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Move Smaller for Bigger Gains

Watching people move, says a lot about how connected they are to their body. Some people move with conscious attention, and others just can’t seem to connect with what is happening with their body. For those who struggle to connect, movement can be a challenge and so can pain rehabilitation simply because if you can’t feel it, you can’t change it.

A lot of people accept the idea that they ‘have poor balance’, or that they ‘are not coordinated’ but poor balance and coordination are not a set diagnosis, unless we accept this fixed mindset and surrender to being stuck this way. In reality the skills of coordination and balance can be changed dramatically, and even rapidly with movement enhancement dills or fascial realise, practice and a positive growth mindset. The fastest way to change a lack of balance and coordination, is to make the movement smaller.

Smaller isn’t a regression

Moving smaller isn’t necessarily a regression. Moving smaller frustrates people often because they have an expectation to move big, based on how their perceive movement, and the desire to get results. Moving smaller is often a huge win for better quality movement, which will elicit better quality results. And thus one of the main cues we often find ourselves using with clients is ‘make it smaller.’

One of the very biggest faults when it comes to efficient movement, is moving too big. Big movements require efficiency of every bodily system. If there is a fault in any part of the system (for example grumpy stuck tissue), then the whole system is affected. For example a lack of mobility on one ankle, will affect the mobility up the chain. It’s like a chain with a broken link, if we pull on it, the chain will eventually break! When we move beyond the threshold of where injured, or immobile parts can cope, there is always compensation elsewhere. When compensation strikes movement just doesn’t look or feel right.

The solution is often to help the injured area function better, and then move smaller so that the system can communicate, and respond effectively. If we move too big when something isn’t quite right, we reinforce a compensation loop both in the body and the brain. Moving smaller applies especially in situations when movement lacks smoothness and rhythm, and when pain is present.

Smaller is better

Smaller movement allows for greater rhythm, better whole body integration of the nervous system, fascia and muscles, and often feels more comfortable. When you move smaller, you are stronger because the system can work as a team. In terms of overcoming pain and injury, moving smaller is safer in allowing the system to move in an integrated manner. As the smaller, safe movement becomes perfected, the brain stops perceiving a threat or an internal stress, and the nervous system can relax and allow for better signalling.

Smaller and more rhythmic movement allows for greater adaptation and helps fast track you towards bigger movement thresholds. It’s the classic example of warming up before we move, to allow the system time to adapt. If we suddenly bust out a move that was bigger than our body expected, we may hear a snap, crackle or pop!

Signs you are moving too big

  • Loss of balance

  • A huge stretch feeling (which often looks like you are ‘hanging off’ ligaments and fascia, rather than exercising control.) See above picture!

  • Pain or stiffness

  • Lack of rhythm or movement that looks jolted and lacks flow

Key areas that pick up the slack when you move too big

In people who move too big, there are a few common areas where we ‘leak’ energy, and there is a compensation elsewhere that takes the brunt of the force. In repeated inefficient big movements, the knees, lower back, shoulders and neck can often become painful or stiff and eventually injured.

If the big toe, foot and ankle do not have adequate mobility and can’t load and unload efficiently, the knee is the next joint up to pick up the slack. If movement is too big for the hips to accommodate, the load will erroneously be transferred to the lower back. And if the thoracic or shoulder mobility isn’t sufficient, then the back or neck/traps will take the load.

You only have to look at social media to see video after video of clients, and particularly fitness trainers, moving way too big. You’ll see toes coming off the ground, major twisting or arching in the low back, or just someone who doesn’t look efficient. Nobody is perfect of course, but with smaller movements, we certainly move and look better, and allow our bodies time to adapt.

Better quality movement

Don’t expect your body to move like a champion if you haven’t trained for a few days and prepared your body. If you haven’t moved well and often, are not hydrated, or perhaps have eaten inflammatory foods, or are stressed, then allow your body some leniency and move smaller. Moving too big in any of these situations is when injuries are most likely to occur.

Check out the below video for some key examples of how moving smaller can give you better quality movement.Next time you are training, see if you can feel the difference between making your movement slightly smaller. The more you play with smaller movements, the better your efficiency, strength and range of motion will be.


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