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Better Movement Series : Vestibular Health

When using a movement approach to vestibular health one must exercise caution. The majority of us will be fine, but there are people with conditions that would not benefit from this type of training. If you haven’t done anything like this before start slow, small and easy.

The Vestibular Labyrinth

  • the vestibular labyrinth partly consists of 3 semi circular canals
  • each canal detects a type of head motion, information from all 3 canals allow the brain to figure out direction of motion.

The 3 Semicircular Canals detect 3 motions :

  • up and down as in ‘yes’
  • side to side as in ‘no’
  • lateral tilts – like pouring water out of your ears

Practicing these 3 head motions is also great for neck mobility!

The Vestibular System plays a major role in Balance. However there are 2 other players in what makes up Human Balance; Vision and Proprioception. (Underlying all this is the efficiency of your nervous system to send and receive information, and your brain or spinal chords ability to interpret and react to that info. But this is outside the scope of this post.)

Here are some things to consider when using a movement approach to Vision and Proprioception

VISION – actions of the eyes and head

  • eyes focus on one spot with no movement
  • eyes focus on one spot but the head moves
  • eyes track moving spot without moving head
  • eyes and head track a moving spot

PROPRIOCEPTION

  • focus on ankles and hips and getting stability from the core
  • close your eyes while practicing to enhance the effect
  • practice ‘Re-Balancing’ – that is, almost falling over but catching yourself and bringing yourself back into balance. (shout out to Ido Portal)
  • practice at an 8 / 10 intensity – that is, if you do 10 reps only 2 reps should actually make you fall. 80% of your efforts should be successful, if not then what you are doing is too challenging!

My Top 3 Balance Drills

>>> 1/2 kneeling 3 way neck mobility

>>> Single Leg Standing Eye Tracking

>>> Eyes Close Toe touches : x 1 set heels elevated, x 1 set toes elevated.

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Better Movement Series : Spine Health

There are numerous ways movement can improve the health of your spine.

Here are some tips when using a movement approach to spinal health

  1. Explore the Range of Motion: the spine can Flex / Extend / Rotate / Lateral Bend + any combination of the four.
  2. Reduce Pain: pain changes how you move, stay a 2 out of 10 in discomfort. Excessive tension should not be used, stay relaxed.
  3. BREATHE: match your breathing with your movement. This increases connection and Flow.

And Remember,
Work from the ground up – Always start with easy exercises on the floor and progress up to more challenging exercises while standing.

Here are my Top 3 spinal mobility movements:

>> 1/2kneeling Lateral Stretch

>> Torso Rotations

>> Jefferson Curl

Here are my Top 3 spinal stability movements:

>> Supine Leg Raise

>> Side Plank

>> Bird Dog

Each of these exercises have “easier” and “harder” variations. I would suggest starting easier than you think, because the time you put into the fundamental exercises will pay off own the road. This is what I mean by starting from the ground up. Once you find your starting place expect to get better every day for the first couple weeks. Eventually however you will have to change it up. Using some kind of test – retest protocol is recommended.

Try this out and let me know how it helps.

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Training Principles You Have To Live By: RECIPROCAL INHIBITION

(RI) Reciprocal Inhibition – describes the process where the muscles of one side of a joint relax in order to accommodate a greater contraction in the muscles on the other side of the joint.

Without RI muscles on both sides of a joint may fire simultaneously and work against each other.

RI is typically used to achieve greater range of motion in a stretch. You may have heard of “Contract/Relax” – yea thats RI and the Golgi Tendon Organs at work.

How it occurs doesn’t really matter to you.

What does matter is what you do after.

The only reason to stretch a muscle is to promote length and greater range of motion. Once that extra range is created you must then train it!

Mobility is Posture Specific: I would not suggest stretching any muscle in isolation – but to do mobility exercises that relate directly to a functional movement (like a squat).

This way you point all your arrows in the right direction.

Lastly,

This process takes advantage of the stretch reflex and is an effect way of literally training your reflexes. Something you will want to have later in life.

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Play – the most effective workout

In previous posts I brought up the idea Flow and how performance is heightened when there is a certain ratio of Skill : Difficulty – and how Flow is synonyms with Happiness.

PLAY is an activity that brings happiness or at least enjoyment.

This post will explore why Play should be adopted into your movement routine.

First the obvious : adding Play into your movement routine will increase enjoyment as well as improve the quality of your performance.

But the not so obvious is what goes on in the brain.

  • Play literally re-wires the brain.

Play will keep you healthy just as much as exercise. The two together compound and enhance the effect. Play uses less effort while providing higher gains, making for a more effective workout!

HOW you adopt Play into your Training is up to you.

What Play-in-the-workout will involve is getting in touch with how you move. That is the whole point of this kind of Training i.e. learning to move better.

Consider a Test – Play – Retest Protocol

Example:

Do a 5 reps of a Goblet Squat –

Play around with the ‘Squat’ movement pattern. Focus on whatever is the most challenging part of the movement for you.

Do 5 more Goblet Squats –

Then ask yourself: was the second set better? same? or worse? and then Learn from the answer. Anything that makes your squat easier can be used as a corrective exercise specific to you!

And isn’t that what we all want?

Thats all for now,

hope this has made you consider playing around more in the gym!

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Every Day Movement

IN THE GYM,

you practice movements that your body will default to when you have to use similar movements in your daily life.

However – you should not categorize ‘exercise’ as something to only to be done in the gym.

Here is why – Evolution: In order to eat, ancient humans had to move. There were certain things they had to do every single day in order to survive: walk, climb, sprint, hide, hunt …. using a whole in the ground as a toilet… All of these activities require mobility & motility.

The Modern World has turned this evolutionary structure on its head, and serious health issues have arisen because of it.

We need a ‘return to nature’ of sorts, to bring us back into balance.

… Return to natural movement … to functional movement !?!

(great segue, I know )

SO, what should I be focusing on when it comes to exercise and functional movement?This first point is also a highly overlooked aspect of coaching:

  • How are you BREATHING, are you maintaining POSTURE / technique and what are your EYES doing. If you involve all 3 of these things into your movement practice then you will be in BALANCE.

Second point:

  • you need to balance out your pushing and your pulling. Train the Lower body and the Upper Body with these pushing and pulling movements
    • The lower body should be trained more than the Upper body
    • Pulling movements should be trained more than Pushing movements

Getting Strong and Mobile is actually quite straight forward once you figure out certain rules and start to follow them. (more on this in a later post)

However it gets tricky when you start to talk about “Asymmetries and Corrective” – because of individual differences. More on this in the next post…