I’ve often said that there is no such thing as good or bad movement, and I believe that. There is only good in bad in relation to the context and desired outcome. There are better and worse ways to lift a lot of weight. There are also better and worse ways to achieve desired ranges of motion. Most of the times the strategy we use to lift more weight is also what limits our movement capabilities in most other areas. Hence why most Powerlifters don’t move particularly well outside of the back squat, bench press and deadlift.
So, why does movement matter? Why do coaches even really need to coach up exercises?
When it really comes down to it, to see progress in most of your goals in the domain of fitness, weight loss, strength training, etc. we need to be able to accumulate stress. To see progress, we need to be able to continue to accumulate more stress over time and keep our adaptations favorable. It is obvious when we make progress we can look back and say, “I couldn’t have done that when I first started training.” Our body has adapted favorably to gradual exposure to stress.
What does all this mean about movement?
Movement is a way we accumulate training stress. If you back squat every day you are probably not going to be able to see long term progress on your back squat, because you won’t be able to recover from the specific stress, and therefore won’t back squat every day. If we want to accumulate a lot of training stress to make progress, I would argue we can find better and worse ways to move to accumulate this stress. For example, unless you want to be a Powerlifter, I would say back squatting is not a good idea for most people. There are simply better ways to build muscle and conditioning within the legs than to back squat. This is because, most people can’t keep a back squat technically sound enough to perform it with enough weight and/or long enough to accumulate enough volume to keep the stimulus strong enough to adapt to. Most people would be better served to perform 50 total goblet squats within a session and they will feel like their legs have worked hard enough but also like they feel like they can come back again and do it the next day.
I would say you can extrapolate this same line of thinking not just to exercise selection but how you perform each exercise, which is why as coaches we can get better at coaching specific exercises. Let me portray this by example. If you’ve ever been around someone with back pain, whether chronic or acute, you have probably realized they can’t do much at all. This can be due to various reasons, but at that point in time, whatever stress they have been experiencing, their body is not letting them accumulate anymore in relation to physical activity. When coaching movement, I think we have to take this same concept into account. If someone has been moving a certain way most of their live, or, if they lack adaptability in their movement (aka they can’t find different movement options) they won’t be able to accumulate much training stress before something starts to break down. If you don’t believe me, have someone arch their back hard in every exercise and see how long they can perform those exercises. This is why we not only have to know how we’re coaching each movement when it comes to accumulation of stress but what we’re coaching. Which is why I would argue “get tight” might be the worst coaching cue of all time besides for Powerlifters.
Our goal as coaches should be able to keep our clients adaptable to training stress as much as possible. There are multiple variables that can play here, such as nutrition, sleep, etc. Movement is just one variable we can possibly effect. If we tell someone to keep the same positions on every exercise they are doing, we might not be doing our best job at keeping this athlete or client adaptable.
This process will always be ongoing and will take continuously tinkering. Our goal should be to restore whatever it is that someone needs that is going to contribute to their long-term success.