Better Body Mechanics make Better Athletes!
February 13th 2016
Coach Caleb’s Corner
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Coach Caleb’s Corner
Move your Body Better!
It’s time to nerd out on body mechanics! I hope I didn’t lose everyone with that already, because this old timey anatomy class stuff is actually pretty cool; especially when you consider that even a passing awareness of it can help make us better and safer in our athletic endeavors. Solid technical training and good programming remains harmoniously in tune with proper body mechanics and should be un-compromised by gym fads, entertaining fitness gadgets and those “killer WODs, bro.” Mindfulness of the movements in the various planes can add some new renewed focus to our training sessions.
Consider for a moment the structure of the human body, which physiologists usually divide into planes as such; Frontal (coronal), Sagittal, and Transverse (horizontal). The frontal plane confuses most of us, but basically encompasses side to side movement. The transverse plane movements (also confusing) are rotational, and the sagittal plane movements are forward and backward (less confusion on those). Most of the standard gym exercises have us moving in the sagittal plane. Running, biceps curls, even our beloved squats and dead lifts are sagittal plane movements. Frontal plane movement is less plentiful in training, but picture lateral motions like lunging out to the side, or side bending activities. Transverse plane activities are all about the twist, like chops or rotational throws.
So where does all this classification get us? Well, in and of itself, it doesn’t get us very far. The important thing for us in the training world is to use this terminology to qualitatively analyze technique, and to build more complete and safe training programs. A lifting regimen that neglects movements in one or more planes adversely affects our quality of movement and can send us down a path to injury. Sometimes you might look at a program and wonder why a particular exercise (usually the one we’re not good at) is included. The answer might be in a simple question; “Have you moved along that plane today?” When it comes to technique, the body mechanics implications get even more interesting. If you take the rotational moves in the transverse plane, for example, it’s easy to recognize optimum mechanics for generating power. If the lower body forms a solid base while the upper body twists as far as it can go without disturbing that base, it will reach a point where the upper body can twist no further. At this point, with the upper body paused at it’s extreme end range of motion, the lower body can initiate a twist from the hips in the opposite direction, resulting in a powerful uncoiling of the upper body. These are the type of mechanics used in good golf swings and the strikes and throws of many martial arts styles. (My fellow Pencak Silat enthusiasts know all about this and use it to their advantage all the time; I’ve got the bruises to prove it!)
Classifying movement in these terms encourages us to use drills that safely promote skill, mobility, stability and strength in such movements that can take our sports to new levels while keeping our bodies resilient to injury. A good coach recognizes when one of these movements is being done at the expense of proper stabilization or is perhaps impeded by a lack of mobility and can correct or regress the move to better suit the athlete in question. If an exercise in one particular plane is difficult or painful, but a comparable exercise moving in another plane isn’t, that gives a coach more data to work with in correcting movement dysfunction and designing effective programs. An athlete who spends a lot of time practicing movements in one plane for their sport, might get lots of programming in the other movement planes to balance that out. Knowledge is power!
It’s fun to look at training in this fashion, and ask; “Does this program include some element of moving side to side, and some rotational work, in addition to all the usual sagittal plane stuff?” It can also be fun to look for moves that effectively address two or three planes at once (why do you think we love the Turkish Get Ups so much!) Consider body mechanics in your training; it can increase your enjoyment and understanding of how it makes you an even better athlete!