As Strong As Your Weakest Pattern!
Think about movement. We reason in terms of flexion, extension and so on… We think of how the shoulder moves… and then we think of the hip.
We dissect the body with great skill yet the athletes that we work with move in unison.
In recent years, some authors have popularized the concept of muscular chains and it definitely is a step in the right direction. Thomas Myers is one of them and did a great job with his book Anatomy Trains.
That being said, if drawing up muscle chains can point to the right direction as far as where is a movement breaking down, it does not actually inform us of why.
And then, there is the notion of motor patterns. They are the foundational movements. They are the first movements we perform. They are the origin of our raison d’être.
These motor patterns are initially reflexive and some develop in utero. It would then make sense to think that the biochemical environment of the mother while she is pregnant affects the potential for performance of the future superstar athlete.
I will present 2 of these reflexes that develop in utero and how, if not well integrated, they can affect performance.
Reflex 1: Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex
The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex is a primitive reflex that appears at birth and is usually integrated by 6 to 12 months of age.
During year 1, when lying on his back, a child tilting his head back will normally lead to and automatic stiffening and arching of the back. Simultaneously, the legs then stiffen and the shoulders adduct with retraction.
This is a great example of the establishment of a muscle chain that is key for posture and strength of the extensor chain.
As of 1 year of age, if the reflex is well integrated, the child should have good recruitment of the posterior chain. He is then a future accomplished dead lifter!
Reflex 2: Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex is yet another primitive reflex in newborns that usually disappears around 6 months of age. It is also know as the fencing reflex.
When turning the face of the child to one side, you find extension of the arm and leg on the side of head rotation. On the other side of the body, you find flexion of the arm and the leg.
In utero, the reflex is important to develop muscle tone and the vestibular system. The vestibular system is the system per excellence to provide stability while moving. It is imperative for athletes that seek performance in less than ideal conditions.
The Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex also provides an excellent opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is, obviously, vital to most sports where muscle chains find their origin with the musculature of the eyes.
In conclusion, I believe it is important to assess both posture and movement. After all, posture’s origin is how we have integrated or not these very patterns and since posture is movement, it is an invaluable piece of data to collect and optimize for the best performance!