Trying to Explain Why We Do What We Do

A lot of times in trying to explain how we train and rehab folks is to use analogies. There are a couple of reasons for this.
1) Analogies take the patient or client out of the equation. The proceeding information is bound to be negative. Here’s what’s wrong with YOU! This is what you do wrong! You’re SCREWED! It’s not a good policy in building the relationships we hope to have with the folks that trust us with the most sacred thing on Earth, their bodies. So if we use analogies to explain things, the person doesn’t get that in your face reality that you’re talking about them. You’re talking about a tree, not her spine. You’re talking about the axle on the car, not his knee. It’s a less offensive approach, but it’s also very important to discuss with the client or patient that you know what’s wrong, and how you plan to fix it.
2) People get analogies. It’s not even dumbing down the information, but I don’t know how many personal training clients or injured athletes that really give a lick about the science and biomechanics and this and that. When you explain things with analogies, the situation clicks for the client. And you need the client. No trainer or therapist is any good without the cooperation and understanding of the individual he or she is working with. It’s a team effort.

So in trying to understand our topic at hand, the importance of hip mobility and strength, we are going to use an analogy to start off. I want you to visualize a slingshot. You’ve got the stick part, and the rubber band part. For the slingshot to work well, you need a couple things. You need to hold the stick really stiff for a stable base. And you need the rubber band to be really fresh and stretchy to pull back. Think what happens if you are able to pull the rubber band very far. It’s mobile and flexible. The tension on the stick grows, and you have to keep it stiff. That takes a little more work. But all in all, something has to be really good at moving, and something has to be really good at staying still.
But what happens if you don’t keep the stick very stiff? The rock doesn’t go anywhere. Or the stick breaks.
What happens if the rubber band doesn’t stretch very far? The rock doesn’t go anywhere, or the stick breaks from the tension.
What happens if the rubber band breaks? Again the rock doesn’t go anywhere.

You figured it out. The body is a series of slingshots. Of course, right?

The stick part is the lower back. It can also be the knee, but that will make sense shortly.
The rubber band is the hips.
Whether it’s a rubber band or a complex system of “slingshots” like the human body, when the “mobile” element doesn’t allow for the range of motion you want, something bad will happen.

So unlike the slingshot, our body figures out a way to win even if cheating is involved. When the hips don’t move well, the lumbar spine or knee will pick up the extra range of motion even if they aren’t ideally supposed to. Most often that doesn’t cause pain right away. And for well motivated or powerful individuals, they still might be able to be successful in moving loads or losing weight. But over time, that slingshot will break down.

So when the hips don’t move well, and a task requires more mobility, like getting down to the floor to pick up a child or a 405 lb deadlift, the back will round out.
If the hips can get down there, but they aren’t strong enough to propel the rock, oops, I mean the body to push the sled, the knee may buckle and gain some stability from the ligaments. That person still gets in their HIIT, but when they slip and fall 3 weeks later, the knee ligament may tear because they got worn out from the your own training.
These process works everywhere in the body, but as the link from the upper to lower body, the hips are an enormous contributor to what we do in fitness and rehab.

So when you hear the fire alarm go off, don’t just pull out the battery.
Figure out if there really is a fire. And even tiny little brush fires need to be put out. They can get nasty if you ignore them.

Analogies, huh? There ya go.

  • September 25, 2010

Leave a Reply 5 comments

Dave Spishak Reply

“A stitch in time saves nine.” ­čÖé Sorry, Charlie, I had to type it out after reading your brush fire analogy. Here’s to wisdom and perspective like yours helping so many of us to continue keep brush fires from morphing into full-blown conflagrations. Reply

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was pushing my athletes to understand the science of my methodologies. I found very quickly that approach was the antithesis of successful relationship building and trust in the said training program. Switching over to analogies was almost a comical experience for me, as you could nearly see the light bulb go off when they “got it.” Their loyalty and trust in my training programs were taken to a whole new level after that.

All the best,

Mark Fisher Reply

Its so true. Analogies make science concepts “sticky” and understandable. I use an elaborate analogy for synergistic dominance with underactive muscles as the pot smoking video game playing burnout brother in the basement, and the overactive muscles as the type A lawyer who got a 2nd job to support the burnout brother. Silly perhaps, but more engaging to a client than “synergistic dominance”.

I LOVE your blog.
Mark Fisher

Charlie Reply

Mark – Thank you for the good words.

Nuno Gusmao Reply

Thank you a lot for sharing.

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