Dr. Bill here and in today's newsletter I would like to ask and answer a question about exercise and movement. Which as you continue to read you will see it is a topic for which I have a great deal of passion... 

Is there a rational foundation that provides an understanding of how we ought to exercise and move?

For the past six years, I have focused my continuing education on physical therapy and rehabilitation. I have struggled to develop a universal foundation for these concepts that could provide me with a rational basis for effectively defining important terms like "core muscles" and "functional exercises"

In seeking out this knowledge from the "leaders" in the industry, I have attempted to formulate a practical, effective basis for movement and exercise. 

What I have learned is that many years ago, authorities in the fields of biomechanics, anatomy, and strength and conditioning, discovered that particular muscles (e.g. transverse abdominus, multifidus...) provide stability and support for the pelvis and lumbar spine, which consequently allow for effective, safe movement. So, for the past 25 years, these same authorities have developed their particular brand of exercises to specifically engage those muscles. The thought was that if they could create exercises to strengthen/activate those important muscles, then they could achieve the stability and motion they were seeking. 

This rationale is how experts in the fields of physical therapy and rehabilitation developed exercises that you may have heard of that include:

  • Abdominal Curl-Up 
  • Sidebridge 
  • Bird-dog 
  • Turkish Get-up 
  • Abdominal Hollowing or pull the belly button in

This same rationale has also been extended into other fields that include Pilates, Yoga, Personal Training, and Strength and Conditioning. 

While their intentions were good, it does not necessarily follow that just because a particular exercise makes a certain muscle contract we ought to perform that exercise. It is with this thought that my initial question remains: 

Is there a rational foundation that provides an understanding of how we ought to exercise and move?

I have found that Developmental Kinesiology (DK) provides the foundation for posture, muscle function, stability, and movement. DK is the study of how infants naturally mature their neuromusculoskeletal system through a reflexive series of movements and postures. 

As an infant develops through the first fifteen months of life, he or she will:

  • begin to crawl
  • roll over, squat
  • standand finally walk via a prescribed pattern of movement milestones that stems from the central nervous system. 
  • The key point is that DK provides the foundation for how ALL humans learn to stabilize and move. 

My concern is that many 'main stream' approaches that we see in magazines, on T.V. and in some rehab protocols, the primary aim is to use whatever movements they can imagine to activate specific muscle groups.This reasoning perhaps, has led them down a dysfunctional path that has given rise to a spectrum of artificial, unnatural postures and exercises that our nervous systems do not understand and cannot process and leads to feelings of tightness, pain and potentially more serious injury. 

The true shift in the rehabilitation and exercise paradigm that I am suggesting is not to identify what exercises we can develop to maximally contract certain muscles, but to determine how those muscle chains naturally developed in the first place. 

I now understand that to ask whether or not an exercise is "good" is to ask whether it is natural... 

So, forget functional exercise, I prescribe natural exercise.

If you have questions around your current exercise routine or are looking for guidance in starting an exercise program feel free to contact our office and let the doctors help you determine which exercises are most appropriate in helping you achieve your health and fitness goals.

In an upcoming newsletter, our own fitness specialist Sara Fisher will demonstrate a couple of exercise you must do if you have had abdominal surgeries including C-sections, gall bladder or cyst removal, as well as hysterectomies. 

Have a great start to the fall season and we'll catch up with you next time.