The Importance of Being Long and Strong in the Right Places
Article by Carl Raghavan
Matt Roberts Mayfair
Your body is a good representation of your lifestyle. It's an adaptive organism and changes in response to the demands (good or bad) we place on it. The quantity and quality of an individual's movement will have internal and external carryovers to body shape, joint health and how prone someone is to injury. In addition, the way we fuel our bodies will also play a huge role in the adaptations taking place as many negative changes to our bodies will stem from poor nutritional choices. So in a nut shell 'you are what you eat' or to improve on that 'you are how you move and eat'.
A well trained exercise professional i.e. a Matt Roberts Personal Trainer, will be able to gain an instant perspective on an individual's strengths and weaknesses based simply on a static postural assessment from the side, front and back. Other factors that will also be taken into account will include:
The results of such an assessment process can be used to prescribe what an individual needs to do to maintain and improve strengths (all positive adaptations from current lifestyle) and what they need to do improve on weaknesses i.e. the reversal of all negative adaptations from their current lifestyle.
When it comes to training in the gym a trainer can structure sessions so that they are in line with what the individual wants to achieve. This might range from fat loss goals, strength goals or even sport specific goals. However, these goals will always be out of reach unless the issues that arise in the assessment aren't properly taken into account. If we assume that nutritional and other lifestyle habits away from the gym are being addressed appropriately, then the issues of focus become postural abnormalities and movement quality. In other words, to achieve any exercise goal an individual needs to be able to maintain the right posture and move correctly for the best results. Progress will often be slowed if this is not part of the training focus.
So what is correct posture and movement? Such a question poses so many other questions that it goes beyond the scope of this article, so instead it's probably more practical to focus on what are the most common dysfunctions that arise when looking simply at a static posture.
Upper and lower crossed syndrome diagrams give us a really good insight to what is commonly observed among most individuals today. Proposed by Vladamir Jandain the 1980's, upper crossed syndrome states that the upper body has a definable pattern of tightness and shortness in the pec minor and cervical extensors, and long and weak lower traps and deep neck flexors. Similarly Janda highlights the key imbalances in lower crossed syndrome shown in the diagram below. There are a whole host of reasons why people present with varying degrees of either or both of these syndromes. Ultimately they lead to poor joint control, positioning and range of motion which leaves people predisposed to injury and pain. What's important to understand from a trainer's perspective is how to try and reverses the effects of these syndromes while still delivering a sufficient training stimulus towards an individual's main exercise goals. There are lots of issues to consider when tackling these problems right down to an individual's breathing patterns. However, a good starting point would be to help strengthen the muscles that are weak and stretch and mobilise the muscles that are short and too stiff (self myofascial release techniques also play an important role). This way we can create a more healthy balance in the problem areas. With better muscular balance there will be better joint stability and position, better movement and therefore better results.
The importance of keeping muscles long and strong in the right places should not be overlooked as it will end up being a limiting factor in an individual's progress. For many people it will also be a contributing factor to any joint pain or chronic injury. Working to correct these imbalances is a tough and long term process. The skill of good exercise prescription is to tailor the program toward not only what an individual wants to achieve but also what they need to achieve. If this is accomplished not only will it be an incredible feeling when using the correct muscles, in the correct sequence to produce close to flawless movement patterns, but it will also help to transform an individual's body.
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