Today's seminar was fascinating and I am really grateful to mc and to Rannoch for promoting it. What I found really interesting was the way in which the teaching pulled together a range of different threads of topics which I have been thinking about for years. I'll post some of these ideas in some additional posts.
I think I've been a bit dismissive of mobility work and z health in the past - I have done it and enjoyed the feeling, but was somewhat bemused by the way in which it was often presented as the solution....
This seminar did what the books and articles I've read previously have failed to do - it put the exercises into context, it explained the reasoning and the theory that justify the moves. It makes more sense now - it is about threat modulation...reassuring your nervous system that things are OK.
We went through a lot of theory and then applied it to some kettlebell moves.
I'll try to present the arguments here and develop some of the ideas in future posts:
- The body is oriented on survival not performance (this links to some paleo/evolutionary fitness ideas. What are we designed for?....to survive, to escape danger, be it a predator or any other threat).
- Take a neurological perspective - look at the nervous system as central - it is always "on", it is fast and it is plastic (malleable - you can learn things that stick). It is always active, always adapting to the demands that it is facing. Back to the old SAID principle - your body will adapt to what you do with it
- Your neurology is binary - it recognises only 2 states - THREAT or NO THREAT
- A THREAT state limits efficient movement in some way or other - there could be pain or tightness or weakness for example, or a limited range of motion.
- A variety of things can induce a THREAT state - lack of movement, fear of falling, being unbalanced, stress.....even poor body position - the arthrokinetic reflex for example.
- The challenge then is to reduce threat signals to improve movement and performance
- Focus on Proprioception - this is more than balance, it is about you brain knowing where you are in space....but more it is about your state.
- Mechanoreceptors - these are within muscles focussed around joints. They map movement. It is an active map of where we are and where we are moving....They send signals to the brain, the nervous system
- Movement will send signals through the nervous system, activating these mechanoreceptors.
- Lots of movement can "drown out" the pain signals
- Movement will encourage the nervous system to see you as in a NO THREAT state
- It is all about trying to maximise the stimulation of mechanoreceptors, to keep movement signals going through your neurology, keeping your proprioceptive system active and so to modulate your state.
- Z Health is built around specific mobility drills to promote movement around each joint to promote a NO THREAT state.
it turns out that there are some great ways to talk with the nervous system via movement. We’re designed to move. We have joints in our bodies for a reason. So by moving the joints actively we are sending loads of all clear/no threat signals to the nervous system. As we move joints, we are also sending a very rich map of where we are in space to give the body increased options about how it can respond to a threat: the more joints perceived as richly mobile, the more responses to avoid an incident.
There are other things you can do too to promote that state - careful breathing, go for a walk etc.
Anyway some interesting ideas that tie in to things like the ideas of Sarno and Monte, and also the idea of posture - like Esther Gokhale talks about.
In his Restoring Lost Physical Function DVD Rif draws on a related idea from Paul Chek. He says that we are basically always working into extension, against flexion. Flexion pulls you together, the flexors pull you into a foetal postions. Think about it - your abs, biceps etc, you curl up into a ball. This is how you start and also how you finish - old people gradually curl up again - there flexors get stiff and they are pulled over, stooped. As we are fit and healthy, we are extended - your back, triceps, glutes, and quads fire and you stand straight. Rif says:
It’s easy to forget that our bodies are under a constant source of pressure from gravity at all times. Gravity is always trying to bend us over, push us down and return us to the fetal position we started from. Many of the muscles in our body are all to happen to ‘go with the flow’ and bend us over into a ball. Our modern seated lives do not help this at all.It’s easy to go from bed, to chair, to car seat, to office seat, back to car seat to couch to bed every day. And then we wonder why our backs or necks hurt or why the exercise routine is not working as well as it should.
Posture is the beginning and end of movement and if our starting postures are not square, plumb and neutral at the start; especially movements that are weighted or done many thousands of times, chances are they will not be at the end.
Gravity, weighted exercises and the daily, repetitive movements we do all day long have very specific effects on our muscles .Certain muscles, referred to as ‘tonic’ ,respond to too much loading or too much inactivity by getting, and staying shorter. Examples of tonic muscles are the hamstrings, calves, the deep muscles in the glutes and the flexors of the upper arm. Tonic muscles are mostly postural ,slow twitch fibers that can get and stay tight very easily.
One the other side of the coin( and the joint) are ‘phasic’ muscles such as quadriceps, triceps, the muscles between the shoulder blades( rhomboids) that are prone to getting weak and stretched out with too much or too little use. The balance of tensions between these two types of muscles is known as a Length Tension relationship.
Where this fits in though....is that the foetal position is the threat response. All the flexors fire and you curl up. When threatened, your posture collapses.
Anyways....more to come....including - interestingly - some support for the Moment Arm approach