Dec 02, 2019
I’ve been doing this fitness career thing for almost two decades now and I still feel like I am chasing relentlessly behind a fast-moving vehicle that contains all the knowledge about human movement that I need to know. It’s just one giant, magnificent onion. Layers and layers and layers underneath others layers. Just when I learn one thing, another one slides out from underneath. And each time I learn that one other thing, I always feel so dumb that I didn’t know it before. So, whenever we have new members come in, I always have such compassion when they reach out and they’re like, “HOW COME I DIDN’T KNOW THIS BEFORE?” I’m like, “Me toooooo. Get me to the end of the dang onion!”
But, I must be careful not to confuse layers with complexity. Because even though there is a lot to learn, the truth is that human movement and biomechanics is just not that complicated. It is NOT rocket science. It is simply just a system and when you decode it, you will feel like hitting yourself over the head and screaming DUH! You’ll also want to scream DUH to all the people you had growing up who actually made it all so much more confusing by giving you terrible info about your body. So now, the reality is that the real complication you have to manage is unlearning a bunch of nonsense.
I’ve decided to help you with that unlearning. Here’s the system, as I know it*******. The asterisks there exists because *I am probably wrong on some or all of this. BECAUSE THE ONION. Here we go:
- Extension over flexion: This principle is actually what inspired MommaStrong 8 years ago. I had spent my career up until that point as Queen Flexion, aka a Pilates Instructor. At the time that I got certified, Pilates trainers didn’t have all the nuances and advances they do today. So, yeah, at that time we did a lot of forward flexion crunch-a-thons and “neutral pelvis” was not yet a cue. This way of strengthening myself left me with a ton of unaddressed back pain. In fact, let’s be real. I was debilitated with back pain. Degenerative disc disease, facet disease, and SI joint dysfunction. Nothing helped, but I stayed very quiet about that because I was ashamed and assumed it was all my fault. I was doing “it” wrong. How could a Pilates teacher of my caliber be suffering as I was? That is until I started to do some desperate research through the brilliant Stuart McGill and his textbook, Low Back Disorders. Everything he was discovering went against this idea that a strong core via flexion exercises was the gold standard for spine health. His research showed quite the opposite: Extension is the key to spine health and a neutral pelvis is essential. So, this began my journey into trying out ways to strengthen my new postpartum body using extension-based exercises that support a truly neutral pelvis. Hint: It worked. Read the next principle to discover why.
- Synergistic Dominance: When our bodies are properly extended - because we are human beings who walk upright with a bowling ball head atop two tiny feet - our muscles organize into an incredible engineering feat involving agonists, antagonists, synergists, and stabilizers. They all work to help make your bones and joints move. And they each have their own job. And to avoid going into the weeds a bit here and boring you out of onion peeling, what often happens with faulty movement patterns, poor posture, and disruptions to our physical wellbeing (ahem, motherhood), these muscles all start sucking at their particular job. And then the synergists, which are basically the Type A personalities in the muscle line-up, are like “I CAN DO ALL OF THE THINGS.” They take over and become committed to never surrendering. The other muscles, in particular the stabilizers, operate more like a Type B personality and they go, “OH COOL, SOMEONE ELSE HAS GOT IT.” Thus, they just go back to the beach and take a nap. The result? A lot of wear and tear on your joints and spine, which also means pain and altered movement patterns. Read the next principle to discover the path out of that.
- Forget the core, find your butt: We used to all just assume if there is a problem in our body then strengthening our core will fix it. However it has since been proven that, much like the fat free craze of the 90s, this assumption is actually not only wrong, it can be harmful. Most of us have WAY too much force/tension across our frontlines and the very last thing we need is to put more force/tension there by strengthening the core in traditional ways. What we need instead is to focus on a few anchor points of the body: The glutes, the midback, and the deep abs. Oh, and the ribs, which is an anchor point I have just started really tackling BECAUSE THE ONION. These anchor points pull our bodies into extension properly by securing our pelvic and shoulder girdles and also reducing the force/tension along our frontlines. When this happens, the synergist muscles surrender and the stabilizers head back in from their blissful nap. The end result here is that we recover our agile selves and resolve many physical issues, from diastasis recti to sciatica to shoulder impingement to knee problems to all the ouchy things. Read the next principle to discover the most important of these things.
- Free your pelvic floor: When our spine is extended and our muscles are all doing their correct job, then we are able to enjoy a truly free and truly resilient pelvic floor, which if you ask me is the key component of a woman feeling strong in her own body. And notice I did NOT say “strong” pelvic floor. That’s because most women nowadays are actually too strong in their pelvic floors and that hypertoning actually causes dysfunction like incontinence, prolapse, and painful sex. In essence, the day of the Kegel is over. It’s time to embrace a bouncy, trampoline-like pelvic floor rather than the steel trap version. The good news is that that can happen simply by extending your body in a balanced posture, allowing your muscles to their unique job, and activating your anchor points. The pelvic floor, much like every single woman I know, is extremely adaptable and also extremely happy when everyone around her starts doing their part so she can be free.
I swear that when you start diving into the principles here, which I yell about everyday using questionable terminology, you will start to see what I know without a doubt: Your body makes sense.
Deep breath. It’s true.
Will it take time? Yes.
Do you have a lot to repair? Yes.
Is there so much unlearning ahead? Yes.
Will you find your way and trust that this is not rocket science? YES.
Join us this December, as we head into a “DUH-cember” in which we tackle these four principles in-depth, but with ease. Together, we will rediscover that your body’s biomechanics are not rocket science and you are never too far gone to be repaired and strong again. What better way to end 2019 than that?
Click here to register as a new member or a current member. AND GOSH DARN IT, get your bestie a gift in the form of a challenge (you can do that on the registration page). Better than that bath bomb you were gonna get her. Hint: Print out this blog and send it with the gift and write in big Sharpie bold writing, You are not broken!