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How to Maximise Your Performance Through Movement


Words: Michael Cunico | Photos: Dallas Olsen

Michael Cunico, National Personal Training Manager at the Fitness First Head Office explains how to make the most of what you’ve got.


A number of fitness industry leaders such as Gray Cook and Mike Boyle have spoken about a joint-by-joint approach to the body and the relationship at these joints between mobility and stability. The joint-by-joint approach explains that our body is composed of joints that require mobility and joints that require stability. According to this approach, the ankles, hips and thoracic spine are designed for mobility. Problems may occur if these areas cannot find the range they are looking for. These problems may not actually present at the restricted area, but may transfer to the joints above and/ or below these areas.

A common example of joint issues all fitness professionals and regular exercisers would have seen is when the ankle runs out of motion in the saggital plane. When this happens a knee valgus movement (knees collapsing inwards) may be observable. Or there may be a horizontal movement of the hips. This may happen when the trainee is searching for squat depth but can’t obtain it via the ankle dorsi flexion.

While the ankle, hips and thoracic spine are seeking mobility to allow optimal movement, the knee, lumbar spine and shoulder-scapular region are doing their best to provide stability. Imagine trying to perform a squat with no tension through the middle of the body, or pressing overhead with a lax shoulder. As the old adage goes, ‘it’s difficult to shoot a cannon from a canoe!’

Research suggests that a lack of stability, rather than a lack of strength, in the lumbar spine is one of the main reasons for the prevalence of lower back pain. This can be confusing for regular trainees as many think that if they strengthen their back and abdominals this will cure their back pain. While strengthening these areas is beneficial, you will notice that there is not a lack of people performing sit ups or other abdominal movements, however the number of people who have experienced, or are experiencing, back pain doesn’t seem to be decreasing.

There are exceptions to every rule though, for example while the hips require mobility and are definitely the preferred strategy to perform rotation in the lower the body, they also require stability. A lack of stability in the hips can lead to knee and/or back pain. The shoulder requires stability but of course that area of the body also requires mobility. What the joint-by joint approach does is ask novel and significant questions that have been ignored by traditional approaches. So, where there is knee pain is it a problem at the knee or is the joint above, the hips or the joint below or the ankle causing some of the problem?

Traditionally if a person is in pain, the local area is treated until the pain had decreased or disappeared. However, injury or pain presenting in a particular spot may be the result of a dysfunction elsewhere. If we refer to our previous example of a lack of ankle mobility, when we play sport or move in a way that requires a relatively large amount of ankle mobility (such as throwing a ball, squatting or sprinting) the body will search for an alternative way to move. As the body searches for this range that it can’t get from the ankle, it may be forced to find it from somewhere else, such as the knee, hips or the lumbar
spine. This can lead to poor movement patterns – and potentially – injury. Our current lifestyles, and in particular the amount of sitting the average person does, is also playing a part in restricting movement. Davis’ Law describes how soft tissue will remodel based on the demands we place on it. This means our body begins to assume a seated position is the norm and soft tissue will shorten and become ‘stuck’.

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