A Discussion of Movement by max el-hag

A Discussion of Movement and 5 Movement Market Myths

There is no real thesis to this article. The purpose of this article is to start a discussion and continue challenging other coaches to learn more. All training in some way is movement, and that is something I have researched very aggressively during the course of my life and career. I have played pretty high level sports, hired coaches for myself, taken courses, attended seminars, purchased DVD’s, read hundreds of books, and am continually building my knowledge base. I hope to create a useable format so I can teach other coaches and athletes using my mistakes. I find one way to start a discussion is by challenging generally accepted ways of thinking. And as Mark Twain once said, “…whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” So, read through these myths and continue to strive to move efficiently and well. Keep learning!

Myth 1

“You cannot train for flexibility and explosiveness”

Why I think this belief is so common:

Lots of research is out there to support this perspective. There is research that states:

- Static stretching before strength training can lower power output.

- The collagen fibers of the spine soften from mobility training versus the stiffening of the collagen matrix to support loading from strength training.

- The sympathetic nervous systems excitement from strength training is different than the parasympathetic activation you get from lower intensity movement, stretching and breathing work.

Additionally, empirically we have found:

- Strong athletes claim they get injured MORE frequently when they are doing a lot of stretching training.

- Most people only have passive flexibility training tools to improve movement quality

- Most people are applying hypertrophy protocols that increase muscle mass and make positions difficult to obtain

How you should look at the data if you want to believe that it is possible:

The reality is that the body adapts to a given stimulus. If you want it to be powerful in linear patterns and also have the ability to express positions with massive end ranges of the joints, you can attain this. It is just more difficult and takes a more intelligent approach. Because it requires more discipline, more mindfulness, a greater focus, and potentially better circumstances, less people will strive for their goal.

You have to ensure:

- That you time the exposures of each system

- You are not creating massive gaps between the passive flexibility and active control

- You are sensitive and not trying to force end ranges and causing soft tissue strains

- You are not lengthening tissues that are already in an elongated position as a result of poor posture

Myth 2:

“All breathing tools are created equally”

Why I think this belief is so common:

- Most people aren’t that educated about breathing and therefore any entry level training exposure to breathing can create “profound” changes

- We generally tend to self select towards the experts that we either aspire to be like or who have something that is inherently valuable to us and this helps us create a “hype cycle” or a very popular period of time where we are obsessed and tell every body about one perspective.

- There aren’t many breathing “options” in the market to teach us about respiration

Why is this myth detrimental?

- Different people need different types of breathing. Someone who is overly stiff and has a cardiac limitation and excessive tone in the muscles might need parasympathetic breathing tools whereas a weak athlete may need excitatory breathing tools.

- Assuming you can address breathing without addressing movement patterns of spinal stabilization, rib cage function, shoulder function and hip function is silly.

- Without knowledge we see the perpetuation of things like a training mask being used as an altitude trainer

- Some people who want to improve their endurance, should not be doing slow and controlled breathing strategies, like box breathing and yoga, if their intention is to improve the endurance or power of the respiratory muscles.

The reality of breathing…

- Breathing training can be used to change autonomic nervous system tone both towards sympathetic and towards parasympathetic states

- Breathing training can be used to improve tolerance and perception of pain

- Breathing training can make you more “dysfunctional” but more specialized for a sport

- Breath holding is an equally important thing to consider when writing training

- Improper breathing mechanics can alter the dissociation curve of oxygen and alter your biochemistry as a result of the O2/CO2 balance in the blood

- Breathing is COMPLICATED

Myth #3

“Good training principles shouldn’t put you at risk for injury.”

Why does this myth perpetuate?

- There has not been enough of a distinction in the market between performance and health.

- Many people who are experts in movement and wellness have never been, or trained, high level athletes and don’t know what the cost of specialization is

- Many trainers who have created athletes lack the patience required to develop people long term

- Many coaches are not honest with their athletes and don’t tell them when it is time to retire, a time that a push can cause a serious injury, etc

- It is a compelling marketing message to promise as a PT or doctor that you can help someone retain their physical superiority AND allow them to be pain free and injury free.

- The medical community can create a diagnosis for any pain pattern

- People mistake pain with injury

What is the truth about injuries?

- At the simplest level an injury is when the force exerted on a specific joint is beyond its load bearing capacity.

- In sports, we cannot account for all variables of fatigue in the training environment

- We can statistically lower the likelihood of injury with proper training methods, communication, and teaching athletes how to push themselves without breaking themselves; but we cannot guarantee an injury free career

- If you want to play sports and push yourself, then you should be ok with the potential for injury. If you want to be “healthy” then you don’t need to take risks in training.

Myth #4

"Practice makes permanent, but perfect practice makes perfect"

Why is this myth prevalent?

- The human eye cannot perceive reality in all of it’s complexity. When we see someone like Ilya Ilyin lift or someone like Rory McIlroy swing a golf club, our eyes perceive the same motion every time. We cannot see that there is variability in a pattern.

- People like to reduce ideas. When we see someone great at something, we model after them. And we create a system for ensuring other people are capable enough to do those same things. And if we can repeat that enough times, people will think of us as an expert coach. Admitting that everyone has different bodies, brains, learning styles, cues, restrictions, etc and that there is no such thing as a perfect lift is hard. It humbles you to think you can’t look at every single movement on the planet and perceive its imperfection.

- Fear is a great motivator for people. If you tell someone “you’re doing this incorrectly,” that generally gives people a feeling of shame and they perceive you to be in a position of power to make them “perfect.” I think that is why this has been such a prevalent leadership strategy in the fitness and sport culture.

What is the reality?

- The more skilled experts in a skill have the MOST variation, more than they have in the expression of that pattern. They have parts of a movement, called attractor states, that stay the same every time. And then other parts of a movement, called fluctuator states that are variable every time.

- Many “sport specific coaches” are now offering their expertise to the CrossFit or fitness culture. Running coaches about running, gymnasts about gymnastics, swimmers about swimming, etc. Many of them believe there is a “perfect form” that people should use. Be careful of listening as their experience and demographic of people may be very different from you. In fact, many of those specific expert athletes will talk about how frequently they “lose their feel.” So be mindful of that fact as you work on your skills.

- Perfection is not possible in life. People say that you should shoot for the moon so if you miss, you'll land among the stars. Not only is this statement inaccurate, but if you subscribe to this way of thinking, you will always be a failure in your own mind. Trying to aim for the best you possibly can do on any given day allows you to express your capacity while also not being in a constant state of failure.

- Strive everyday to obtain better positions knowing it will never be perfect.

Myth #5

"If you’re in pain, you should go to your physical therapist."

Why do I think this myth is prevalent?

- People like to feel in control of their suffering. If they are in pain and someone else says “I can take this away,” it often times makes people feel better.

- Academia still teaches that pain is a consequence of imperfect movement of dysfunctional joints or a trauma. The pain science and research in the field of neuroscience has not yet FULLY permeated into the education of young professionals in the field.

What are some of the notable physical therapists in the market saying is reality?

- When I went to Andreo Spina’s functional range conditioning course, I remember him answering a question from the audience about people in pain. He responded by telling us that they should go see a psychiatrist. I laughed because I thought it was ironic and I think he got a lot of confused looks from the audience. But, here is one of the most successful physical therapists in the fitness market saying that he can’t help people get out of pain. He can help people move more effectively, but pain is beyond his scope of practice.

What is the reality?

- Pain is complex and it integrates a bunch of different variables. One of those variables is how you think. If you think that a PT is going to help you get out of pain, then it is very possible that your belief is aiding in that process. That is typically called the “placebo effect,” but it is real, so if you find yourself thinking it will make you better, then you should continue to seek them for guidance.

- PT’s can help you analyze your movement, joints, muscles, and soft tissues. Even if moving more efficiently doesn’t get rid of your pain, it is an investment that you should make in yourself so that you can move in a healthy manner for as long as you live.

~ Max

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Max El-Hag
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