Much of what we have learned so far from both the Joint-by-Joint Approach and the Core Pendulum Theory has discussed how a joint either gains or loses mobility or stability in light of the lifestyle, health and training decisions we make.
It’s been recognised that when we make poor training and lifestyle decisions and choices, dysfunction occurs and the bodies homeostasis becomes shaken, normal is no longer normal.
We’ve discussed the use of the both the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) Top Tier to establish norms in movement patterning and to assess symmetry within the body between sides. Remember, the first predictor of future injury is previous injury. The second, asymmetry.
At a fundamental level this approach works, it covers most of the bases needed. Yet the question needs to be raised…
Is symmetry achievable?
We are all born as asymmetrical beings.
ALL of our systems, the way we move, see, think, hear and breathe all require us to be asymmetrical to function. Regardless of whether we are right or left handed, we are quite literally ALL right dominant creatures…
(*It’s at this point I would like to quickly digress and introduce the work of the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI), based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Much of my own personal development and continuing education has been through the resources, articles and courses available through PRI. As a collective, they’re at the forefront of the understanding of the human body in relation to asymmetry. PRI was “…established to explore and explain the science of postural adaptations, asymmetrical patterns and the influence of polyarticular chains of muscles”. The application of their philosophy and methodology has changed my thought process and approach to fitness training beyond recognition. If you take anything from this article I hope its that you visit www.posturalrestoration.com and learn more)
Our asymmetry as human beings can be seen both statically in our physical make up and internal organisation, as well as dynamically in the way we move and interact with the our environment.
At a basic level, beginning with the pelvis, due to this neuromuscular imbalance and right-sided dominance, the left hemi-pelvis is anteriorly tipped and forwardly rotated. This asymmetrical position creates a rotational influence on the lower back and spine towards the right hand side.
At the ribcage we see respiratory influences statically with three lobes of lung on the right, two lobes on the left effecting the capacity or airflow between sides.
Each of us has a larger more domed diaphragm on the right with stronger crural fibres attaching to the spine, a liver positioned underneath providing supporting structure. Conversely on the left we see a smaller, flatter dome on the left, compressed by the heart above without the same supporting structures below.
Dynamically as right dominant individuals, we have a right dominance of extremity use as well as a natural tendency to shift weight onto the right side, driven by various neurological and biological impulses and demands. This constant shift provides increased lumbo-pelvic stability on the right as we continue to repeatedly load this pattern in standing postures. If we don’t shift sides and explore normal ROM’s, we lose the ability to access the joint position, a perfect example of our Core Pendulum Theory at work.
These asymmetries all have widespread repercussions on our ability to effectively control and enable airflow into both sides of our respiratory system.
If we cannot access a full breathe cycle in an alternating reciprocal fashion between left and right sides, we are limited in out ability to utilise efficeintly the benefits of airflow as it relates to movement and exercise.
Physical Therapist Bill Hartman of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST) explains the effect of airflow on movement perfectly in this short clip.
The brain is far more intricate than we can comprehend. Yet its primary role is incredibly basic, self-preservation.
It will compensate by twisting, torquing and increase tone throughout the body in response to this asymmetrical pull as we continue to move through the path of least resistance to optimise efficiency regardless of maintaining joint integrity or position to meet the demands we place on it.
This tendency to load the right side, creating lumbo-pelvic stability asymmetrically, alters the length-tension relationships of muscles across the body. Predictably, certain muscles therefore become overactive/over dominant to counter this neurological pull of the body to the right.
As a result, opposing muscles can become chronically lengthened and neurologically weak as their impact on position and posture changes.
In response to this directional and rotational influence at the pelvis towards right, we will counter-rotate our torso back to the left to “centre” enabling us to walk forward with a centred torso. This further creates torque and tension as we twist to meet the demands in place to meet our environmental needs.
This is further reflected in a lower depressed shoulder and chest on the right and elevated left anterior ribs in a state of inhalation due to the pull of our internal structure and dynamic compensation.
This is a natural response to the bodies neurological, respiratory and musculoskeletal asymmetry.
We as humans, compound these issues further with the parafunctional habits associated with 21st century living. The world is quite literally designed for right-handed people. Repeatedly we reach with our right far more than our left in day-to-day activities, promoting compensatory trunk rotation to the left and feeding our right dominance. We will more often that not will also be standing in right stance when we reach emphasise the pattern even further!
Our modern lives dictate that we spend long portions of the day slouching in chairs, promoting the weakening and lengthening of abdominal postural muscles, deactivating the diaphragm and pushing our hips forward.
Everywhere we look, we see asymmetry in the neurological, biological and musculoskeletal make-up of the body. But how often in health, fitness and well-being do we take into account that we aren’t the symmetrical beings we try to be and make an effort to understand asymmetry providing creative solutions to address the pull of right-dominance from taking over our lives.
Integrative Fitness Training by name, aims to integrate the education and application of 21st century approaches to both rehabilitation and strength and conditioning. Whether you work as a physio, personal trainer, strength coach or even Yoga instructor, we are all in the business of developing human movement and as a paid profession, it is our role to understand the human body and provide creative, research supported solutions to health and fitness.