Self-limiting exercise is fast becoming one of the hottest buzzwords in the fitness industry. The concept of functional movement isn’t new, but many people are still unaware of how restoring proper functional movement patterns is necessary to optimize results and prevent injury.
Every type of exercise requires movement. Without the ability to move correctly, you may not get the most out of your workout. Unfortunately, today’s lifestyles do not promote proper movement and many have lost the ability to move correctly. A functional movement screen is valuable in determining imbalances or weaknesses, but incorporating self-limiting exercises is the key to solving these issues. Self-limiting exercise works to combat the negative effects of poor movement patterns, increasing the effectiveness of your workout and reducing the risk of injury.
With self-limiting exercise, proper body mechanics are enforced naturally. According to Gray Cook, the founder of Functional Movement Systems, Inc., “the limitations these exercises impose keep us honest and allow our weakest links to hold us back” which is necessary to retrain the body to move correctly. These exercises require more thought and a higher level of engagement in the activity, and result in a better sense of awareness of the body as a whole. Self-limiting exercise programs are not one size fits all; they focus on your individual limitations and movement anomalies so that as you train, your body will mold itself around natural stresses, forcing improvement and proper function. This approach not only makes every set more effective, but also reduces the risk of injury by ensuring that movements are done properly.
Self-limiting exercises are “self-limiting” because they force proper form. If you are unable to engage proper form, then you most likely won’t be able to complete the exercise at all. With this failsafe in place, recognizing weaknesses and working to overcome them becomes the focus of the workout and allows you to proceed only when you have corrected your form—thereby preventing injuries that can occur from using poor form.
Examples of a self-limiting exercise are jumping rope or barefoot running. In the case of jumping rope, the rope becomes the teacher of proper form. When you perform the task improperly, poor technique prevents you from continuing without correction. With barefoot running, the sensory input received through the soles of the feet naturally encourages correction in the runner’s style. Heel strikers learn quickly how painful this motion can be and are reminded naturally that their form needs to adapt. Improving technique results in immediate relief from fatigue or discomfort while focusing the intensity of the movement for maximum results.
Combining self-limiting exercises with other aspects of functional movement principles—such as the functional movement screen, corrective exercises and foam rolling—will result in a safer and more effective workout program while combating poor movement patterns. This whole-body approach to proper alignment is invaluable. As the industry continues to evolve, functional movement and self-limiting exercises are trends that are here to stay.
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