Learning movement skills: a bigger picture

Let’s say you want to learn a specific, complex movement skill. A vault, a spin, a Mexican handstand. But for some reasons, your progress seems to stall after a while. There are two main explanations for this:

  1. The programming you are following does not match your needs (anymore) and has to be reviewed. What works for your buddy does not necessarily work for you, whether or not your teacher wants to admit it. Work out your weak links, and make sure your training will address them.
  2. You are missing the bigger picture of the human body.

Despite the amazing breakthroughs in science we have had over the past century, we still have lots to learn about how the human body exactly operates. And in the context of movement, it is far, far more subtle than muscles pulling bones here and there. Let me take a more concrete example to illustrate this.

I was talking yesterday about back handsprings. Fear management, proper jumping mechanics, proper landing mechanics, awareness of the spine position in space, prehab of the shoulder girdle, wrists and elbows, understanding and streamlining the momentum, connecting positions with previous and following movements in the perspective of a routine… There are many aspects to be addressed in the process of learning this skill. But it does not stop here. Your body is unique. And more specifically, it has its own very unique history.

Simply put, virtually everything in your life, and most notably stressful events, can leave a mark in your body. As my friend Anthony puts it, your body is designed for survival. It will find its way around traumas to function effectively, creating limitations along the way. These limitations can last a lifetime, and at the very least prevent you from performing at your best, or even trigger further complications if not addressed.

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When I was 23, I injured my left shoulder. More specifically, I had a tendinitis in the supraspinatus. It occurred during a partner stretching, and prevented me from tumbling for the following months. MRI analysis and doctors would tell me it was certainly due to my left acromion being bigger than average and thus putting more stress on that specific region. Physios would offer unilateral drills to strengthen the region once the inflammation had passed, forgetting altogether how much more complex and demanding my practice was. But they were missing the bigger picture, failing at investigating the root causes of this.

As I learnt a few years after thanks to David’s amazing expertise, this very same injury could well have been a result of my body protecting itself from the young age of 10. At that age, I fell from a slide and broke my left wrist. Designed for survival, my body put in place different compensations and postural modifications that would ultimately prepare the ground for this tendinitis. Even more importantly, not addressing these limitations when treating the injury could be a complete waste of time. The patterns of protection have to be addressed. Pretty surprising and overwhelming when you start listing everything you have put your body through all those years, right? What about your emotional traumas?

I know, it sounds farfetched. But there is nothing esoteric about this. Get informed. Read Gary Ward’s What the foot. Find the closet AiM specialist to you. Research the PTDR therapists in your area. And start digging.

Most of all, I invite you to search for the “why” behind each limitation you encounter in your training. It is not about making excuses for them. It is about looking for the right key to open the right lock.

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