Tuesday 30 January 2018

Life Doesn't Mirror Gym Movements (And Doesn't Have To)

No, I'm not telling you that the gym is bad and that you should stop going. There are many fantastic reasons why the gym is awesome.

However, there's a certain phenomenon among many of my clients that I'm noticing. Fear of movement.

The best example is the rounded-spine position. On one hand, many individuals who experience back pain are told by doctors, therapists, and more to absolutely avoid bending down and rounding their backs; that doing so will result in more pain. Having this fear of that movement instilled, however, does little to remove their pain, as these positions are, to say the least, inevitable. As a result, the nervous system, essentially, becomes primed and ready to guard against those movements, causing pain in those ranges and positions when pain wouldn't normally be a necessary response in that case. 

We call this kinesiophobia, the fear of movement due to pain which actually works to prolong pain and disability.

Here's the surprising thing. Active and healthy individuals experience this too! I've also seen this in very disciplined gym-goers who, for all intents and purposes, have nothing mechanical going on to suggest that they should be in pain. However, due to the immense emphasis on "good form" that active and athletic individuals may be bombarded with, I've been witness to the exact same avoidance-triggered pain. These are clients who are under the impression that it's necessary to square-up and keep a neutral spine curve every time that they so much as bend down to tie their shoes. And again, this belief that any other type of position is harmful is so strong that, just the same, they experience guarding and pain. Even so-called functional training isn't devoid of instilling these messages.

The takeaway from this is that the body has very natural movement patterns that it likes to use that don't necessarily reflect the strict and controlled form of the gym. Absolutely, if you're at the squat rack, moving in a single-plane only, and are loaded up with multiple plates per side, then you should definitely be observing "proper form". However, whether you're an active or inactive individual with or without formal training, the body is built for free and fluid movement. Don't let anyone, including Instagram personalities, magazines, or even doctors to tell you that dropping form as you live your life is a dangerous thing.

Credit: Greg Lehman


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