Thursday, March 5, 2015

You Are What You Repeatedly Do

As a child, you probably heard your mother say something to the effect of, "don't make that face! You'll get stuck like that!" Well, as ludicrous as it sounds, she might've been on to something.

Let's take, for example, someone who is a truck driver. His job requires him to be seated for 8+ hours at a time, hunched over a steering wheel. Over the years, his tissues will adapt to that sedentary job. His hip flexors are used to a shortened position, his shoulders are adapting to the constant internal rotation that driving demands, and his foot on the gas pedal might be locked in plantarflexion (in the pointed position). Day in and day out his body is learning these patterns, and, reflexively, it will forget about the muscles he doesn't use and automatically recruit the ones that he abuses.

Here is Rachel Yurkovich demonstrating some incredible power. Notice how her right arm reaches behind her while the left leg comes forward for counterbalance.
Now, let's say you're a javelin thrower. This person is repeatedly throwing with her dominant side,
which will be significantly stronger than her non-dominant side. The arms, obliques and rectus abdominis will surely have some asymmetries. Perhaps her hips are stuck in a slight rotation in the direction of which she throws. Maybe one of her shoulders is even hiked a little bit higher than the other. On one side of her body, she is able to produce a tremendous amount of power, while the other side might lack coordination.

You get the idea. Our brains (and, subsequently, our bodies) remember patterns. If you're doing the same thing day in and day out (like sitting or throwing), your brain will adapt accordingly. The areas where you carry tension are a direct result of the activities you do on a regular basis; those muscles are tight from overuse.

Fear not--there is a way to overcome the demands of your daily lifestyle.

The key is to assess the demands of your lifestyle and understand where you carry tension in your body and why. Once you've come up with a clear idea, the next step is to try to correct those imbalances or dysfunctional patterns.

One way to do this is to find the most ergonomic way to perform your given task. If you're spending a large portion of your day sitting, at least make sure you're seated in a good position. Get up every 30-40 minutes to get some blood flow to your legs and open up the hips a bit.

Now, the next step is to minimize those imbalances. Everyone has some type of asymmetry, but doing some work to correct that will prove to be beneficial. To go back to my earlier example, a javelin thrower is repeatedly throwing with a dominant arm (for the sake of this article, we'll say it's the right. When she throws the javelin with her right arm, she rotates her body towards the left side. The left obliques and hip flexors are overworked, so it would be helpful for her to isolate the right obliques (working the cross pattern of the left arm to the right leg) to give her left obliques a bit of a rest. She can make use of this on her off days in the gym with bands or bodyweight exercises, or maybe even practice throwing with the opposite hand.

Every once in a while, I do my split jerks with the opposite leg coming forward. Normally, my left leg reaches out in front of me, so my torso has become very comfortable and stable in that position. I've made an effort to try to give the right obliques some love.

Regardless of your profession or sport, we all have some type of repetitive motion or pattern we maintain for extended periods of time. Consider those patterns and try to lessen the impact by creating balance.

Works Cited:

  1. Myers, Thomas W. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2001. Print.

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