Functional Movement is the ability to move the body with proper muscle and joint function for effortless, pain-free movement. Learning how to be bio-mechanically efficient with everything you do, whether it’s for sports and athletics, general fitness, or daily life activities, is very important for maintaining good health and avoiding injury.
You would think that automatically our bodies would just work well…but this is generally not the case. From birth, we begin to develop dominant and weaker muscles. Lack of physical activity can increase poor muscle use habits, and any injury or accident can further limit the body’s ability to develop in a well-balanced manner. The result, we never fully utilize optimal form or support to train functional movement systems for whole-body health.
If we repeatedly move our body with bad posture, or poor body mechanics, our joints don’t have enough space for our bones to move freely, and the muscles that should be moving our bones can’t fire effectively creating limitations in our range of motion, and muscle imbalances which in time can lead to injury. Not only can our poor functional movement habits lead to injuries, but the body will accept these muscle habits as the way to always move!
For example: Let’s say your knee hurts because you always lock the knee joint. You’ve walked, and exercised always straightening your knees to a locked position! 30 years later…you’re facing knee replacement surgery because you can’t take the pain any longer. Replacing the knee joint may take the immediate pain away, but until you develop some new functional movement habits with HOW you’re using the muscles of the leg to support the knee, you will continue to have problems. (And chances are, with 30 years of hobbling around in pain, you’re also experiencing ankle pain, hip pain, and back pain – not to mention how the other knee is starting to feel because it’s attempted to take most of the load!) For an easy-to-learn exercise to start improving knee cap tracking and learn how to not lock your knees – check out this post & video: “Avoid Knee Pain – Patella Tracking Exercise Tips”
Good functional movement isn’t just about the knees… It doesn’t matter whether it’s your knees, feet, ankles, hips, pelvis, back, shoulders, neck…the whole body has been designed as a system of levers and pulleys that work and release for us to move with mechanical efficiency. When we walk, run, play sports, lift weights, or just sit in front of the computer – we should be paying attention to how we are using our muscles to optimize our form and function for healthy movement.
Pilates is one of my favorite training systems to help improve body awareness and learn new, more efficient muscle habits for improving functional movement. If you’re not aware of your good and bad movement habits, it can be difficult to improve them! Plus, without improving your body awareness and functional movement habits, the only way you’re going to really know there’s a problem is when you get hurt! In my opinion, it’s a much better option to learn efficient functional movement habits with Pilates, and then incorporate this knowledge into your other fitness and daily life activities to help reinforce using your body correctly to support good posture and healthy movement.
There are functional movement habits to pay attention to from the soles of your feet, to the top of your head. If any part of your body is experiencing pain, there’s a good chance that some part of your body’s functional movement system has been compromised. It might be a weakness, muscle imbalance, poor functioning joint, limitation in strength, or flexibility. Regardless of the issue, how old you are, or how long you’ve been functioning with poor body mechanics – if you’re interested in improving form for improved functional mechanics things can change!
It will take a new and improved understanding of your current posture and movement habits, better body awareness, along with doing the right exercises to reinforce new muscle habits. In time, you’ll discover the health improvement benefits of paying attention to how your body moves, and enjoy moving well with better functional movement habits for better whole-body health.
Improving functional movement habits starts with improving standing & seated posture!
To learn more about improving your posture – check out “Posture Principles for Health!”