Allison, is working on her crawling.
And my 3-year-old, Eli, runs and jumps and is working on his handstand.
It’s an exciting time at the Acuña house. As you can imagine, seeing my little ones move makes me think a lot about movement in general. Specifically, movement as adults.
Movement is a natural progression of life. We develop it from being on our back to standing on two legs. It’s a very complex system that we don’t have to think about. However, when it is gone, or when we lack some of it, it leads to a lot of frustration. I see it happen all the time. Being limited in your movement is not age-related. An injury can sideline you from your sport of choice or work. A chronic condition can limit your daily activities. Sometimes, a movement limitation can change your whole mindset and approach.
While we can’t prevent injuries, because life happens, we can do our best to prepare our bodies to be resilient. And, if we follow the use it or lose it model, we can do our best to progress or maintain our movement abilities.
Here are some key tips to help you improve movement, stay strong, and kick ass!
#1 Follow Patterns
If you’re a fitness pro or fitness enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of the major movement skills: push, pull, carry, squat, hinge. Some people add in anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-flexion, bilateral, unilateral, and so on. There are numerous articles out there praising the benefits of focusing on these skills. And you should.
When I taught physical education, the fundamental skills that PE teachers were supposed to teach included:
- locomotor and non-locomotor skills — rolling, balancing, sliding, jogging, running, leaping, jumping, hopping, dodging, galloping and skipping
- object control skills — bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking, striking
Personally, I think all of these movement skills are great and we should practice them throughout life. Essentially, they are all doing the same thing: engaging our muscles to move our bodies in ways that challenge our abilities and skills. The challenge aspect is crucial towards progress, because of the super technical model of use it or lose it. Let me try and explain with the next tip.
#2 Use the Loop
Our bodies have powerful tools known as feedback loops. Basically, these loops take in information, process it, make corrections, and move on. Our muscles are great examples of this. If you want your muscle to grow, then you need to feed the loop the right information. You have to stress the muscle with exercises, movement, and increasing challenges, then the loop will make the adjustment to grow the muscle so that you can handle new stress/information. I know, I am leaving out a ton of information and oversimplifying this, but that’s the point. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.
The simple act of moving within patterns helps you feed information into your body’s own feedback loops and correct things like:
- Releasing overly tight muscles due to weak stabilizers
- Growing stronger neuromuscular patterns so you maximize movement ability and capacity
- Gaining spatial awareness by stimulating the vestibular system – this is very important for balance
- Creating personal awareness of your sense of movement – what feels good and what doesn’t OR what needs TLC
This brings me to the next tip.
#3 Be Smart and Be Adaptable
Self-regulation and diaphragmatic breathing are your best friends here. We live in an addiction to intensity environment. Everything has to happen now and fast.
Here’s a perfect example. I was trying to watch Netflix the other night and was so irritated that the show was taking too long to load! I mean, I needed to binge watch NOW. I couldn’t believe that I was paying for a service that allowed me to sit on my couch and watch any episode of any show at any time on my television and I had to wait more than 10 seconds for it to load. I almost canceled my subscription but at last the show started.
With that kind of intensity our nervous system gets overloaded. Stress is stress. Whether it comes from Netflix, WiFi woes, deadlifting, or money issues doesn’t matter. If you can be smart and fluid, then you can adjust to how you are feeling. If you are worn out, don’t do heavy loaded patterns. If your mind is racing and doesn’t have the space to think about training, a minute or two of diaphragmatic breathing can help shift you into a more neural-friendly gear. This is the essence of self-regulation, or what I believe is the ability to train smart and be adaptable.
What’s the takeaway?
Movement is natural, but unfortunately, we have a lot of things encouraging us not to move. This includes Netflix. The good news is that movement can be trained. If you follow patterns, use the loop, and can be smart and adaptable, then you are setting yourself up for a life of good movement.
I don’t think I could end this without an example of how to use these tips in training. Here are 3 exercises that you can start using today to do the things I mentioned above.
Alternate push-ups while one hand is on a medicine ball. I recommend alternating every 3-5 reps. This challenges the shoulder and wrist to find stability by engaging supportive muscles. It also switches up push-ups in a novel way.
Holding a weight in one hand, balance and hinge on the opposite leg (contralaterally). The leg on the weighted side should move back and off the ground (if possible) while maintaining the hips squared with the shoulders. This avoids rotation of the low back and hips and builds trunk stability. Complete 5-10 reps and repeat on the other side.
Holding on to a weight in one hand, march in place for a set time. Work on staying as straight as possible and keep your trunk muscles engaged to improve tension and stability. Maximize the range of motion of the hip by lifting the knee to hip height (if possible) while pushing down in the ground on the opposite leg and engaging the glute. Make the movement as smooth as possible through the transition from one leg to the other. Repeat while holding the weight on the other side.
Feel free to contact me below with any questions or let me know how this is working out for you. If you need assistance building out a program for yourself, we can help. Call us at 520.445.6800 and schedule a FREE consultation.