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Overall A Good Read but with a Few Minor Problems
on November 3, 2014
Todd Hargroves Better Movement Guide is a very easy read. It's well written, well organized and has some good ideas.
I really liked the way that he talked about slow "non-ballistic" movement, particularly since it is something that I use almost exclusively in my yoga classes.
It was inspiring to see it so clearly described.
There are a few problems though.
The first point is that of stability. He uses the metaphor of firing a cannon from a canoe suggesting that doing so is not a good idea because the force of firing the cannon shot will be wasted in pushing the canoe backwards. (Personally I think the quote alludes to the fact that if you fired a cannon from a canoe you'd smash the canoe or end up being waterlogged.)
The point is that cannon's are designed to be more massive than the shot that they fire. Because the cannon is more massive it is accelerated less than the cannon ball. Doesn't matter if it is on solid ground or on a canoe the recoil force will be the same and being on a canoe won't reduce the "force" that the shot receives as it leaves the barrel.
(It's like doing a push up. Unless you are Chuck Norris then everyone knows that when you do a push up you push yourself away from the earth rather than the earth being pushed away from ourselves. Why? Because the Earth is more massive.)
This is actually relevant to stability as it applies to the body.
Doing a sit up with knees straight but relaxed, we can make it easier to actually do the sit up if we engage the quads to "lock" the knees. Then the weight of the shins and thighs combined gives the hip flexors and abs an anchor from which to pull the torso upwards.
Doing a leg lift we can do the opposite and lock pelvis, ribcage and head into one unit so that then the hip flexors have a foundation from which to act on the legs to pull the legs up.
Using a similar principle we can make it easier to lift the legs by unlocking the knees so that the knees bend as they are lifted with the feet remaining on the floor. We can then lift the shins after the thighs are vertical.
Another idea that I think can be improved upon is the idea of centration. (Personally I think whoever invented the word should be shot. It's an abomination. Why not just say centered! That being said the word is used consistently throughout and so whenever it is mentioned we know exactly what the author is talking about.)
Centration is the idea that in any pose or action a joint is as close to the center of it's range of motion as possible. The author goes on to say that when we look at someone who is "in their body" i.e. using their body with awareness, what we see is a body with all joints centrated. While this may be true I'd argue that this is a pretty hard quality to feel.
Personally what I look for is space or openness or length and that is usually accompanied by tension.
This tension isn't just muscle tension, it is connective tissue tension, akin to the tension in the fabric and guy wires of an old fashioned tent that is set up just right.
I'd suggest that tension is beneficial for people who want to move more efficiently since with it we can both feel our body and control it. (And I'm not talking about the type of tension we get in the shoulders as a result of stress.)
And it leads to the ability to feel the body without needing the floor for feedback.
And that leads to the next problem.
While the exercises in the book are well described and useful, my complaint is that they are for the most part "floor exercises."
The idea is to use the floor to help participants feel their body.
Why not come up with exercises that we can use to feel our body while seated or standing. Instead of learning to feel our interface with the floor (which is important, but personally I focus on it in the context of balancing and using it to feel our center and control it) why not learn to feel muscle tissue activating and contracting.
Finally, on flexibility, while I agree that good movers have good control within a normal range of movement, the evidence that flexibility in the posterior chain correlates with poorer running economy is pretty slim.
The study cited showed that people with less flexibility had better running economy. It appears from the study cited that women are both more flexible and less economical. But a related study shows that women are less economical anyway. Plus the initial study only used 8 participants (4 men and 4 women).
The point is that flexibility isn't necessarily a bad thing if it is accompanied with control within that range of movement.