• Have you ever wondered what makes athletes’ movements so powerful?
• How they are able to remain so stable while moving at such high speeds? And manipulating so much force?
• Have you wondered how we developed our current movement strategies?
• How did we first learn the strategy of lifting our heads? turning over? crawling? toddling? walking? running? jumping?
• Is there a more ideal or efficient way to move?
• Would it surprise you to hear that the most powerful and stable and efficient way to move is also the strategy that is most resilient to injury? And that that strategy is naturally encoded in our bodies?
• With time, we pick up bad habits, e.g., in the face of injury, poor ergonomics, inconvenient clothing, stress, etc.
• Would it surprise you to learn that most people don’t realize that their movement strategies have shifted? so they keep doing them, and those become the new normal…it’s sort of like broken telephone…the message you end up with may be very different than the original message.
• Would it also surprise you to learn that neuromuscular control does have an effect on many of the things we care about: sleep, energy, health (fewer headaches, fewer aches and pains, etc.), exercise, how we use our eyes, balance?
Center of Gravity (COG) & Base of Support (BOS)
Think of your body weight condensed in the middle point of your body (i.e., probably somewhere in your pelvis), something like a big heavy bowling ball in your pelvis; This is your center of gravity (COG).
Think of an outline on the ground that lays out the boundaries within which you can skillfully control this bowling ball’s position; This is your base of support (BOS).
Our body’s ability to control our COG within our BOS generally reflects our neuromuscular control.
Benefits of Improved Neuromuscular Control
The more skilled you are at neuromuscular control, the better you are at:
- maintaining efficient and well leveraged joint positions while you move.
- pulling off more complex movements with coordination, strength, speed and range
- adapting to your environment when circumstances change.
What are the parts that comprise the neuromuscular control system?
Neuromuscular control is a function of the sensory input to the brain (a function of the visual, vestibular and the somatosensory system), motor output from the brain and the coordination of these signals by different centers of the brain like the cerebellum. It also involves the moving parts of the muscular and skeletal system.
Athletes train movements; body builders isolate muscles
Many exercises people perform are focused on isolating muscles and blasting them so they get bigger and “more developed”. While this is the goal in the body building world, for most of us who are concerned more with performance, it’s the opposite of what we want.
There is a saying: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
So, if your biceps, for example, are really well developed, you will probably end up using them to do more things.
• But, what if that’s not the best tool for the job in lifting that wheelbarrow?
• How will you learn this new strategy?
• Usually just trying harder will mean you will just do more of what you’re good at: cranking up the volume on that bicep contraction. How will you be prompted to explore other strategies?
• Will you be able to use leave your heavy hitters on the shelf and use something less developed because it has more potential?
The Body is Greater than the Sum of its Parts
• During movement in our everyday tasks or in sport, our joints, muscles and ligaments form the infrastructure our body uses to perform work.
• How well any given joint works is dependent on how the rest of the joints in the kinetic chain (i.e. human body) are positioned and used.
• Having excellent neuromuscular control involves stabilization of one part of the body while another part is in motion.
• It involves optimal timing of joint centration and alignment with the rest of the body, correct stabilization of that joint with core muscles, and allowing the primary movers to move the joint around its center, so that the center of mass is balanced.
• The body is a sum of all of its moving parts and if one part is injured or dysfunctional, another part of the body may compensate in order to complete the intended task.
• For example, let’s say we needed to walk over a rock 1 foot high while walking a given path.
- If both knees were functional, this task may be easy as we can simply just step over the rock.
- However, imagine if we had an injury to one knee, and we could not completely weight bear on it, how would we change our movement or rearrange our body mechanics to accomplish this task?
- In other words, an injury to one area of the body can now change the “normal” mechanics of another part of the body.
You are capable of so much just by leveraging your body properly
Check out this Shaolin monks’ power:
While this is not usually our goal :), imagine being able to leverage our “Chi” to a fraction of that?
Writing: Dr. Taher Chugh
Last update: February 2021