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Why Movement Patterns Are More Important Than Muscles

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator of DVRT Restoration, DVRT Rx Shoulders, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

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Movement patterns are still a difficult concept for people to really grasp the value of in their training. Why not just focus on muscles, as most of us have been brought up to think of the body? Looking at movement patterns provides us an opportunity to see the body as more than just a bunch of randomly thrown together parts. Our body is so much more sophisticated than what any one muscle does and we miss that if we only focus on training muscles.

Other times when we focus just on muscles we can’t see why we aren’t making progress in our training. Getting stronger is more than just making a muscle burn or work. There are many elements that impact how we are able to develop strength including mobility, stability, and motor control. Concepts that you typically won’t see in articles that focus just on muscles, but when you are able to truly understand these ideas they make your training so much more effective and to be honest, enjoyable.

What is almost equally challenging is having those that think they have the idea of movement patterns nailed, but even with focusing on hip hinge, squat, lunge, push, and pull they don’t quite get it. The one that tends to trip people up is locomotion though. 

Yes, we have talked about this before but its worth revisiting. Most of what I see when people say they program locomotion is loaded carries. Don’t get me wrong, loaded carries are great. People often think I hate them or something but the truth is I do them all the time. The issue is that a lot of people shouldn’t be starting there, they need to build up to something that requires such control. 

You see it all the time, the person doing the loaded carries with one hip out to the side trying to walk in a circle around the gym. That’s the person I am talking about. In no other movement would we allow such compensations to occur and that tells me, that particular exercise is not appropriate for that individual. 

I think people have a hard time programming locomotion because they think the exercise has to look like the movement pattern and that is not true. 

You have to look at what makes up location and that’s  A LOT. Something that seems so innate is rather complex. Believe it or not, locomotion actually trains probably more muscles at once than 99% of your gym exercises. The issue for most is that they can’t see one muscle working or one muscle burning, but that is why we focus on movement patterns. Are there many movements you perform in daily life that you feel any one muscle burning when you perform it? Probably not! That is because if we understand functional training like Dr. Stuart McGill explains we shouldn’t have such concerns. 

movement patterns

So lets break this down in a rather simple way so I don’t bore you. With locomotion we have several things we can be focusing on in order to build that movement pattern. We have core strength else we would just fall over. We have pelvic control which I hope seems obvious. We have hip mobility, and basically mobility and stability of the entire lower quarter. So we can take these things and build upon them. 

If someone is lacking good core or pelvic control, loaded carries are not the starting point for the individual. We would go back to a lot of our “correctives based” exercises like bird dogs, dead bugs, side planks, bridging and so forth like below in order to help improve overall pelvic control. Below I demonstrate great pelvic control and core strengthening dills everyone should be doing regardless if you are working towards carries: 

We can also move to more dynamic exercises like with step overs as we saw in the earlier post above and as I show below…

The point of this was really to show you its important to know what makes up a movement so that you can build those aspects of the movement, the same goes with any movement pattern not just locomotion. The exercises doesn’t have to LOOK like the movement, we just have be sure we are focused on building the quality that make that movement. As DVRT UK coach, Greg Perlaki shows, we can develop qualities of gait that will help us not just with locomotion, but pretty much everything we do in the gym!

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You can also check out my newest course on Gait HERE