Updated: Oct 24, 2021
This article will attempt to answer the following questions:
What is the benefit of mobility exercises like this gem from Dr. Katie Clare?
What specifically is she doing that makes these work so well?
What are the underlying mechanics of movement? and do the even matter?
First, we need a minor detour into what we mean by exercise. How do we typically define exercise? In the broadest terms I can conjure... its an activity which exerts force through a given area of the body.
At this point the recipe is basically: Movement + body = Exercise. IS THAT ALL THOUGH?
That doesn't seem to cut it because moving my eye muscles over this screen does NOT feel like "exercise" until there is an excess of strain beyond the normal boundaries of the muscles within that movement. (This also presupposes that all exercise is directed solely at muscles which means things like "cardio" are left out, but let's leave specific categories like cardio out for now and keep it basic.)
So the updated recipe is now: Moving force (in excess to 'normal')+ Body = Exercise.
Before we further break down the 'moving force' idea let's quickly change lanes and specify 'body' a bit. This is how we can clarify two major things:
1) Where is the force coming from?
2) Where is the force going to?
To answer these questions, the coming and going of force, we need to lay out the space between these two, namely the body where the force goes through. The position of the body through the movement will then dictate where that force is felt. Here position or posture can also be broken down into relatively fixed pieces and relative moving pieces. There are some purist schools of thought that might suggest things like your feet (say for example, in a squat) are purely fixed to the ground. Or perhaps, sticking with the squat reference, that your spine is purely fixed during the movement of a squat in contrast to your femurs, which are obviously moving (IE not fixed) during the squat. These concepts may be more useful in a rehab setting but for now let's ignore these distinctions and pretend its all relative.
With this in mind our new formula for exercise is:
Force (in excess from normal) generated from a fixed point then transferred through a moving part of the body equals exercise.
The big wager here is that this force is transferred evenly (continuously/smoothly...) from A to B, but how often is that the case, really?
What bet are you making about A)your body and B)your ability to direct force through the body?
In a symmetrical exercise like a squat the gamble on your body is that every joint between the ground and the weight on your shoulders has the same range of motion on the left as on the right and that each joint has the strength (ability to direct force) symmetrically on both sides as well.
This purely mechanical model of movement does not contain the answer to all your problems. There are many other factors that we simply do not have the time to parse out now, but I do think this model is important and often overlooked.
One major advantage to this idea of thinking about movement from a strict mechanical standpoint is that it can help us quickly sidestep a lot of useless minutia.
So instead of a massive amount of coaching movement you can do what the brilliant Dr. Clare does in the video at the beginning of the post.
By globally moving asymmetrically and/or unilaterally she removes the assumption that each specific joint is symmetrical and therefore doubles her probability that the exercise will do as advertised. In other words, you're more likely to feel what she is directing you to feel.
-Movement is complicated.
-Doing exercises unilaterally and asymmetrically is smart.
Have you every bought something and knew you made the right decision?
I created a program to help rebuild your back where we slowly but gradually teach you how to move your hips unilaterally but evenly