Our bodies are beautiful integrated units. We have so many “systems” (nervous, circulatory, muscular, skeletal…) that are all built to work together in harmony. Now, if you are like me and you live on earth and are affected by gravity some of those systems will be out of sync at times due to a litany of possible factors. I want to highlight how this can happen through movement (I am a Kinesiologist and I am trained in movement so I should know this stuff right?).
When examining anything it is a good idea to initially examine the structure as that will tell you the function of whatever you are studying. If you look at a human spine you will notice that the articulating facets in the different areas are oriented differently:
- cervical articular facets are primarily oblique to the sagittal plane allowing for more multi-axial movement.
So all of that stuff may not make sense to read but if you were to look at the structures and relax enough to be able to see what is going on it would be visible. All of that being said, any structure in your body is built exactly the way it is built for a specific reason and when the reason for the structure is not expressed appropriately there is likely going to be an associated problem (think of an elbow that can only open to 90 degrees and close all the way…you can only do the top half of a bicep curl but can never do a tricep movement).
So what have I talked about so far? The body is comprised of structures that have a specific purpose. Now I want to tell you that all of these structures are inter-related! Part of what makes up our elbow is built to flex and extend (full range bicep curl – occurs in the sagittal plane on a transverse axis) while another part of it is built to rotate (this occurs on a transverse plane on a vertical axis) and both of these movements require the co-ordination of nerve and circulatory flow. To take you further down the rabbit hole, to have proper nerve or circulatory function there is a need for proper heart, lung, immune, and other organ function to co-ordinate properly or there will never be a full expression of any of the movements you are trying to create.
Why all of this general science mumbo-jumbo about planes, axes, and organ co-ordination? Well, in fitness we generally find people restricting themselves to what would be classified as non-physiological movement, aka movement that restricts itself to one plane and axis. When there is a continuous repetition of any stimulus there will likely be an adaptation. So, when you continuously do bicep curls (sagittal plane/transverse axis) you are ignoring the possible rotation of the elbow as well as the forearm, wrist, and shoulder that the elbow is directly connected to and when you adapt to that you will get huge guns but you will also be limiting the function of your body as a whole. That may sound like I am being a space-case but I will say that more succinctly: if you constantly do one thing, you will only be good at one thing to the detriment of other things. So what? I get big guns that the ladies will love and I won’t be as good at twisting my arm or moving my shoulder around…if you are ok with that then be my guest! If you understand what you are doing and are fine with the consequences then I am not talking to you, I am talking to the people who don’t know what the consequences are.
What is the big deal and why am I saying any of this? I want it to be clear that there is a good, better, best situation going on here. Physical activity with the goal of improved physical fitness and health should be fun and build general capacity/vitality. People often see someone that has the visual expression on their body that the viewer desires so the viewer tries to copy a fitness regime. STOP THAT! If you were that person you would look like them, but you are not! Follow these principles and you will be healthier and have a chance at looking better naked like you have always wanted:
Good = movements that are restricted to single planes and axes such as what can be performed with machines and weights in a gym setting (if done properly you will get bigger and stronger faster than doing other things, you just have to know the hows and whys)
Better = movements that are restricted to single planes and axes coupled with multi-axial movements to balance and build general capacity (this will help make you bigger and stronger even faster because you are providing varied stimulus to balance recovery and adaptation)
Best = movements that are multi-axial, fun, and not done too often (the world is your playground, go play and build your capacity to move through space, we did not survive this long as a species doing anything other than this, you will not find an archeologist saying that they found a dumbbell from 10,000 BC!)
Go out, understand what you are doing with your fitness regime and apply it for the right reasons! Continuously doing the same movements = injury and loss of general capacity (I have worked in a rehab setting, this is the truth).