Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gross Motor Control vs. Fine Motor Control

The underlying premise for most fitness programs is the simple notion that vigorously working the largest muscles of the body consumes as much calories as possible -- as a gauge of the amount of “work” being accomplished -- while failing to recognize, that no amount of useful work is ever done that way. The largest muscle of the body is the gluteus maximus -- for which the typical fitness acolyte will volunteer, its major function is to move the upper leg rearward. However, like most large, major muscles of the body, the much more important function is not to provide movement at all -- but to provide stability and support so that the useful work can be done at the hands, head and feet.

Such latter movement is what is called fine motor control. Simply moving the upper leg rearward is meaningless -- without its ultimate expression at the foot, usually to push off against the ground. But by focusing the axis of rotation at the hip, the nerve impulse from the brain goes no farther than that axis of movement. Therefore, with movements emphasizing the largest muscles, no fine motor skill may be developed to employ that increased capacity usefully and effectively at the ultimate expression at the hands, feet and head.

In order for useful increments of strength and other capacity to be readily available, requires development of fine motor control, which naturally activates the larger supporting structures. But one cannot develop universally available strength and power to do anything else but in the manner in which it was developed -- that is, the practitioner of the treadmill only increases his ability to “do” the treadmill -- and nothing else, and in fact, may disrupt the fine balance already existent in an otherwise well-trained and coordinated person.

That’s why it is very important for any conditioning movement of usefulness, begin at the axis of rotation of the extremities. That focus of movement, determines the extent of the effectiveness of that conditioning. I don’t want to just be better at moving my upper leg back. Instead, I want to be able to move my foot in a much greater range that expresses itself as running faster or jumping higher. In order to do that, what matters is the range of motion at my ankle -- from the extreme of the toe being raised towards the shin, and then the foot being rotated downward in a toe point, or pushing off with the ball of the feet.

The reason that walking is not the ideal exercise for most out of shape and extremely overweight people, is that they tend to shuffle their feet rather than articulating the foot through this greatest range. They’d be far better off if they stood with their feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and just shifted their weight from one foot to the other while fully articulating the foot movement that is supporting no weight. The range of movement at the ankle is important and not how much weight is being moved around.

Overweight people have a painful experience walking because when the foot is not fully articulated, producing the powerful alternating contraction and relaxation (pumping), fluids accumulate in the tissue, making the feet swollen and painful to walk on.


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