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The Challenge of Undoing Poor Movement Patterns

in Southfield, MI

The Challenge of Undoing Poor Movement Patterns

When you bend over to pick something up, do you consider all of the coordinated positioning and the many joint configurations required to complete this task?

Unless you’re a physical therapist, personal trainer, or seasoned yoga/Pilates instructor, you may not give it much thought. Until something starts to hurt – indicating that you’re moving through faulty movement patterns.

For the common mortal, rather than face the grueling challenge of undoing poor movement patterns, it’s easier to just bow out of the movement altogether. But this is a mistake. 

Movement Comes First From the Brain

The human brain should be slapped with a “high efficiency” label. It’s able to quickly record and recall a variety of movement patterns that enable us to move through life in a breezier fashion.

Within these movements, there are primary patterns and adjustments that occur as the result of environmental changes. For example, when you walk, your brain recalls your primary movement pattern; a compound movement that utilizes many joints and muscles and is familiar to you. This is known as your gait. When you encounter a hill, your brain makes adjustments to that primary pattern.

Along with gait, there are seven functional movement patterns. Each has a proper execution that is rooted in the safest body mechanics. However, weak joints, tight muscles, or other musculoskeletal imbalances can cause you to compensate and establish a poor movement pattern.

1. Squat

In an ideal world, a squat is performed with the heels on the ground, hips back, and knees tracking over ankles. In a full squat, the hips would nearly touch the heels. and heels planted on the ground. Ideally, you would be able to lower into a full squat with your hips almost touching your heels.

2. Lunge

A healthy lunge is one where the front knee is bent, the back knee nearly touches the ground, and your ankle and knees are stable and not shaking. The knees should not drop in or out away from the body, and your chest and head are held high without hunching.

3. Push

In doing a push-up, you want to maintain a straight plank position without the shoulders rounding, head jutting forward, or the lower back sagging. This requires core strength and stability.

4. Pull

Due to their natural upper body strength, performing a pull-up or chin-up is much easier for men than women. But if strength is not an issue, the proper way to execute these is by keeping the shoulders back, head lifted, and back straight once you reach the top of the movement.  

5. Hinge

Though it appears easy, the hinge is one of the toughest to properly execute. Doing a deadlift with a weighted bar is a great way to test out your ability. Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and the back stays straight as you bend forward from the hips. In lifting back up, knees should be slightly bent to fire up the glutes and protect the pelvis and spine.

6. Twist

The most effective twist is one that’s done with a straight spine. So when performing a bodyweight wood chop, keep the feet wider than shoulder distant apart, chest lifted, and knees slightly bent. When you lift your arms diagonally across the body toward the ceiling and bring them down on the opposite side, your ankles should be stable and feet flat on the floor.

7. Gait

Next time you head out for a walk, notice your posture. Is your head jutting forward or are your shoulders rounded? Maybe your hips shake from side-to-side. Does one or both of your feet flare out?

Undoing Poor Movement Patterns

The problem is, it’s much easier to establish a poor movement pattern than to undo one. Once the brain has formed that pattern, that’s its comfort zone. It will repeatedly go back to it. 

It’s estimated that an initial movement pattern takes about 300 repetitions to become ‘ingrained.’ For more complex patterns, this number will be higher. And so while it seems that undoing it should be the same number, it actually takes 10 times the initial number to override the existing pattern. So now you’re looking at 3,000 repetitions. Minimum. 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Getting the pattern right initially will save you a load of work in changing a problematic pattern later. 

The Importance of Mobility and Stability

The body will always seek the path of least resistance. Even if that path isn’t necessarily good for it.

Sometimes there are mobility deficits. For example, without good mobility in the hips and ankles, the knees and lower back will compensate in a squat. Or if you don’t have upper back mobility, reaching overhead could cause the shoulders to compensate and move in ways for which they’re not designed.  

Furthermore, to keep the joints safe, the deep stabilizer muscles that protect them need to fire before the overlying muscles that create the movement. Otherwise, the joint is not stable and secure throughout the movement and is exposed to an unreasonable amount of wear and tear.

Thus, to avoid having to undo faulty movement patterns, it’s crucial to place a premium on increasing mobility and stabilizing the joints. The effort is well worth the outcome. 

How Pilates Helps

When it comes safe movement with a laser focus on stability, mobility, and control, it’s hard to beat Pilates.

So if you’re in the market for undoing poor movement patterns (or avoiding them altogether) don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Our highly trained Pilates instructors and physical therapist can help you retrain your brain so you can get back to optimal movement.