By Eric Cressey
In his recent post, The Spark, Arnold Schwarzenegger discussed how just fifteen minutes a day of devotion to your health and fitness could go a long way in improving your quality of life. It was a powerful message for one of the greatest fitness ambassadors of all time to relate that even a short period of time each day could have significant positive impacts on our population as a whole.
When most people hear the words “health” and “fitness” nowadays, they automatically assume it applies to obesity epidemic we’re facing. In other words, these terms have become synonymous with “body composition.” While this assumption certainly grasps a huge part of our struggles as a nation, it overlooks the fact that there are a lot of “normal” weight individuals who aren’t healthy or fit.
Truth be told, a lot of people are walking around with knee, back, or shoulder pain that limits their ability to be active. Interestingly, though, there are also a lot of pain-free individuals out there who still have some significant “issues,” but no symptoms. A few examples:
In a 1994 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that 80% of asymptomatic subjects could be diagnosed with at least one intervertebral disc bulge or herniation at the lumbar spine (lower back) from their MRIs. And, 38% of them had two or more “abnormalities” (1).
- A 1995 study in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery revealed that when MRIs of asymptomatic shoulders were taken, rotator cuff tears were observed in 34% of cases, and this number climbed to 54% in those over the age of 60 (2). asymptomatic shoulders. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1995 Jan;77(1):10-5.
Again, to reiterate, the subjects in these studies felt absolutely no pain. So what gives? Why does your uncle’s shoulder hurt when his rotator cuff is torn, yet the people in these studies are having no issues? And, why does your disc issue flare up when you work in the garden, yet all these study subjects can get by with similar tasks pain-free?
Quality of movement matters
You can have a bunch of things wrong with you structurally, but if you move well thanks to appropriate mobility and stability throughout your body, these issues won’t ever reach a painful threshold. Or, they may never develop in the first place.
Unfortunately, movement quality has been overlooked in the definition of health and fitness. You’re considered “healthy” if you don’t hurt and aren’t sick. You’re considered “fit” based on criteria like aerobic capacity, strength, body fat percentage, and several others – but none that actually take into account whether you “move well.” I’ve seen marathoners with great aerobic capacity who have severely degenerative, painful hips because their running mechanics are off and they have poor hip and ankle mobility. I’ve seen powerlifters who can’t sleep at night because their shoulders hurt so much, yet they can still bench press 400 pounds.
To these ends, it’s important that we work in drills aimed at improving movement quality into our exercise programs. Here are four to get the ball rolling for you; you can work them into the warm-up period before you exercise, whether you’re cycling, jogging, lifting weights, or any of a number of other activities.
These are just four drills to get you started, but the important thing that I want to bring to light once again is that only four drills – or two minutes of total efforts – can go a very long way in improving the way you move. Down the road, that’ll help you exercise consistently, not to mention play catch with your son or run around with your grandkids pain-free.
Of course, if you like what you see, we can always follow up with future installments. Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
1. Jensen MC et al. Magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain. N Engl J Med.1994 Jul 14;331(2):69-73.
2. Sher JS et al. Abnormal findings on magnetic resonance images of
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Cressey is the President of Cressey Performance, located near Boston, MA. An author, presenter, consultant, and powerlifter, Eric has worked with clients from youth sports to the professional and Olympic ranks, but is best known for his extensive work with baseball players; more than 70 professional players travel to Massachusetts to train with him each off-season. He is a co-creator of Assess and Correct, a DVD set that helps individuals identify and address their faulty movement patterns to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.