Critical Muscle Function

Jan 19th, 2014

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Category: Fitness

Critical Muscle Function

The traditional way of learning muscle function is redundant for training application in the real world! – There I’ve said it!

Just bear with me on this as we first need to look at why we learn about muscle function and their actions and what we define as a better way or more productive method of muscle recruitment for a given activity’.

Individual objectives will drive us as to how we train of course, a few examples of this definition might be:

  • A Physique athlete may consider it from a purely Hypertrophy perspective
  • A Therapist may consider it to be from an efficiency in motor patterns and pain free perspective
  • A S&C coach may consider it to be from a rate of force development (RFD) perspective
  • A Tri-athlete may consider it to be from a duration and fatigue resistance perspective
  • A MMA fighter may consider it from a speed and RFD perspective
    Of course these definitions/objectives are all valid and for some there will be a mix required. Through our sound programming, appropriate periodisation and manipulation of all the training variables we hope to achieve a degree of success.

    However how we’ve previously learnt our muscle function for the above objectives is too simplistic and one dimensional and this is where we miss one of the BIGGEST and MOST important aspects of training application for function.

    This is not just an understanding issue it’s the fact that there are FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS NOT INCLUDED, COVERED OR TAUGHT to any significant degree throughout fitness, therapy and sports vocational and academic education!
    If you were to pick up any A+P textbook/muscle manual and look at muscle function and actions, invariably it sets out first to show the origin and insertion (points of attachment) then the joint or joints crossed and actions created with concentric (shortening) contractions. It will then possibly show neural innervation. Also what may be referenced is the role muscles can play in some common movements/exercises such as Agonist/Antagonist/Synergist/Fixator etc.(1)
    Is it a good place to start? Perhaps but it’s ONLY A VERY SMALL PART OF A MUCH MUCH BIGGER PICTURE! Read on…..
    First Shortfall in our Learning

    The standard anatomical model does not take into consideration gravity (G), ground reaction force (GRF) and our mass and momentum (MM). It references an individual in a textbook or at best laying on a plinth – NOT IN UPRIGHT WEIGHT BEARING FUNCTION! Eh!? The basic physical sciences of the place in which we function are disregarded!(2)
    For instance when G, GRF and MM are acting on our skeletal system specific joint actions can occur for ‘free’. e.g. Hip Adduction in gait – as the foot strikes the floor and the Subtalar Joint everts (through G and GRF) it will create internal rotation of the tibia and femur causing the knee to move in (valgus), also with the pelvis translating right and dropping slightly on the left (through our MM) will create a significant amount of hip adduction through G, GRF and MM – NOT THE ADDUCTOR MUSCLES! To find out what the adductors do in function watch for the next post! (Anything and everything but adduct!)

    Second Shortfall in our learning
    A muscle does not have to cross a joint to have a direct effect on that joint! In fact it doesn’t even have to be anywhere near the joint! How?

    Take the hamstrings they attach on the pelvis and the lower leg, only crossing the hip and knee which are the joints referenced in most textbooks but in upright weight bearing function the hamstrings have direct influence on the lumber spine, ankle and foot through their movement of the pelvis and lower leg and the part they play in the entire human kinetic chain. Simple concept once grasped and stands to reason but this was never taught on any course I’ve attended over my 20 years in the fitness industry until my learning with the Gray Institute. If like me you want to understand ‘real’ muscle function welcome to the bitter pill you have to swallow!
    Third Shortfall in our learning

    Muscles contract more effectively with a prior eccentric (lengthening under tension) loading before concentric unloading.(3)
    With this in mind knowing the joint actions that create an eccentric lengthening in the 3 planes for a muscle will provide a better understanding of true muscle function and a better place to program and train movement from and to!
    Fourth Shortfall in our Learning

    The synergistic nature of muscular contractions and that during function they work together to accomplish a movement or task.(4) Avoiding the ‘reductionist’ agonist/antagonist model is difficult as it has often been the way most of us have learnt for years.
    See below a simple way to help you remember the joint actions that eccentrically lengthen and load the Hamstrings in the 3 planes for function.
    Although the traditional way of learning at first makes sense it can be limiting in application. It is the classical medical ‘reductionist’ approach which reduces parts to try and isolate them in order to understand them. Unfortunately this can stay with you and if you apply this mentality to training for function it will lead to limited success or none at all!

    It’s like being given all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and being expected to complete it without the picture to guide you!
    Ridiculous but many of us blindly try and program from this perspective without the overall picture of how our bones move, joints sense and our muscles react!

    Our contention at KiMotion Training is to bring these CRITICAL and FUNDAMENTAL concepts into all our courses taught regardless of level or learner as we believe that the sooner we are exposed to the true picture the better for application!
    Find out more here:FTS
    (1) ‘The Concise Book of Muscles’ 2nd Ed. Lotus 2008
    Chris Jarmey
    (2) Gray Institute
    Dr Gary Gray, Dr David Tiberio, Doug Gray
    (3) ‘Stretch-Shortening Cycle Exercises: An Effective Training Paradigm to Enhance Power Output of Human Single Muscle Fibres’
    Journal of Applied Physiology 2006
    Malisoux L, Francaux M,  Nielens H and Theisen D
    (4) ‘Individual Muscle Contributions to Support Normal Walking’.
    Gait and Posture 2003
    Anderson FC, Pandy MG

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