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A few good ideas ad nauseum
on December 28, 2012
Let me first say that I am very much inclined to be sympathetic with Gray Cook's overall message. It speaks to my existing disposition concerning exercise. Here's a brief sum up: Modern fitness culture is guilty of heaping attempts at strength and endurance gains atop dysfunctional movement. This tends to cause compensation in joints and muscles not intended to sustain loads which leads to inefficiency of movement, pain, discomfort, and often injury. A more proper hierarchy for developing physical ability is Mobility->Stability->Strength in basic movement patterns, and on top of this we can support more specific skills.
If you are looking for a technical book, something which will go through a variety of ways to view and interpret the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) along with appropriate corrective exercises, then this book falls short. The detail regarding the screen itself could be better and more concisely expressed as a pamphlet. Likewise, the corrective exercise section is very sparse, particularly considering the size of this book, and primarily is filled up with the repetition of Cook's main ideological explanation. While I was hoping for some solid exercises, he mostly encourages people to 'do what they know' within the very general framework of his idea (Mobility>stability>strength). This is obviously not helpful if you don't actually have a background in physical therapy.
So rather than a technical book, it is a sort of Philosophy of Fitness book, but even this it does poorly. For the first part, Cook is no writer, and this book is best when it is at its driest, clearly explaining the particulars of an exercise or details of the FMS. When talking philosophy, Cook cannot do much more than repeat himself, so the book can maybe be more likened to a Manifesto, a work of ideology, rather than Philosophy. There is no appeal to larger studies or to broader scientific principles. Part of this is understandable since Cook opposes the reductivist tendencies of much of biomechanics, which ignores the whole for the part. But an understanding of biomechanics clearly informs his understanding of his own practice and of his system, but instead of then informing the reader of how best to utilize an understanding of biomechanics, he basically leaves it out, with only one or two exceptions in the corrective strategies section.
I find it difficult to write this review without mentioning Moshe Feldenkrais's 'Awareness Through Movement', because much of what Gray Cook says regarding movement and correcting movement through sensory experience-- because we cannot correct it through pure intellectual effort--jives with Feldenkrais. Now ATM had its own problems, but the philosophical sections were written with wit and clarity of thought, while the sample exercises, which were implicitly written so that you could experience the inklings of what they were after, helped to illustrate his principles. I only mention that book because it seems like the sort of book that Cook 'should' have written. As it is, I came away from this book feeling as though I had just read an extended sales brochure for the rest of his system. Even Pavel's books I find to be entertaining in their shameless self-promotional, but reading Movement left me feeling like I had just watched 3 hours of the same Sunday morning infomercial about selling realestate, feeling confident that I should know a lot about realestate now, but pretty sure I didn't actually learn anything for the amount of time I spent on it.
With 400+ pages to read, I would have expected more time spent on how to interpret the screen and the majority of time to be spent on explaining corrective exercises. I will say that there were times in reading this book that I was inspired by what Cook said, whether that is reasonable or not, and it is solely for this and the few other tidbits of knowledge he was generous enough to share (if you have low back pain you probably have tight hips) that I give it two stars. Everything Cook says could have been fit into 100 pages, and even then there would have been room for more pictures to illustrate what he's saying. Then, if I'd wanted to, I could have reread the book. (I suppose people don't do that anymore; they read a book once so if you want to have your message resound you better make it a really long book). If you want to read this, definitely do not spend the money on the hardcover, and I'd say don't get the softcover either. I would suggest the kindle version, as it is not really a book you will go back to reread to gather new wisdom nor to reference. Its decidedly not a classic. I still think Cook knows what he's doing, and I myself plan on reading his Athletic Body in Balance book when I can get it from my library, but insofar as 'Movement' is concerned, its ponderous and not informative.