From the moment we are born, we begin to form functional movements. From sitting up to standing, to walking, then running and throwing. As we age, we gain these basic skills— but do we do these things correctly? Physiologically, we move in a way that is metabolically efficient, not in a way that promotes longevity. In other words, we move in the easiest way, not the best way. Metabolic conservation causes us to compensate: meaning we use the wrong muscles during activities.
At The Rehab Docs, our mission is to change your motor patterns to give you optimal functional movements, instead of relying on compensation. We do this by training you to use the correct muscles while you move– allowing you to limit the compensation from other muscles that may try to be engaged. By limiting compensations, we decrease your risk of injury and maximize your potential over time. If you don’t have the correct functional movements in place, then you’re trying to build strength, speed, and endurance by working behind faulty movement patterns. When you do this, you’re just increasing the rate of degeneration and the risk of injury long-term. Using ideal functional movements is essential in not only training but for daily activities as well.
How to Optimize Functional Movements
What is weak?
There are three steps to how we optimize functional movements at The Rehab Docs. First, we have to find out what is weak or not working well. Because we all have different compensations, it is easy to fall into incorrect motor patterns. You may hear how to do a proper squat in an exercise class, but it’s different when it comes to actually doing it. You can’t just “externally rotate your leg to activate your glute” if you don’t know what that means. Trainers use cues like “hold your knees out wide” or “sit back” to try and help you find your glute, but that’s nearly impossible to do if you don’t know what it feels like to activate the muscle. You can easily do a squat by compensating your way around the weak glute and never actually finding it. This not only prevents your glute from getting stronger, but it actually strengthens your dominant muscles which makes it harder and harder to achieve glute activation.
After we determine what is weak, the second step is making sure you can get into a muscle neurologically; we do this by teaching you how to do an isometric hold— this wakes up the brain to use that muscle specifically and creating that strong foundation before getting dynamic with those movements in different positions. After locating and feeling the muscle isometrically, we can get very functional towards your goals and ultimately sport-specific if that’s your goal. Referring back to the glutes, a lot of runners experience things like plantar fasciitis or knee pain because they have a weak glute. Their glutes don’t properly engage when they run, which leads to these other issues. These issues will continue unless they learn how to use their glute while they run. It would be one thing to strengthen the glute with isolated exercise, but that doesn’t actually transfer to the function of running. What we want to do is make sure that you’re able to use that muscle functionally within your goal.
Continue to use Knowledge Learned
After going through the first two steps of determining what muscles are weak and learning how to get into those muscles both neurologically and functionally, we have essentially made these functional movements your new normal. The third step is being able to use the knowledge we teach you to then help yourself use optimal function movements. All of the exercises and movements you learn during treatment will become tools in your toolbox. You can then use the toolbox of exercises we created during your treatment plan to allow you to continue to fight compensation over time and tailor your movements to make them very skill-specific.
To learn more about functional movements contact us to schedule an appointment.