Movement Principle # 9

Written by Gray Cook FMS

Principle 9: Our corrective exercise dosage recipe suggests that we work close to the baseline at the edge of ability with a clear goal. This should produce a rich sensory experience filled with manageable mistakes.

Our actual goal is silent knowledge—no words, just better movement perception and behavior. In The Voice of Knowledge, former physician Miguel Ruiz discusses the silent knowledge of the body with eloquence and clarity. He states, “Your liver does not need to go to medical school to know what to do.”

We can expand that brilliant and simple statement across the movement systems as well. These systems naturally use their perceptions to create their behaviors, and their behaviors to refine perceptions. Your abdominals, diaphragm and pelvic floor know what to do and how to work together if you let them. This is why we don’t need to do core work with toddlers. Their curiosity drives exploration and their lack of control demands movement coordination if they are to explore. The exploration requires movement, and they work at movement to achieve exploration.

When your clients and patients arrive on the scene with movement dysfunction, you can’t leave it to Mother Nature, because for a long time they have been working against her. To help them, you might need to break a behavior and reset an experience. From the experience, you will have to develop a corrective strategy.

Manageable mistakes means mistakes managed by the individuals doing the corrective. The mistakes aren’t managed by our holding up a red flag every time they teeter or wobble. Manageable mistakes mean that even though it doesn’t look pretty, they’re not going into dysfunction.

The whole purpose of doing corrective exercise is to improve movement quality within a particular pattern. Why even do it if you don’t set a baseline or have a qualitative standard?

This goes back to my history. I was on the lecture circuit teaching functional exercise and corrective exercise before I invented the movement screen. All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in my head. I looked out at the 50 faces looking back at me for advice on functional training and corrective exercise and thought, ‘Oh my God. They don’t have the same gauge to rate movement quality.’

What I was saying to the front row meant something completely different to the second row and yet again to the third row. I was showing how to play golf and I hadn’t given the rules of golf. We’re never going to enjoy a great game of golf that way, because there’s no defined qualitative standard.

What I said to myself was, ‘I have this idea of what good movement is, but I haven’t even standardized it for myself.’ We have to standardize a minimum movement quality.

There’s a lot of research that supports the movement screen. Most of the evidence states that you should be able to balance without a lot of postural movement — 10 to 20 seconds on a single leg. Well, it only takes three to five seconds to do a hurdle step. If you can’t even do a hurdle step, I’m pretty sure you have dysfunctional single-leg stance or not enough mobility to go over the hurdle.

It doesn’t matter which of those problems you have — you have a problem in that movement pattern. If I’m going to correct that movement pattern, now I know how bad the problem is and we have a grading scale for your issue. Everything I do in hopes of improving your stance on one leg or your stepping on the other leg is targeted at whether it changed hurdle stepping.

One of the questions that comes back to me often is, ‘Where did you get all of these exercise innovations? Where did you get all of these exercise ideas and how come I’ve never seen people use chops and lifts or single-leg deadlifts like this before?’

It’s not because I started thinking this way. I used to do everything we were all taught to do. But once I had this movement baseline I was trying to stay close to, I realized something was supposed to change the squat, but it really didn’t. Something was supposed to improve shoulder mobility, but it didn’t last. I had this genie on my shoulder saying, ‘Hey, you have this movement screen. You’re throwing all these neat, well-defined exercises to the screen, but they aren’t changing movement.’

So I reached a professional dilemma. I either had to trash the screen because it’s telling me the wrong thing, or I have to question the exercise philosophy of the current state of our profession. And do you know what? I don’t think the screen is really asking people to do that much.

We often have a lot of difficulty with the screen, but when we look at it theoretically, it shouldn’t be that hard. Lift a leg. Squat down. Step over a string. Lunge. Scratch your back. These things aren’t that hard.

We’ve become so myopic in our training or so highly specialized and lost a certain aspect of physical mobility. All of a sudden, ‘Oh my gosh. How do we get it back?’

If you really consider what improves and what doesn’t improve, you would actually develop exercises the exact same way I did. I kicked out everything that didn’t give me a quick or appreciable change in a movement pattern.

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