Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 9.22.00 AMI saw an article recently about recovery from a back injury. It had all the usual suspects. There was a sequence to training so-called motor qualities…and training them would get your back, back.

There is a problem with this…ok there are a lot of problems. The first one is a misnomer. Motor Qualities aren’t really qualities, they’re quantities.

These quantities are easily defined. There’s a key term used in all of these definitions. It’s not motor, it’s movement.

Whenever we think about strength, speed, endurance, mobility, and flexibility, the definitions can be a bit divergent…and complicated. But when you include just one word to their definition, it simplifies things. That one word is: movement.

Speed is fast movement. Endurance is repeated movement. Strength is movement against resistance.

Power is fast movement against resistance. Flexibility is range of movement or motion. Mobility is the ability to differentiate movement. Stability is the ability to resist motion.

You’ll see some rehab or corrective strategies that try to order these movement quantities. First, you have to be stable: so we’ll do these bridges or planks. And once you can not move from these positions – we’ll move on to the next phase.

In the next phase, we’ll work on your flexibility, so you need to get yourself into these positions. And once you’re in those positions, you’ll need to hold those for a set period of time, too. And once you reach those mile stones, it’s time to work on the next phase.

And in this phase, we’ll work on actual movement…but not the actual movement that injured you. You’re going to do this other movement…and you’re going to do a lot of it. Don’t get ahead of yourself…there’s a lot more phases to go through. Sigh.

Once you can do a non-related movement for a certain number or reps, it’s time to transition to the next phase. In this phase, you’re going to start assuming all of your previous activities…except of the one that hurt you. Good luck not hurting yourself.

When you’re completed this predetermined activity over so many days, it’s finally time to get back to the lift that hurt you…or that you can’t do. But can you really do it? What if it hurts?

Do you ever wonder if these assessments and phases of development are off? Way off? Isn’t the road back much, much simpler?

What if, instead of focusing on the whole of movement quantities, like speed, strength, stability, mobility, endurance, and flexibility….we focused on what makes up all those things: movement. And what if we focused on the specific movement we couldn’t do…instead of exercises that are “supposed” to help? What would that look like?

First, we would break down our pain inducing movement into its constituent parts. If it hurt to do a deadlift, we would look at the component movements of the deadlift…and not just the parts that hurt. Let’s say it’s a sumo stance deadlift.

Bare minimum, that would entail ankle dorsiflexion and extension, knee flexion and extension, hip flexion and extension as well as external rotation and hip abduction and adduction. And then we’d have to get more specific? Does this lifter move his pelvis when he deadlifts…does he move his spine?

When we’re looking at the parts of a deadlift, we have to look through new eyes. Just as a mechanic looks at a machine, we have to look at our bodies. We have to see like a BioMechanic.

All of these parts of a deadlift are movements. And we have to see which one is causing the problem. Is the ankles, the knees, the hips…if so, which one? Is it the back?

For a mechanic, he’s just take the old part out and put a new one in. But we can’t do that. But there is something we can do.

Most of the time whenever we have a part of our body that is in pain or restricted, we can’t just switch it out for a new part. Even when we can, the outcomes aren’t necessarily going to be good. We have to be more sophisticated about our bodies than a mechanic is about a car.

While a car only breaks down, our body can also build up. And when we have a part of our body that its broken down, we have to figure out to build it back up. And sometimes this is a simple process.

If we can figure out which complex movement is responsible for breaking us, and especially the parts of that complex movement which contributed most, we can simply do the opposite of those moving parts. What was flexed can be extended. What was rotated left can be rotated right.

Simply doing the opposite of a motion or components of the motion is often enough to resolve pain, but if we can’t do the opposite of the whole motion, how does we decide which part of the motion to oppose? And how do we decide when it’s time to start retraining the offending movement, or motor pattern? That decision is based on a binary.

How does it feel to do the motion? Does it feel better to do it…or worse? Our sensations should guide our actions.

This internal governor is far more reliable than any external government telling you how much of any particular movement quantity to perform. Not getting into pain or getting out of pain isn’t about motor quantities. It’s about a sensory response and how your movement practice should respond accordingly.

2 thoughts on “NOT MOTOR QUALITIES

  1. Well said. I admire your thinking!

    I’m curious how you tease apart sensory response and emotional response.

    How one feels about the sensory experience of moving – did the sensation of that movement feel ______? (fill in blank with an emotion)

    • Donna,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
      I view feelings (the conscious sense of emotions)
      and emotions as “meta-sensations”
      or evolutionary iterations of sensations.

      They’re in the same class, but emotions are the new kids on the sensory block.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *