The 5 Principles of Improved Functional Movement


During this time of the year, many of us are ramping up our physical activity. Not only doing more of what we love, but also doing new things like running, swimming, cycling, golf, beach volleyball, baseball and tennis just to name a few. For many others, the activities are more moderate and can include things like going for more walks, gardening, or simply washing the car.

Whatever the activities are, exercise, as many health care providers of all disciplines will tell you is critically important for your overall quality of health & well-being.

Especially true with today’s high technology oriented posture based strains which include things like your daily commute to work whether that be by car or plane, working on a desktop or laptop all day, tapping in front of your tablet or Smartphone at home or just sleeping in poor or unhealthy posturally challenged ways.

It’s no wonder activities like mixed martial arts, dance, pilates, yoga, spinning, cross-fit, tai-chi, and even sandjoga are gaining such craze today. Inherently they all keep in mind the 5 principles that I feel are critical to the Principles of Improved Functional Movement or to say it another way…Improved Exercise!

1) Increase your Body Awareness

Did you know that nowadays, for our generation of high tech lovers, sitting is the new smoking. Although smoking cigarettes for years has been shown to be the cause of so much preventable and deadly breakdown of natural health, today’s research is showing the same for those of us who sit for long stretches of time.

“Smoking certainly is a major cardiovascular risk factor and sitting can be equivalent in many cases,” explained Dr. David Coven, cardiologist with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. Dr. Coven said several new studies show prolonged sitting is now being linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even early death.”The fact of being sedentary causes factors to happen in the body that are very detrimental,” said Dr. Coven. Dr. Coven says when you sit for long periods of time; 

your body goes into storage mode, when that happens, it stops working as effectively as it should. What’s worse, the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of developing one or more of these chronic degenerative disease states, just as with smoking.

Source: June 8, 2011 CBS News
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 57, Issue 16, 19 April 2011, Page 1717

2) The Spine Comes First

Posture is the window to your spine and the spine is the chassis for your body’s other two primary engines, the hips and shoulders. Each functional movement begins and ends at the spine, so your spine has to be properly aligned in order for these joints to work properly as well. When it isn’t, it will weaken your body’s force production. The arc angles of life that develop when you learn to crawl (in the neck) and walk (in the low spine) are critically important to ensuring healthy information flow and life force from your brain to your body every day. Any interference as a result of this healthy arc  literally interferes with and breaks down the communication cycles to all of the systems of your  body including muscles, digestion, respiratory, circulatory, immune and reproductive function just to name a few. Any injury to the spine causes severe reactions by your body, which wants to protect the central nervous system. Ever tweaked your back and been laid up for days? Anyone who’s had a back or neck injury knows how debilitating such an injury can be. That’s why prioritizing the Spine is key.

3) The One Joint Rule

We need to learn to look at our spine as a single column, with only the normal healthy arc angles present within it. Having too much flexion or even extension for that matter set us up for challenge in the other joints of our body.

Ideally, we should only see flexion or extension at the hip or shoulders. Unfortunately, too many of us do things like slump forward in our chair, meaning we have to tilt our head upwards to look at our computer screen, creating an improper flexion point in our neck.

We can certainly flex our spine globally, for example if we are bending back to serve a volleyball – but not locally. We all know that when we pick a box up from the floor we should keep our back straight and flex only at the hips. That not only protects our back; it helps us lift more effectively.

4) The Laws of Torque

In all motions of flexion and extension, there’s a corresponding rotational force too.  Whenever we flex our arm or leg forward, our shoulder or hip should rotate outwards. When we move our arm or shoulder behind us, the rotation is internal. Understanding the laws of torque, and thus the basics of external and internal rotation, are key to proper movement. The reason yogis prefer the lotus position is the external rotation in the hips and shoulders maintains the spine strong and organized. Unfortunately, sitting at a chair with our feet on the floor keeps our hips neutral, not externally rotated, and doesn’t give our spine proper support.

5) The Tunnel

Every movement has a start and end position and what happens in between those positions, is referred to as “the tunnel.” The tunnel is a crucial concept that says once you are underway in a movement, it’s too late to correct your stance. If you’re standing with your feet sticking out like a duck and you start running, it’s hard to correct your stance mid-stride. Understanding how to enter the tunnel and organize your body correctly at the outset is the only way to guard against injury. You have to enter the tunnel organized and exit the tunnel organized.

These 5 Principles make sense once you see them in action. So no matter your athletic prowess, I urge you to watch the video below by Cross fit guru Kelly Starrett. Much of this information is taken from his book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”. We’ll be sure to be talking more about this at our next Move Well Workshop scheduled for Wednesday, June 26th at 6:30pm.

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