Chiropractor and Exercise Scientist Daniel Camilleri (@APEXHM) explains why being able to listen to and understand our body is important in taking our results to the next level

The human body is an incredible machine, continually adapting to daily stressors and the physical, neurological and emotional demands we place on ourselves.

From birth, we’re a blank canvas. Ready to absorb and express beliefs, fears and behaviours taught to us throughout the stages of life. With this in mind, we will typically move best after learning to walk and run. If you have younger kids, take a moment now to look away from your screen and observe them for a minute. How are they sitting? How are they moving? Do they have difficulty reaching a full depth squat? Do they have any issues “bear crawling” around? I bet most of you are shaking your head in utter jealousy right now, probably as your kids are holding a position that could resemble a plank hold whilst reaching out with one arm and having a leg off the ground. It just isn’t fair right??

So what happens from here? How do we go from that beautiful “functional” machine to where we are now? Taking a few minutes to warm up and get moving in the morning, then making it to the gym to spend what feels like hours to reach that full depth squat? Well first I guess we need to tackle our definition of “functional”. What is “functional”? We hear it being thrown around so loosely nowadays, particularly in the training circles. Is a snatch functional? Is a squat functional?

Let’s go back to that young child for just a minute. What are they trying to do? They’re moving around the floor, exploring, picking up objects and learning from their surroundings. Their bodies have adapted and learnt from the moment they’re born to do just this. Stay low to the ground, crawl and climb. This is “functional” for THEM. But what about us adults? I don’t know about you, but I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of spending hours on end moving around the floor like my once much younger self. Instead I work, I drive, and yes…. Even I SIT to watch tv or surf the net.

Our bodies adapt, making use of joints and tissues to make these daily movements as efficient and “functional” as possible. So this leads me to my first pet peeve. Don’t let someone tell you to do a specific exercise or movement because it’s “functional”. Ask them, functional for what? Do they know what you ask of your body daily? You can’t possibly apply one “functional” exercise to all, we’re all so unique.

So enough of that little rant, why are we here? Maybe we have athletic performance goals in mind? Maybe we just train to be better at life? Or heck maybe we just love our training community and want to get amongst it? Whatever the reason, it’s irrelevant. What all these scenarios share though is that an injury or setback would be most inconvenient. Not being able to train or worse, not being able to function outside the gym kills motivation and hinders progress.

Pain in the body is actually great. It tells us that something isn’t quite right. It would be more concerning if we didn’t have pain whilst experiencing some sort of injury wouldn’t it? We’ve all had years of experience in life, whatever our story, our body has become “functional” for what we’ve asked of it most of our lives. We bring these stories into our training. This is why we all move so differently. When we have pain doing a particular movement, it’s not our bodies telling us we can never do that movement. It’s our body saying “hey, you’ve never asked me to move like this and we’re not ready”. Taking the time to listen to these warnings and identify the WHY will ensure longevity in training, longevity in development and in some instances even shrink the time we sit in training plateaus.

Some might be asking “what happens if I don’t listen to these warnings”? Well put simply, it can go one of two ways.

  1. With continual stimulus we adapt, the pain goes away and we continue on training pain free for a period of time. We then increase weight, volume and intensity and the pain may come back. Sometimes in the same spot, sometimes in a different spot. The cycle continues and we either repeat this step or move on to step 2.
  2. We break down and get injured. Who do we have to blame? Our body had been warning us for a while hadn’t it?

It’s interesting to note that the best athletes in the world are usually the best compensators or “movement cheaters”. Their brain has simply figured out how to do it and their body has adapted to this. They aren’t the norm however, they are a freak of nature. They also happen to get regular treatment and usually have the best in performance care. Most of us aren’t this lucky, which is why we should take action sooner rather than later.

This is where we come in. Assessing the body and applying movement corrective exercises to address these weaknesses and compensations. I often tell my clients that what we as Chiropractors do doesn’t give you strength, we can’t teach you how to put your foot on the accelerator. That’s what a coach and trainer is for. What we do however is teach you how to take your foot off the brake. Using the strength you’ve developed and teaching you to move more efficiently.

The philosophy is simple:

  1. Identify the “functional” habits we’ve learnt over the years that may impede what we want to do in training
  2. Build a solid foundation, developing our areas of weakness
  3. Develop specific goals in your head. Remember your WHY. Why are we training? What are we asking our body to do
  4. Train with this purpose in mind
  5. Listen to early warning signs

We all know how hard it can be to stay on task, particularly during winter and recent lockdowns. So in my opinion following the above steps will not only give us one less excuse not to train, but keep us training injury free and hopefully now with a better understanding of the warning signs.

Our APEX Health Movement team are here to help. We’re a phone call away and ready to answer any and all questions you may have.

For further information, feel free to check out our website (apexhealthmove.com.au), Facebook or Instagram (@apexhm).

Happy training!