The Order of Exercise & Movement – Start with Stage 1

We've all heard the phrase "You need to crawl before you can walk". In fact, crawling is so critical that a child's nervous system may not develop optimally if this doesn't take place, and can lead to learning difficulties.

It follows that in exercise, there should be an order to which new exercises are introduced to reduce the risk of long term damage to your spine and other joints.

We call this the Order to Exercise & Movement.

All too often I see people jump straight into an exercise routine with some basic stretching, maybe some weights, or launch into going for a run, without doing some foundation ‘crawling' first.

We commonly see patients start an exercise program involving stretching and weight training straight away, but this will often be like putting the cart before the horse.

There are four important stages in our Order to Exercise & Movement. There's a lot of information covered by these stages, so let's Start with Stage 1.

STAGE 1 - Identifying Disturbed Posture and Movement Patterns

Standing, walking, and squatting are all important. But if we just keep good technique for when our chiro, trainer or physio are watching, we are undoubtedly going to develop bad habits which will leave us vulnerable to long term damage.

So here are my top tips:

1. Standing

Draw the rib cage up, and your shoulder blades down (rather than back - this sometimes pushes the head forward). To help roll your shoulders back, try making a fist and rolling your thumbs out. Be careful not to extend your knees back fully... there should be some give, or spring in the knees.

Now add an abdominal brace. This is not sucking in your stomach or trying to push the muscles out, rather it is just stiffening the muscles. Visualise locking your pelvis to your rib cage, and squeeze your buttocks.

You should automatically feel better and in control with this focus.

Find 'neutral spine' by placing one hand on your stomach and one on the muscles of your lower back. Extend back and forth slightly. When you bend forward, you will feel the back muscles switch on; then as you extend back, they will switch off again.

Make sure your muscles aren’t over contracting when you are standing. In a neural position, the lumbar curve is aligned with the least amount of spinal loading.

The goal is to keep your torso in this position for as much of the time as possible.

For 'power standing', try widening your stance, push out with your feet and externally rotate your feet, maintaining the abdominal brace and shoulder position mentioned above.

This will add strength and stability to the upper limb, like gripping and pulling. It's useful to apply this where possible around the house and at work to engrain this efficient habit. Try this stance when you are putting things away, or wiping down kitchen benches . Move with intention.

 

2. Walking

If you’ve been to our clinic for treatment there is no doubt you would have heard us say "Please go for a walk after your adjustment". Walking can be a very powerful corrective tool or compromising movement.

Swing your arms, from your shoulder not your elbows, again make sure your chest is elevated and brace the abdominal wall. Are your feet externally rotated chin pocked out, and knees extended?

Often I see that equates to doing stretches and lifting weights.

Don’t slouch, and try externally rotating your fingers.

3. Squatting

Make sure you are using your hips, not your lower back. Remember to bend the knees, it’s the wrong focus point.

Your hips are the most stable joint in the body, make sure you are using them.

Let your hips take your weight!

When picking things up from the ground, a lunge may be more appropriate.This way a neutral spine can be maintained, rather than bending forwards and putting the stress through your back.  

How deep you can squat? This is mostly pre-determined by your hip anatomy, or the shape of you hip socket or acetabulum. You should only squat to a depth that is putting your spine into flexion.