Some of you may have heard of QWOP and some of you may have not. Either way, click the link and enjoy a little time with this intriguing game, then head back here and I’d love you to hear my thoughts on what it can teach us.
(Update: Extra link here. “QWOP” in the lead statement is a link, but it’s not very easy to see that unless you mouse-over, it turns out.)
Okay, hear me out.
QWOP is intensely frustrating to most (read: all) players. It’s a hilarious thing that such a familiar movement as running can be broken down into component muscular movements and become so difficult to manage and optimise.
“You have to FEEEEEEL the muscle, bro!”
Funny thing is that, when it comes to learning and practicing exercise, it’s not so uncommon to do just that.
On any given day, you can walk into a gym and you will probably hear some personal trainer or well-meaning enthusiast advising someone to “feel” the muscle moving and to “concentrate on feeling the contraction” in a certain muscle during a resistance movement.
Is the goal to feel the movement or is the goal to move?
Your body is a product of its genetic and environmental history (in my belief). It has had many many chances to learn how to move; it will have adapted in some positive ways and some negative ways. However, attempting to address these consciously MAY not be the fantastic approach that it could seem to be.
“Pull it down with your lats! Press with your lats! Feel your lats! You have to use your lats in this one!”
The body LOVES the path of least resistance. If you attempt a movement from A to B by any means and it is successful, then it was a viable method. Perhaps not physically or physiologically optimal (probably no such thing, truly, especially with physiology), but viable. It got the job done. That means there are multiple ways. Proven.
I remember during the beginning of my time with Gym Movement, I heard ATG state that he had rehabbed many people who had “problems” pressing weight in a certain fashion by basically telling them, “It’s a movement from A to B. Want to press? Just press it!”
“What can you tell me about my spinal alignment, Superman?”
We don’t have X-Ray vision; we can only see so much. What we can see can give us some great clues, but it will never give the whole picture.
On the other hand, the body is riddled with nervous pathways collecting massive amounts of positional data and other feedback. Do you think perhaps if it feels more comfortable and less painful to move in a certain way at this point in time, it could be for a reason?
Physics-based versus physiological-based
A lot of time, people will say you have to move a certain way because if you look at the body as a system of motors and levers and the effect of gravity and resistance it “makes sense” to move that way. It’s “the most efficient way”. This is using movement physics to see what “should” be best.
However, the body is not so simple. It has deviations from the norm, adaptations and a complex control mechanism. Does your physiology match the physics?