Are you are a trainer who is wired to say that your clients have correct technique? Where is your proof that the motor patterns you have chosen can be deemed “correct in their execution”? The body is built for variable movement, and gaining a global view of the human body through functional anatomy while viewing movement through a progressive mindset will allow you to enhance your training model and, most importantly, improve your clients' outcomes.
Before reading further, you might want to first ponder this question: Is proper form the best way to go?
What is Correct Technique?
One of the most common questions asked within the fitness industry revolves around the idea of a set form of motion: Do your clients have correct technique?
Biomechanically, there are baseline procedures to introduce into all training models based on the client’s goal, style of training and ability. But why is being “out of form” such a negative concept? If you have ever been asked this question you probably recall the urgent, immediate response you likely gave.
Connecting the Whole
Through correct technique we attempt to train the human body through motor patterns with every intention to independently enhance pieces of the whole. In the first few sentences of Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers provides a concept and view of the human body as an integrated whole, stating, “Whatever else they may be doing individually, muscles also influence functionally integrated body-wide continuities within the fascial webbing” (Myers, 2004). In order to begin developing a broader scope of the human body we must look to the origin of our current concepts to understand this simple truth: fascia is everything in the world of movement and even the most simplistic understanding of its structural nature in human design will enhance anyone’s view of correct movement.
The term specificity refers to how an athlete is trained in a specific manner to produce a specific adaptation or training outcome. The underlying principle of specificity states that the type of demand placed on the body dictates the type of adaptation that will occur (Delorme, 1945). This training principle is most evident in the training methods currently used by fitness professionals in attempting to activate or recruit the same motor units required by their client’s daily motor behaviors. Exercises such as the bench press, squat, lunge or seated row are constantly analyzed and fitness professionals do it better than anyone. But is the correction of exercise actually correct? When faced with this question we as fitness professionals must effortlessly respond with full comprehension of the truth. Our structure is designed to receive randomized stress as this is what is given to the body through the environment in which we live. To formulate “correct” technique or motor patterns is to create an environment where we limit the full capability of the human structure to truly perform, adapt and become enhanced.
Within specificity we know that in order to achieve adaptation we must initiate an imposed demand into the body. This point of application of stress, requiring both magnitude and direction, is defined as a vector. Chronic mechanical stress through any area of the soft tissue results in increased lying down of collagen fiber along the lines of tension (Myer, 2004). In other words, fascia becomes set into an inelastic tensional pattern or matrix around the muscle in direct response to the motor patterns that we as fitness professionals introduce to our clients. The more the body is exposed to vectors without variation, the greater the likelihood “set” patterns will be reinforced. However, if the body is exposed to a greater variety of vectors, regeneration of the structure as a whole will result. Think of it this way: imagine that a spider has enough intelligence to reconstruct its web with the same principle of force as does a human body's fascial webbing. What do you think we would witness? If the spider is doing its job in accordance with the force principle, the reconstruction of the web would result in the lying down of additional support in linear fashion along the same repetitive lines of stress. Even after many stages of reconstruction, the structural efficiency of the web as a whole would be compromised. However, this does not happen with a real spiderweb; the structure of any web is designed to receive force and mitigate a variety of stresses throughout its structure with precision. The greater the variability of stress received by the structure, the greater the reconstruction of the web overall.
The image to the right shows a flat barbell bench press exercise, which recruits the pectoralis major. Using “correct technique” we would instruct our client to lie in a supine position on a bench then grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. We would then have the client lower the bar to their chest. The client would then be instructed to push the bar upward until the elbows are fully extended which would complete one repetition. This incorporates a single “loading” strategy where the vector is directly at chest. The goal is not to identify a mistake in exercise selection because there is none, but we should be cognizant of how we are using the exercise within a training model and why. Movement is the key ingredient and when introduced can enhance communication with our clients structure leading to an environment for greater adaptation.If the goal of the client is to have greater movement ability, then our attention should be focused on the ability of our client to communicate proper motion throughout their structure specific to their movement needs.
Triangulation: A Systematic Approach to Variable Movement
We have the ability through variable movement to open our training model and incorporate an endless realm of possibilities for every exercise. Instead of considering correct technique, let’s now consider movements that are dictated by the structure and guided to become enhanced by the fitness professional.
The human body is whole and segmented, the body has muscles and joints which are interdependent and interconnected through means of fascia and we know that the body moves in three planes of motion – sagittal (front and back), frontal (right lateral and left lateral) and transverse (right rotational and left rotational) (Gray, 2003). We also know that any movement has direction, height and distance. Properly termed triangulation by the Gray Institute and interpreted as 3DC (three-dimensional checkpoints) by PTA Global, triangulation coordinates provide us with a vision of the body’s three dimensional movement capacity. When we truly understand that we live and move in 3D, we can begin to understand the variety that exists in our exercises, how to monitor, manage and manipulate movement, how to specifically communicate it to others in our industry, as well as the importance of functional anatomy, functional biomechanics and multisensory communication. Utilization of the 3DC system will transform any movement setting and open a new view of the human body to any fitness professional. In a much broader view, triangulation is simply part of a quick, easy and comprehensive system meant to guide us through the set-up and monitoring of exercises, progression & regression as well as provide a universal name for and documentation of every exercise you can imagine (PTA Global, 2009). Angulation Coordinate (direction), Verticality Coordinate (height) and Horizontal Coordinate (distance) provide us with the basis for developing an appreciation and process by which we can begin to incorporate the concept of 3D variable movement into our training model. No matter what exercise or movement pattern we would like to take our client through we can incorporate the 3DC system to paint a simple picture of the response we want for our client’s structure.
|3DC – Triangulation
- Right Lateral
- Left Lateral
- Right Rotation
- Left Rotation
- Right Anterior/Lateral
- Left Anterior/Lateral
- Right Posterior/Lateral
- Left Posterior/Lateral
- Initial Range of Motion
Beginning of client's range.
- Mid Range of Motion
Middle of initial range and end range.
- End Range of Motion
Ending of client's range or position in which movement success becomes limited.
Using the 3DC - Triangulation chart (above) and the flat barbell bench press exercise introduced earlier, let’s incorporate the 3DC system into our training model through a 5-step process:
Step #1 – What is the goal of the client?
The goal of the client is to enhance overall wellness.
Step #2 – What is the client’s movement ability?
The client has no limitations in movement after properly performing a movement analysis.
Step #3 – Choose the appropriate exercise.
The exercise chosen for this client is the bench press.
Step #4 – Introduce triangulation
- What direction? Anterior
- How high? @ Hip, @ Overhead, @ Chest.
- How far? There is no set range of motion for the client.
Step #5 – Identify the need for variable movement
The desired variable movement will be set to set with the client performing four sets:
- Set 1: Anterior @ Hip Press
- Set 2: Anterior @ Overhead Press
- Set 3: Anterior @ Shoulder Press
- Set 4: Anterior @ Chest Press
It is important to note that the need for variable movement should be determined based on what the client’s structure presents at the start of each training session. The client’s movement ability and realm of function will dictate the degree of variable movement to be introduced.
In the chart below, the traditional bench press can be observed along with a standing press utilizing a tool called ViPR. Using the 3DC system, several variable patterns of movement provide an environment for the body to receive randomized stress. The movement ability, based on the fitness professional's understanding of the client’s movement goal, can dictate the degree of variability used within a training model. Remember to consider Step 1 and 2 above to help you determine the most beneficial demand to impose on the client’s movement structure.
||Traditional Bench Press
||Left Anterior Lateral
||Right Anterior Lateral
||End Range of Motion
||Mid Range of Motion
||Initial Range of Motion
By using PTA Global’s 3DC system, we have enhanced our training model and introduced variable movement to a traditional exercise seen in any training facility. Again, the goal as a fitness professional is to create the optimal environment for the body in order to enhance adaptation based solely on the client’s movement goal and ability. In order for clients to progress to a state of maximal movement ability, we must be mindful of their initial movement realm and use that understanding to enhance their “playing field” of movement. Traditional exercises such as the bench press (shown above) provide such a basis for progression. With the introduction of additional stressors (progressing from supine to standing and from barbell to ViPR) the structure is provided a larger “playing field” that is able to handle randomized stress through variable movement.
Enhancing our Vision
With this knowledge, we must prepare and adapt the body to move as it is created to move in environments with various stressors that will at some point in time challenge its structure. Will adaptation occur with our clients if correct technique is applied? Will our clients progress towards their fitness goals if specificity training is at the forefront of our thought process? The answer is yes, of course. Traditional in nature, these training concepts should remain part of our training model, but also become a foundation for a deeper understanding of the impact we can create on the human movement structure.
As we step back into our training environments, remember that the connective tissue is the only tissue that can be responsible for whole body responsiveness. We live in a world dictated by gravity with a system built to sense change and elicit response. By understanding fascia and its purpose within the body in conjunction with a systematic approach to train variable movement through triangulation, we can enhance our training model and, most importantly, our understanding of correct technique.
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- Gray, G. (2003). Functional Nomenclature. Functional Video Digest Series Volume 4.12.
- Myers, T. (2004). Anatomy Trains. Churchill Livingstone.
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