That Feeling – it’s stability

My combat class recently started back after the Christmas break. We finished the first class with a cool down called stick wrestling. It’s not what it sounds like and it certainly isn’t the activity you see if you google that term.

Two people grasp a stick and the aim of the practice is to make your opponent let go of the stick. This is not a test of brute strength, it’s not a case of throwing your opponent around. It looks like a dance, it’s a flow of allowing your opponent to move the stick around whilst being aware of what they are trying to do. Each of you are trying to move the stick into a position where the anatomy of your opponent’s body simply means they have to let go. I woke up the next morning and it felt like every muscle in my body had had a total workout – and that was because it had.

Often the trend when you go to a gym to workout is to isolate the one muscle group you are working on. People strap themselves into machines and think they are experiencing the pinnacle of exercising. Often you see the person doing the bicep curl but using momentum, the person doing the lat pull down but actually using their lower back, the person doing the stomach crunch but actually using their arm to move that weight, the list goes on.

What they are missing is that the body is not a series of independent muscles, it is one form that has to work together. This is the argument about using free weight over machines. If I am strapped in machine and doing the exercise correctly then I am working minimal muscles. If I do a bicep curl with free weights then I am using my legs, if I am working alternate sides then all of the muscles at the front back and side of my body are working to hold myself upright as I move that weight around. I don’t pick up the dumb bell and droop down to that side, my alternate side contracts so that I stay upright. Every muscles in your body can offer stability to the structure.

These sort of conversations lead us into the subject of core.

If you google core then often you get a picture like this. (notice the slight twist to make the muscles stand out more).

To most this is what they think of when they think of core muscles. Working your core is sit ups, crunches, hollow man exercises. It’s all about the abs with possibly the more enlightened also working the lower back.

What if we thought of core more like this

Everything that goes up and down your body, almost everything apart from your limbs. The movement of any part of your body affects every other part of your body and we need to stop thinking about it as a pile of parts. Nothing I could do in a gym would prepare me for stick wrestling. Stick wrestling prepares you for stick wrestling. Its time we thought more about functional fitness, the body working as a whole with stability coming from within rather than straps to hold you in the correct place.

Author: Anatomy Fundamentals

Janet Philp has spent a lifetime exploring fitness and wellbeing. Starting in group exercise, travelling through rugby to representing the UK at martial arts before including Yoga, meditation, Budokon and personal instruction. Her passion is anatomical function and educating people to use their bodies to their full potential.

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