I believe that the starting point for any exercise program is a comprehensive assessment of your biomechanics. Without this determination of how you use your body, your exercise will, at best, be less effective, or worse, it could be damaging to your joints.
Regardless of your starting point, the objective of an initial assessment should be to determine if your body needs to first start with balancing. The program for rebalancing, however, is entirely dependent on your body's starting point and progresses through stages of: Awareness, Release, Strengthen, Integrate and Focus.
The first two stages, awareness and release, involve some retraining exercises, massage and stretching. The strengthening phase is where corrective exercise begins to play a major role in your program because the objective in this phase is to specifically target those muscles that your body has found ways to not use and are, thus, weaker and out of balance.
The goal with corrective exercise is to put the body into a position where muscles, the targeted muscles for a given exercise, are worked.
I know that you have heard that the body will always strive for the easiest possible way, and the easiest way is using joints instead of muscle. The next easiest is for the body to use muscles that it already has rather than challenge other, weaker and less developed muscles, to be used.
In real life this means that you will have a natural tendency to always use the same muscles regardless of the activity. It could be that your hamstrings contract whenever you walk or move. As a result, the muscles could feel tight all the time, but what you may not be aware of is how they could be pulling on the pelvis to place stress onto your spine or how your glutes might not be challenged to work at all and, thus, shrink - we are talking the muscle - creating a flat and tucked appearance.
Since this is a gradual adaptation, you might not be even aware of the change. So what do you notice? First, you might be aware of your tight hamstrings. They might seem to work all the time, maybe cramp and certainly they could be a challenge to stretch. Second is most likely to be appearance - the tucked in tilt of the pelvis giving an appearance of a lower back that has minimal curve but is flat right down the butt. Pain is the last thing that you would be aware of because joints can take a long time to wear out. So last on the list of progressive awareness is pain. In this particular scenario that pain could present as an irritation to the sciatic nerve, sciatica, in the pelvis or in the spine. Either way, the awareness of pain is probably down the leg or into the foot.
When this type of pain starts it is sometimes hard to understand that this was not a one time trauma that is the cause, but the pattern of how they have been using their body. People can feel like they have been doing the same thing for 20 years and there has been no issue, and believe that how they have been doing it cannot be the issue.
So, to be clear, of the 4 possible categories of any injury: abuse, misuse, disuse and trauma, only one of them is due to single occurrence. Every other possible cause is because of how you use your body. The mechanics of how you move determines if you are placing the force on your body in a way that you want - one that will enable it to get stronger - or in a way that will wear it out.
As pain is the last indicator, it is not the most effective for determining your body's balance. Exercise effectiveness can be a challenge to objectively determine because there are so many variables and no easy way to compare without using actual oxygen consumption tools. There is, however, the first step of awareness. Simple alignment observations will not provide you the complete picture, but they can help to increase your awareness. Phrases like 'Knee in line with the foot' and 'Head on top of the spine' can be good starting points to developing your awareness of how your body moves, and awareness is the first step in the progressive steps of rebalancing the body.
Step 1: Become aware. Get educated on the movement patterns of your body.
Step 2: Counter the cheats. Stretching, massage and corrective exercise can be used to reposition.
Step 3. Strengthen. Engage in corrective exercises to specifically strengthen the weaker muscles.
Step 4. Integrate. Begin using the stabilizing muscles as stabilizers during other activities.
Step 5. Focus. Conscious changing of daily movement...relearn how to move.
If you follow these steps you can make your exercise more effective as well as reduce the potential for wearing out your joints.
As always let me know how I can help,
This blog is written and updated by the staff that support EQUIVITA. Individual blog posts are the thoughts of the staff member that submitted the post. The content of these posts often support the thoughts and ideas of our organization, but do not always(and we scarcely use definitives) reflect the same thoughts or ideas of the organization as a whole.