Learning to Move
Our first step in getting stronger is to develop movement literacy throughout fundamental movement patterns. By that I mean the ability to perform a certain movement adequately, be it a Squat, Deadlift or anything else. At Smith’s Fitness, we classify movements into 4 distinct groups, Squat based, Hinge based, Upper Body Push and Upper Body Pull. These could be split again for higher level athletes but for the sake of this article we will stick to the basics.
For each of these movement categories there is an end goal (see below) that may vary from person to person or goal to goal. Some people may have a very basic starting point, whilst others may be able to perform movements straight away. Several factors come into play here, things like having an athletic background are typically pre-cursors to adequate movement literacy, whilst people with a previous sedentary lifestyle, previous injuries or poor mobility may take longer and need more coaching to be capable of loaded movements.
Typical Movement breakdowns
I’ve found during my time coaching people of all fitness levels, ages and abilities that the hinge is by far the most troublesome for those starting out. Usually because they haven’t encountered such a movement before and have trouble dissociating hip and lumbar flexion. However, good coaching and using the appropriate progressions will accelerate their competency. As hinge based movements are comparatively high risk when heavy loads are used it is vital they are taught and coached correctly before they are loaded.
Squats are commonplace, most people know what they should look like, but unfortunately not everybody can perform them adequately. Restricted range of motion is the biggest factor when limiting peoples “squatability” (surprisingly not the first time I’ve used that word). Limit ankle dorsiflexion (toes to shin) will create a squat that normally lacks depth or tends to really load the hips which can sometimes result in further issues in the future. I also believe external rotation at the hips during the descent of a squat allows for an improved range of motion and barbell control.
Typically, with good coaching and cueing most people void of major scapula-humeral dysfunction can perform upper body movements quite easily without much fuss. When it comes to upper body movements, strength, not range of motion or motor control is the limiting factor, especially in the case of horizontal press and pulling. Vertical pushing and pulling is more notably limited due to overhead range of motion. In most cases this can be addressed using corrective and mobility exercises.
So with all that said, what is the point of this article? Well basically it’s to get you to understand that movement comes first and that physical development isn’t just throwing any old exercise at people and hoping something sticks, for Strength and Conditioning coaches this stuff is our passion and what sets us apart from a lot of the fitness industry.