Our bodies are meant to move. We were never meant to be sedentary beings, and sitting at a desk and in a car for the vast majority of your day creates a number of different problems. For thousands of years human beings were nomadic; constantly on the move hunting and gathering in order to survive. The body is capable of being incredibly resilient, but having become civilized in a modern world we have devolved to the opposite end of the spectrum. We are fragile.
“Exercise isn’t something you do to fix a problem; it is something you must do anyway, a thing without which there will always be problems.” — Mark Rippetoe
Mark Rippetoe hits the nail on the head with the above quote. His words can be applied not only to injury prevention, but to injury rehabilitation as well. I was listening to Chris Duffin’s podcast recently and he had Dr. Craig Liebenson, a highly sought after chiropractor in the Los Angeles area, on as a guest and he spoke about ‘The Rehab Purgatory.” Essentially, he was slamming the obsession with corrective exercise in both the physiotherapy and strength and conditioning spheres of human health and performance that is so prevalent today.
The fact of the matter, is CORRECT EXERCISE IS CORRECTIVE. A properly performed squat is going to improve your hip flexion, ankle dorsiflexion, and your core’s ability to brace under load – to name just a few of a host of benefits from squatting. The problem is that far too many professionals are way too quick to contraindicate exercises. The reality is that for 99% of the population, if their form is pretty good on a particular exercise, and that movement doesn’t cause pain, adding load will be beneficial to improving function. Only elite athletes, powerlifters and olympic lifters need to chase perfection on their form, and they make up a minuscule fraction of the population.
A perfect example follows. Joe Smith is six months out of meniscus surgery. He went to physio for four weeks and then was cleared to return to work. Months later his knee has started acting up again so he returns to physio. The quad of his injured knee has signs of atrophy and so the physiotherapist puts him on a program to gain muscle size and strength in his quads. He has him do light leg extensions and other isolation exercises. Quad strengthening exercises are certainly the right course of action, however, Joe would be far better served to be assessed through his squat movement and if and when no pain was present, be prescribed and monitored a progression of squat variations over the next few months. After all, if lack of strength and size in the quad is what is causing Joe knee pain, wouldn’t prescribing the squat (a far superior exercise to building muscle) be a much better plan?
It’s important to state that exercises do need to be contraindicated at times. There are times when non-aggressive, isolation exercises are in fact the best course of action. You do not want to load dysfunction. However, it’s paramount to understand there is a lot of room between dysfunction and perfection. If you waited for someone to have perfect squat form in order to get under a bar, almost nobody would ever squat, and they’d be missing out on the very best thing to get them better at it!
Lift something heavy, do yoga, go for walks, do something – but you need to move every day in order to keep your body from becoming fragile. If you’re injured, understand the body needs stress in order to adapt, so once your past the acute phase, you need to begin applying stress to invoke the recovery process.