It’s human nature to find the easiest way to do things. In fact, it’s in our genes – a survival advantage.
In the field of exercise and health however, sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way. We have to fight the deconditioning and degeneration caused by a sedentary westernised lifestyle to create balance and health in our musculo-skeletal system.
On a micro level, we too often revert to the ‘path of least resistance’ when completing movements. The problem is, our sedentary lifestyles, poor ergonomics and a surplus of time spent in unfavourable positions means that the path of least resistance is in fact the very same path that has lead us to poor movement quality in the first place. Following the path of least resistance will only act to further imbalance – compounding an existing problem.
So how do we apply this knowledge to improve our movement patterns, or strength, and ultimately, our health?
It comes down to DISCIPLINE. It begins with knowing what the gold standard of movement is, so we know the pattern we’re aiming to achieve. Working back from this desired end result, it then becomes about achieving this movement pattern irrespective of load, intensity or fatigue. The goal is to maintain technique even if a different technique would become easier – in this way we avoid the path of least resistance and find the path of optimal improvement.
Let’s look at the high bar back squat as an example.
Not only a great movement in their own right, high bar back squats are an accessory exercise for Olympic weightlifting. The aim with a high bar back squat is to maximise knee extension. Individuals with a weak anterior chain tend to over-recruit their posterior chain, turning what should be an upright torso knee dominant movement into a sumo deadlift/good morning/low bar back squat hybrid. By following this path of least resistance the individual will only further strengthen their posterior chain, neglecting their anterior chain and further unbalancing an unfavourable strength ratio.
Good movement, strong movement, safe movement and efficient movement aren’t a venn diagram. They’re completely overlapping circles.
Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.