Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Functional movement and accident prevention

The primary goal of our strength and conditioning program is to improve functional movement. This can mean a lot of different things, from having the strength to pick up your kids to having the fitness to go for a hike in the mountains to having the foundational movements and mobility to start a new sport. But one very basic element of improving functional movement is accident prevention.

Think about someone you know who has recently had an accidental injury. Was it something simple like tripping on a curb or missing the last stair? Have you seen or done the same thing but instead of an injury, it's just a close call? People talk about accidental injuries as being unlucky events, due to weird circumstances or maybe a personal attribute (I'm just clumsy). But they are rarely discussed as preventable or skill-related. You may be accident-prone, but you can become LESS accident-prone.

By learning how to move correctly and safely with barbells and kettlebells, or by learning some basic bodyweight and gymnastic movements, you can improve your senses of equilibrium (balance), proprioception (knowing where you are in space), muscle activation, and posture. The work you do in the gym can directly translate to better body awareness as you move throughout your day.

Getting stronger in lots of different positions - the bottom of the squat, with weight locked out overhead, doing a unilateral carry, jumping - will also improve your recovery. I can't count the number of times I've started to fall but caught myself safely, just because I'm strong. Learning fast, precisely timed movements like the kettlebell snatch and the Olympic lifts quickens your reaction time so that if you do miss that last stair, you'll do a quick hop and stay on your feet. And pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, for example, by inverting into a handstand or bailing from a heavy squat, makes athletic reactions more automatic for you.

As you progress in your training, pay attention to how you feel in everyday life. Don't walk around distracted, but instead pay attention to where your body is in space and how you react to uneven terrain. Think about where your shoulders are in relation to your hips, feel the ground with your whole foot when taking a step, feel your core tighten when you pick something up or when you're standing for a long time. I hope that you find yourself avoiding accidents, which is a really important part of living a healthy, functional, independent life.
5 rounds with full recovery:
5 heavy thrusters
3 pull-ups