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    Articles | Lower Body

    Are you investing in your physical pension?

    By Tim Stevenson

    As humans we enter the world equipped with a central nervous system pre-installed with basic software that covers the essentials we need to stay alive. This is pretty incredible in itself, but what is more beautiful is that from the moment we take our first breath, we’re a blank canvas.

    Through the power of neuroplasticity we have the opportunity to learn pretty much anything we like, and in no better way is this demonstrated than through movement.

    Motor Learning Theory

    The brain has a clever way of facilitating this process. For it to try and manage a system that has a huge number of movement options by storing an extensive catalogue of specific, perfect techniques would be highly inefficient. The process of searching and finding the optimal pattern based on the environment and task we’re currently facing would simply take too long.

    Instead the central nervous system takes a generalist approach and downloads movements that are generally applicable and widely useful. Survival is the number one priority for the brain. To do that we must move and be able to respond and react, all whilst maintaining efficiency. So what we find is that all of our human movement capabilities are based around fundamental patterns. And these patterns form a matrix to which we can attach new ones.

    Lower Body Foundations

    Let’s take the squat as an example. We learn this as a baby without thinking about it. The squat enables us to execute a task when we want to stand up, sit down, get closer to the ground to look at something or pick up a toy. These are necessary human movements that the brain is interested in because this is a pattern that has purpose in keeping with its priorities.

    The squat pattern forms the basis for standing, and then walking, running and then jumping. The squat has general applicability.

    We know that perfect technique in these fundamental patterns is optimal and contributes to developing and maintaining a high performing human movement system. But the brain is willing to compromise as it must adapt to the environment, tasks and conditions in order to survive. It is not the brain’s desire that we sit for endless hours each day and neither would its preference be the many postural compensations that form as a result. Even though many people neglect to service their system regularly, they are still able to continue their day to day life relatively unpertubed and only somewhat aware.

    Behind our apathy however is a loss of function. Joints stop moving so well, myofascial tissue stops elongating, unused muscles get weaker, the information quality the brain receives deteriorates and movements that we once performed with effortless ease become full of effort.

    Despite this, the resourceful brain continues to do the best it can with what you have given it. Internally the board has called a meeting to communicate the current state of dire consequence…

    ‘Listen, I’m afraid we have an issue with the primary drivers of our bipedal operations. The upshot is that we can’t squat anymore. The board appreciates the efforts in making up for lack of vertical stature with high heels, but they have caused a minor catastrophe in the ankle department. In addition, reports from the lumbo pelvic hip complex state that the gluteus maximus has gone on strike due to unsatisfactory working conditions meaning the knees have gone rogue. Therefore the board’s recommendation is this: should we want to sit down, stand up, pick anything off the ground or heaven forbid try to jump, we should do so with as straight legs as possible. Emergency crisis talks with the spine resulted in a willingness to try and pick up the slack but it’s already at capacity and could blow any day.’

    Too often, however, we are pre-occupied, busy, ignorant or lazy to be aware of what is happening in our own system. As a result, the brain continues to find alternative strategies that allow you to keep squatting. Duck feet, bambi knees and a spine bent like an economy banana. The central nervous system finds the path of least resistance and achieves the objective. Survival and the associated execution of tasks trumps efficiency.

    Your Physical Pension

    Our ability to enjoy a long lasting and functional life relies on the maintenance of our generally applicable movement patterns.

    The squat and lunge are two such patterns that we should invest in. Think of it as a physical pension. You don’t want to wait until you decide to make a withdrawal aged 65 only to find the account is empty.

    Movement is life. Without it things get pretty bleak, pretty quickly. Our advice is this: protect and invest in your fundamental patterns.

    Be proactive about maintaining full joint motion and strength through range. You don’t need to put a heavy bar on your back to do that. When it comes to making a deposit in your physical pension account there is more to consider than how much weight you can lift in a fixed plane of motion. The hip is a ball and socket joint which means it has many movement options to explore. The brain will be very happy if you keep as many as possible and it will reward you with something of real value. Healthy, effortless, pain-free movement which you can enjoy by yourself or with loved ones, hopefully for as long as you live.

    If you want to start investing in your physical pension and regain your lower body fundamental movements we have a specific training programme in our Virtual Classroom. With support on analysing your individual requirements, corrective programmes and video coaching tutorials, you have everything you need.

    I hope you have enjoyed this blog, if you have please share it with someone else.



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