The Forward Thinking Human Being

by | Dec 6, 2016 |

Traditionally the focus of trainers and therapists, when prescribing exercise, is to focus on structure, form, repetitions, sets, weights and well-defined exercises.  From the research I have read and applied, this seems like a limiting way of training someone.

This article is to introduce you to the idea that when our clients move, then they do not move naively and reactively.  My goal is to show the way humans work to anticipate and protect themselves from potential problems.  Having a knowledge of this forward fed system of protection is vital when training any client.

Pain, Fatigue, Skill Development and Skill Application (Performance) come together to form the four ‘headline’ components that will determine short and then long term performance for a client.  Fatigue management and skill application sit tightly together as you will read later. Skill application is also the result of the ongoing process of skill development, so in this article, the primary focus will be on Fatigue Management, which will lead to skill development and understanding Pain.

When a person moves, then the choice of motion and also the expression of power, strength, flexibility and the experience the person has will be tied up in the four headline components of training.

In this article, my focus is on how the client is working to protect themselves from causing themselves damage.

To do this, I want to concentrate on the order of the systems that appear to kick in, as the client moves.  Although I am suggesting an order, as if someone was progressively turning up the volume of feeling, actually these systems could be working simultaneously. 

Before a movement commencing, then a series of questions about the action are subconsciously evaluated, according to the proposed theory of a central governor (Noakes) this anticipation will then govern the output allowed from the person who is about to move.  Controlling the response to the information is a subconscious process, that evaluates both conscious and unconscious variables. 

According to Noakes, the central governor has phases of fatigue management – (Noakes 2)

  • teleoanticipatory pacing
  • variations in power output to match teleoanticipatory expectations
  • Final spurt of pace providing there is enough energy left

Essentially this means that the body has an idea of what is going to occur during a workout, adjusts during the workout and then allows a final spurt of energy if there is enough at the end of an event.

Perceived danger and experience of an event will effect on the amount of power output available for a movement or an event. 

A structural change requires the body to overcome a challenge, into overload. Applying a perfected skill that the person has experienced before, would be the best way to get more motor units firing and so more adaptation.

Skill development becomes an essential part of long-term planning, as much as the short-term use of simple exercises would be important for quick structural changes in the body.

Skill development requires the person learning to use experience and repetition, often in different environments, for them to find their technique and be able to apply it in various circumstances. 

An interesting study on trying to prevent ACL injuries showed this when it looked into developing a system of training athletes to avoid ACL injuries through the use of great landing mechanics.  Using a rigid set of rules, gave the athlete a good landing style, but it was conscious and so did not carry over into sports and other activities.  Instead, using a focus on external goals, and allowing the athlete to find their technique, lead to better learning and application of proper landing mechanics. (Benjaminse)

Allowing a client to find their ‘good form’, by trial and error, to have a form that is individual but easy to recreate, flies in the face of everything we teach our clients about ‘good’ form.

One big way of signaling danger to the body, affecting the feedforward fatigue management system and the deployment of skills, is the perception of pain. 

There is no way I can do as good a job of explaining pain as Lorimer Moseley does in this video

If you get through the video, then you will realise that pain is output, a feeling or perception that generates as a protective mechanism.  Pain is another feedforward device that the body uses for protection, rather than a reactive device to alert you of something bad happening.  In future articles, we are delving into more research about pain.

In all, I wanted to share with you the headlines of what is going on when someone produces a movement.  I learned that the body is entirely reactive and feelings are directly related to physical actions or changes.  I hope this article gives you a small insight into the way the body works to anticipate and protect itself in all situations.