Movements are like math. We do not create them, we discover them. They are a solution to an environmental puzzle. We build a library full of them. We are contextual problem solvers in a world of man-made contexts. We are task-based creatures and goals are paramount to everything.
Sitting in a chair and staring at a computer is not a complex problem. The solution is easy, but not viable long term. The optimal solution for sitting in a chair is actually terrible for standing and walking. The solution solves one problem at the expense of creating another.
Specialization operates in the same manner. In becoming hyper-efficient in one context, we lose abilities in other areas.
Swimmers that specialize at an early age develop wider shoulders than a ‘normal’ person but as a consequence, the adapted swimmer is more likely to develop shoulder pain and dysfunction.
They have gained a physical advantage in the water in exchange for structural disadvantage out of the water.
Adapting is inevitable when large amounts of time are spent within specific environments. Becoming adapted and equipped for life is different than becoming ‘good’ in a sporting environment.
Movement solutions are context specific. A parkour athlete will navigate a new environment full of obstacles with fluidity and grace compared to a stranger on the street, or even a top scoring NBA superstar. The parkour athlete possesses a different set of movement abilities that transfer widely among environments rather than being confined to the basketball court.
The parkour athlete is exposed to a wider variety of obstacles than a 94-foot-long waxed hardwood by necessity. The same necessity applies to life. New puzzles and obstacles are constantly encountered.
Modifying a squat in which you favor a leg by repeatedly telling yourself to stay balanced while staring in a mirror is an abstraction. The body is balanced within the given situation, the visual perception of imbalance is a downstream effect. Simply desiring to be ‘balanced’ is ineffective as your brain has decided upon a predetermined solution and attempted to align your body with it.
In making the solution the goal, we fundamentally change how the brain organizes the movement. Identical actions create different patterns based on intent. Placing a band around your waist pulling you to the stronger side is a more effective remedy.
The band increases the error allowing your body to pick up the signals, apply a correction, and solve the problem. In this instance, the goal has changed, the goal is now to squat. The correction takes care of itself without conscious effort, naturally arising in an effort to squat without falling over.
A goal-directed solution, will be more resilient than a solution directed goal. It will be more difficult to change, more commonly used, easier to adapt and utilize in a new context.
The brain is focused on the external, for that is where the true problem lies. We cannot out-think the body to solve a problem. Generating conscious solutions fails to acknowledge every factor our body has considered. Modifying our movements via conscious intervention is ignoring pertinent internal and external factors.
Much like a slippery slope can highlight a previous logical error, a poor movement can indicate inadequacy at a previous point in our movement chain.
This differentiation is why the weight room is not enough. It is a specific environment intended to mimic a wide variety of contexts, limited in its very specificity. A barbell is straight. The floor is flat. Straight and flat are rarely found in nature. A tree branch is bent, twisted, and knobby. Gripping a tree branch is not the same as a barbell. A barbell may allow you to lift more weight but gripping a branch in ever so slightly different ways thus yielding a moldable strength. The ground is uneven.
Learning is limited only by our decision to do so. Confining ourselves to the weight room is to limit our exposure to puzzles. The environment is endlessly malleable, containing problem after problem begging for solutions.
Find ways to move within new environments and new ways to move within old environments. Use pull up bars for balance, go backwards where you normally go forwards, crawl instead of walking down stairs.
Your shoulders will appreciate it, so will your future self.
Exploration is essential.