Parts of a Whole
Strategies along the spectrum of efficiency
The point of efficiency is to do more, with less effort. Whether it’s moving faster, moving more weight, moving pain-free, or moving through bigger ranges of motion- it all requires the same parts working together as a whole. A team that quite literally ‘has your back’.
Though it’s not as simple as just coordinating body parts or soft tissues, this idea does offer a starting place to explore. Each part lies somewhere on a spectrum of efficiency, not only in terms of its individual function, but also in relation to other parts, and as a participant within the whole.
– efficiency of the part (specific)
– efficiency of relationships (local)
– efficiency within the whole (global)
The most influential factor overseeing all of this is the nervous system- conductor of the whole.
Note – my approach is to first form some semblance of what my ‘whole’ feels like and how it prefers to function. Then, I can work on ‘compartments/relationships’ as I need, making the integration of a part into the whole a much easier process. All of this feedback provides a better understanding of how I can gradually adjust the efficiency of the whole system- a process of stress management.
Efficiency is what grants complexity.
The Baby Ladder Ascent
An exercise, assessment, challenge, lesson, teacher, disciplinarian, etc- whatever you wish it to be, it is.
There are no rules, choose your own constraints (if so desired), based on your present ability. While it is just a defenseless baby ladder, it is still a potential hazard- a safer starting place might be a low-grade staircase with the full foot in contact with the ground. An advanced application might be walking up steeper inclined hills. All options will depend on your understanding of how your feet work in propelling your body.
My objective here is to continuously load my bodyweight through the forefoot and into the hip/pelvis (leg drive), smoothing out transitions as I shift weight from one side to the other- an ‘X’ pattern through the full body. The torso remains relaxed but responsive throughout. Arms are relaxed behind to force focus into the legs.
I find this most useful in its application to footwork and balance for rock climbing- an accessible tool for building the necessary patience and composure (learning how to down-regulate stress in a controlled environment, which happens when we build confidence in our movement). Perhaps, you may find this more useful in Olympic lifting or sprinting, etc.
More Efficient Strategy – Moving the Whole
Hip + Knee are synchronous in creating leg drive, (initiate and finish the movement together)
Pressing down through the ‘point of contact’, to raise the pelvis, up. For me to make this transition smoothly from the ground, my right foot must help push that side up high enough for the left side to be able to take control of the pelvis, at which point the focus becomes moving the pelvis both up and forward simultaneously. (This action is represented by the green arrow in the second photo above, a very subtle but essential ‘tuck’. Without this action, the movement would turn into a counter-balanced hip hinge).
The horizontal and vertical must coordinate their efforts toward the same task to be efficient- their three-dimensional compromise might just look like a diagonal.
I do not often use the imaginary center axis (orange line), I find it is often more misleading as an idealized aesthetic, rather than a provider of helpful feedback in creating efficient structure. Instead, I prefer to use an individual axis for each leg and coordinate their relationship to each other through the pelvis. I use the parings above to transition between outside and inside. When moving on a single leg, the rest of the body must orient and move around that particular axis/point of contact- this brings the theoretical center closer to the one we are using, (as well as the other leg).
Less Efficient Strategy – Avoiding the Whole/Counter-Balancing Parts
Hip + Knee move at different times, (hinging)
Here, downward/vertical force only connects the foot to the knee. This means that the knee becomes an additional point at which hinging is possible, (another part/range requiring more attention/control). Without downward/vertical force to guide alignment, horizontal will take the lead, preferring the ease of counter-balancing halves instead of moving the whole. (The brain is just trying to complete a task it’s been given- it does not care what it looks like or the quality in which it’s done- not unless you do).
In this instance it becomes a matter of torso vs legs (hip hinge)- often seen in kettlebell swings, where the glutes push the pelvis forward as the ribcage gets pulled back, perpetually shifting the pelvis (and center of mass) back and forth like a game of Pong. (While there are certain elements to glean from isolating the horizontal or vertical- it is still best practice to study the individual in relation to the environment).
How I Use This:
I walk often through hilly neighborhoods and I always work on specific patterns as I go.
1) a smooth and known pattern
2) expanding my ability to utilize and maintain that pattern for greater durations/demands
3) toggle back and forth between 1 & 2, (endlessly)
While working on gait does not seem complex, it requires an advanced skillset to make small adjustments on the fly and at speed. I train these things to change my default, which means that when I get tired, I don’t revert to a former lesser-than pattern. Better resting positions translate to better moving positions. Again and forever, the difference-maker is in how we move through daily life– walking, sprinting, stairs, ladders, climbing, even in sitting and laying, it’s the same pattern. Posture <=> Pattern.
PATIENCE – is the biggest lesson here. Provide yourself the time and space to be, rather than do. (Feeling and thinking cannot exist at the same time).
The quest for efficiency, like all of the most worthwhile things in life, has no endpoint. It too is about building and nurturing quality relationships that grow along with you- relationships that lessen the burden of perpetual change.
Like everything that I post, movements and progressions are relative-
1. they are relative to self
2. they are relative to each other
Individual/isolated movements offer a smaller and easier ‘point’ of focus, a chance to examine how one part may interact and integrate with others and subsequently how they fit into the whole. Exercises/movements both easy and complex should enhance understanding of each other.