Did you ever watch those tv specials ‘When Animals Go Bad’?
You know the ones I mean? They show video footage of a normally docile and affectionate pet or animal that just snaps and some poor unsuspecting soul pays the price for it?
I remember seeing an animal handler have a koala bear freak out at Busch Gardens in Tampa once. The little kids that were so curious to see this cute bear all rushed the handler and surrounded him quickly.
And if you can imagine to a koala bear seeing all these little monsters running at it and screaming the koala bear thinks it’s getting attacked.
So the koala starts clawing at the handler to get away. The bear doesn’t want to be held by the handler while all these little people are charging forward.
And up until that point I never realized that koalas have sharp claws. But after seeing the handler get sliced and diced by the koala I don’t think of these animals as cute and cuddly anymore.
Long story short the koala ended up back in its habitat. And the handler was taken away on a stretcher for stitches and medical treatment.
So what the heck does this have to do with training and fitness?
Well just like at the zoo sometimes we have different intentions of the final outcome.
In this case the koala bear, the handler and the little kids all hoped things would have turned out a little differently.
The handler probably didn’t forsee a trip to the hospital for stitches and maybe a shot.
The bear didn’t forsee what it perceived as an apparent attack.
And the little kids didn’t realize they wouldn’t be able to pet the bear and were a little distraught to see the bear attack the handler and be wisked away shortly after still snarling and trying to defend itself.
Now back to the gym.
Imagine you have an assessment performed by a fitness professional who identifies a weakness in your body. And this weakness is causing you pain and an inability to perform certain activities and sports. Further this deficiency is causing you to compensate, because other muscles are trying to help out, creating even more problems and dysfunctions.
If you’re like most people you’d want to fix this weakness.
So maybe your fitness professional shows you the perfect exercise to address this issue. Or maybe you pick up a book. Or find a video that shows how to do the exercise.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Well here’s the problem.
When you are dealing with weakness the body is very good at finding alternate ways to get you from A –> B.
For example if someone lacks lateral glute strength they may reach for a piece of tubing or a band and perform clam shells or some lateral band walks.
Which would be a great exercise. Provided it is done properly.
And that’s the catch.
Most people compensate when they do these drills. They recruit neighbouring muscles beside the ones that are weak and this allows them to get from A–>B.
But while they may stimulate the weak muscle slightly the bulk of the load is picked up by the adjacent muscles. (synergistic dominance)
So instead of eliminating a dysfunction by strengthening a weak muscle, we have put increased demands on the neighbouring muscles and made the situation worse.
Case in point…have you ever heard of someone going for rehab for an injury, being given some exercises to do but saying they didn’t notice much difference or relief?
So what’s the take home message from all this?
Use the services of a top notch fitness professional, especially when working on corrective exercise.
And don’t rush the koala bear at Busch Gardens.
Chris okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’