Health Education

Relative Motion

This is perhaps the most underrated concept in all of physical fitness, rehab, and training! The human body moves as an integrated unit. When you are identifying sports motions, an injured muscle or joint, or an area you want to strengthen, you must include the neighboring joints and muscle actions. Do you think efficient ankle, hip, trunk, and shoulder motion is necessary for this baseball pitcher (pictured above)?

As we observe the wind-up, the planting foot, and the powerful follow through, you get to see in sequence the connected nature of motion. In the first photo, one hip is fully flexed while the other is only partly flexed. And although is mid-back (thoracic spine) is flexed, his head remains upright. This is cervical spine extension. As you follow through those four photos above, you get an idea of how much mobility and strength this athlete needs throughout his whole body.

Think of a golf swing. Imagine taking a backswing and loading up to hit the ball. The loaded-up side is internally rotated, while the opposite side hip is externally rotated! Relative to each other, they are going through opposite motions, but at the same time!  Now if either side of your pelvis can’t fluidly handle those demands, it is going to have a direct impact on the other side.

Let’s use walking as our next example.  One leg steps forward driving that same side hip into FLEXION. The other side of the pelvis is now in relative extension.  It’s the same pelvis, intimately connected, with two sides that are experiencing different actions.

Most of us aren’t interested in spending the time to memorize bones, muscles, and joints. However, an evolving understanding of how your body moves as an integrated chain will help guide you in your exercise selections for years to come. If you have problem areas or are looking to enhance something specific, make sure to appreciate the body as a whole to get your best results.

Sean Fitzpatrick

Author Sean Fitzpatrick

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