8 Basic Principles of Human Motion

1. Respiratory Pattern

This is something we have talked about extensively in previous blog posts and various public presentations. Basically, you need to breathe with your diaphragm. Your abdomen should expand out in a 360-degree fashion equally to all sides. You should be breathing all the way down to your pelvic floor as if you are blowing up a balloon. The ribs should expand laterally, but not superiorly. Out, not up.

2. Spinal Elongation

Lengthen the spine from the tailbone up through the top of the head. Think of growing tall or as if someone is pulling you from the top of your crown to the ceiling. This elongation doesn’t cause excessive motion or flexion/extension at any spinal segments, it is simply a subtle lengthening of your spine in a neutral position.

3. Stabilization of the Trunk

The trunk is your foundation for movement. Sure, your feet are your literal foundations but you need a stable trunk for proper movement of your spine and extremities. This is why “core” strength is so important. If you don’t have trunk stability, you are putting yourself at risk for injuring other areas as they develop compensation and/or become overworked. Many times, symptoms of an injury manifest away from the root cause. Believe it or not, this can occur anywhere from head to toe. Trunk stabilization is essential for optimal performance.

4. Centration of Joints

Each joint (junction between adjacent bones) needs to be properly centrated. There is an ideal point of contact on the surfaces as the bones move through a particular range of motion. Think of a golf ball on a tee. You want the golf ball centered on the tee rather than up or slightly to the side. Joint centration protects the joint itself and surrounding soft tissue from injury (acute or chronic overuse) and also provides ideal conditions for optimal execution of movement and motor control. This is a great example of the importance of proper form and posture. 

5. Isolated Movement

You need the ability to isolate movement in one area of the body separate and distinct from other areas. For example, when raising your arm out to the side, you should be able to isolate that movement to the shoulder without bending your spine to the side or lifting up in the upper trap. Another example is the ability to flex your hip without shifting your pelvis and spine. Compensations occur when there is a lack of movement isolation, and many common ailments (shoulder pain, low back pain, etc.) are the result. One simple shift in the pelvis while flexing the hip may not seem like a big deal, but think about how many times you do that while walking throughout the day… it adds up!

6. Balanced Support

The foundation of a building or house has to be solid and so does yours. You need support for any and all movement. Without it, joint centration and the other principles are just simply not going to occur. You need 4 points of contact of the foot while standing: the medial and lateral balls of the foot, and the medial and lateral aspects of the heel. Due to the majority of your body weight landing directly over your heel, 60/40 weight distribution should be favored to the heels vs. the balls of your feet. Many activities require a different support, such as the hand (pushups, etc.) and they still need a solid foundation and proper balance. Even pressure should be distributed throughout the hand.

7. Relaxation Through Movement and Breath

While performing a particular movement or activity, you obviously need to have muscular contraction to complete the task. The non-involved areas should be relaxed and diaphragmatic breathing should be maintained. This is a work/flow balance. When you complete a task such as swinging a golf club, notice how you contract to come up into your backswing and start to bring it back down, but you are relatively relaxed throughout the time in-between. Then, right before contact you contract again to get some power behind your swing. If you had complete tension throughout the entire process, you would be very rigid and lack fluidity and the outcome wouldn’t be as effective. See: Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch

8. Body Awareness

You must be conscious and aware of where your body is in space. This allows for better control. Think stability and balance. This body awareness becomes particularly important and more complex when we add in external objects such as barbells, balls, etc.  

Whether you are in the gym, out for a run, driving your car, or merely brushing your teeth, these same principles should be applied to any movement or activity for optimal function. 

Perhaps the stakes are a little different when there’s a loaded barbell on your back, but what you practice becomes habit. 

How many hours per day are you in the gym or out for a run? Those times are extremely important, but think of the hours per day that leaves you NOT doing those activities? Being conscious of and adhering to these principles throughout your daily life will also pay great dividends and provide you with function you didn’t know you had. It’s going to prevent injuries that you won’t even realize because you won’t be suffering from them. It’s going to help you perform better… and you will feel great!

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