Movement Principle # 6
Principle 6: Perception drives movement behavior and movement behavior modulates perception.
The question is, how does movement develop naturally and how do all these great performances come about? Could the same forces produce both a toddler’s first step and the authentic running stride? They are both driven by inputs that influence perception. We get stuck in the practice of outputs and assume our input is the same as those we want to emulate. We perform step-by-step exercise and assume our brains will find value and therefore commitment it to movement-pattern memory.
We should know better, but we all expect that practicing outcomes will create favorable movement patterns. The fact is we should try to emulate all the sensory inputs that produce favorable general and specific movement patterns, rather than practice the motor outputs. This will put our focus on perception, and when we hit the correct perception dosage, movement behavior will provide the feedback.
Actors mimic the outputs of the characters they play and often give us convincing performances, but these are scripted. The actor is not the character, but for a brief time, they behave like the character. We treat exercise and rehabilitation in the same way. We coach movements in a controlled environment and assume we have changed behavior across other situations or even other activities. We forget that when the actor leaves the stage, he or she returns to daily life eventually forgetting the character life. Our clients and patients often do the same thing. The way they move will tell the story of what they have learned and what they have forgotten.
This principle reminds us always to remember there’s a continuous loop of information coming in and activity going out. The activity going out is always trying to adjust itself to the information coming in. If we over-adjust, we can cause a fall, a loss of balance or throw a ball instead of a strike. If we under-adjust, we also make mistakes.
For example, when training we forget we’re doing a set of 10 repetitions—we almost should think of this as 10 sets of one repetition. Some good practical examples come from this. When I’m teaching deadlifting, I use the cue from Pavel: Let’s do one deadlift, set the weight back down, resume standing, bend over and do it again. What Pavel is telling us is that getting into position and doing a respectable pull is just as important as standing up and down, clinking the weights on the floor trying to get to that fifth repetition.
Getting into position, aligning oneself, creating tension and doing a respectable movement is all part of the process. A person’s awareness going into a movement is just as important as the outcome, the alignment or the position of the body.
I spend a little more time setting up the input, whether I spend that time working on mobility, giving some type of preparatory drill or doing a little reactive neuromuscular training—some of the things I covered in Movement. I really try to juice the sensory system so I get the outcome I want without asking for it. If I ask for it, I might see a nice clean job of acting, but I’m not sure it really changed the person.
When we do “tell,” we just make people rehearse something in the mirror without really owning hip hinging, shoulder stability or single-leg stance. We’re seeing people posturing, because that’s what they think we want them to do. Try to set up a more holistic situation so they can reproduce some of the movement patterns we’re training. If there’s not a practical application of the training, why are we doing it?
Most people, whether a professional football player or someone just hoping to get a good workout, assume this investment of exercise is going to have a carryover. ‘I’m going to feel better.’ ‘I’m going to look better.’ ‘I’m going to move better.’ ‘I’m going to get a million-dollar contract.’ ‘I’m going to win the 5-K race I haven’t told anyone I’m going to enter.’
We all have assumptions loaded up on our exercise. Exercise should never be an entity into itself. It’s a learning situation. The workout, as Dr. Ed Thomas eloquently explains, is a side effect. The physical benefit of breaking a sweat and getting endorphins is simply a side effect of having an unbelievable mind-body learning experience.
I’m very disappointed when I see people just beat themselves or their clients down. You haven’t gained or added anything to that session, other than the random burning of some calories you could’ve easily burned by having movement integrity.