Monday, December 21, 2009

Kinetic Confusion: Does your butt think it's your foot?

It's an undeniable fact of life for many of us.

We sit.... and we sit a LOT.

Whether it's in front of the computer, the steering wheel, the TV set, the boardroom table, or the dining table, life's become increasingly sedentary for far too many individuals in the "modern" world.

With long commutes, with computer-based jobs, with the TV culture, the effects on our bodies are almost too slow to perceive until they're ingrained and it's almost too late.

As I was watching my son play outside at the park, I got into a conversation with another parent about my mixed feelings about Squealie going to grade school. Watching him move so well on the playground and develop balance, proprioceptive awareness, and other neurological skills made me happy with his progress and concerned about the long hours of enforced sitting that he'd have to endure in school. As schools have less time for recess, no resources for physical education / gym classes, & fewer sports programs, I can't help but be a little uneasy.

Looking at the adult population that I work with clinically and consult for internationally, one of the biggest things that I see with pain seems to be the result of long-term kinetic confusion.

Let me explain it to you...

Looking at the joint-by-joint view of closed chain movement that FMS founder Gray Cook talks about, the foot is the root of our movement and what relates the body to the ground for leverage. Thus the foot needs to create a stable platform of linkage to the ground to allow the rest of the kinetic chain to create effective, powerful movement.

Next up the chain, the ankle needs to be mobile, which in turn allows the knee to be stable and the hip to be mobile.

So remember, in an ideally functioning kinetic chain per Gray Cook, we've got:

* Foot - stable
* Ankle - mobile
* Knee - stable
* Hip - mobile
* Lumbar spine (lower back) - stable
* Thoracic spine (mid-upper back) - mobile
* Lower C-spine - stable
* Axis & atlas vertebrae - mobile

So you can see that each successive joint or joint "team" has the opposite function of the neighboring joints. Thus, problems arise when these joints or joint teams get locked into functioning in the opposite manner in which they were intended.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I NEVER said that these are the ONLY ways in which these joints & joint teams are meant to function. However, when muscles are trained to move or hold joints reflexively in a certain fashion, we need to pay attention to whether or not the joints are meant to function OPTIMALLY in that fashion.

So let's look at what happens in sedentary culture.

Your rear end becomes the primary point of contact for your body to the ground (via a chair). So those hips which were meant to be mobile and driven by the glutes turn into your primary point of stability. The glutes spend hours on stretch and the hip flexors shorten.

Moving up the "sedentary chain", your lumbar spine starts becoming more & more mobile as you reach for things and move around while maintaining your seated position.

The T-spine stiffens up to maintain some semblance of posture, and the next thing you know, you're suffering from lower back, shoulder, & neck pain... and your butt now thinks it's your foot.

Wanna un-do this kinetic confusion? Get out there & do some Swings!!!

Wanna do even more? Check out my Kettlebell Warrior DVD series!


SG Human Performance said...

Great post Doc! So true!

Unknown said...

Thank you again for your support, Mr. Snow! Finally getting to meet you in person in 2009 was one of the highlights of my year. :)
Best wishes to you & your loved ones for the Christmas Season! God Bless!!!

Mark Reifkind said...

AWESOME post Doc, simply great analogy and visuals. very easy to understand and get the reason to change this. well done!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind words, Sir. And thank you for all the support & guidance you've given me over the past 3+ years. Knowing you has been one of the real treasures of being in this RKC family!

Chris Hardy said...

That is fantastic Doc Cheng....I am going to use that analogy with my back pain patients (giving you full credit of course).

Best always.....

Anonymous said...

Really great post Doc. Even though it's "just weights" Hard Style training has opened my eyes tremendously to the fine, often hidden, details of movement and posture. It has helped me help my clients as well as myself! Great stuff my friend!

Boris said...

Great, great post Doc.

Coach RJ said...

Great post Doc! I'm forwarding to all my Hardstyle Corporate clients for good measure...and movement!

Mike T Nelson said...

I actually think we need to TRAIN mobility in order to get better coordination (stability) in the joints. thoughts?

rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

Unknown said...

Dr. Hardy, Boris, Guro John, & Coach, thanks for the kind words & support.

Dr. Nelson, if you look at any of Gray's writings, he's ALWAYS emphasized that mobility is a prerequisite to strength work.

I think what you're talking about is what Gray would term "movement", rather than mobility. Movement (at least in the case of someone who exhibits good movement patterns) requires the reflexive stability of the intrinsics with the efficient engagement of the necessary prime movers.

So you're essentially saying the same thing as Gray's been saying. Improve the movement pattern and the right muscles WILL fire. Improving the muscle per se doesn't mean that the movement pattern will improve.

Mark Reifkind said...

I love this quote and use it all the time.