Disabled is a very strong word in our culture today. It usually connotes a crutch or a wheelchair in our minds when we use this word. But to think about it – does the disability of movement just always have to be that intense? In my opinion, the in ability of our body to perform some basic movements should ALWAYS count towards disability. Why? The rationale is simple. We never lose our basic movement abilities unless the body is already on a downward spiral – most of the times metabolically. Sometimes atrophy or other similar issues arising due to the fact that the specific muscles of the body required to perform that movement are simply not being used. In some other cases, it is also caused by misalignment of the body in certain parts due to excessive or inappropriate over a period of time. For instance, excessive sitting on the chair literally makes the pelvic muscles lazy enough that they cannot respond appropriately to stretches or quick reactive foot movements – thus resulting in injuries. Do you know that when walking barefoot on an uneven surface, the muscles in the foot are actually sending out signals to your entire feet to make appropriate alignment of the ankles, knees, hips and back based on the surface that you are walking on? Try going barefoot on the edge of the sidewalk or on a rocky surface and you will know exactly what I mean – the whole body compensates for the adjustments that the foot suggests based on the surface. As a matter of fact, when the foot muscles don’t get used, we lose that signaling ability and are no longer able to scout the uneven surfaces without an elevated risk of injury.
So how do you know if you are movement disabled? Now mind you that as radical as this seems, this is my own personal opinion. So you know where to target the flak of denial. The way I see it, everyone should be able to do at least the two basic movements – squats and overhead hangs. If any of these movements are missing from your range of motion, that to me is a straight out disability. These movements are some of the basic movements for the body and literally represent the health of the movement ability.
Squats not just help determine if you are able to lift your own weight on your legs. But more importantly, they help understand how your body is managing the center of gravity and if your feet muscles are active enough to balance out the various forces that the upper body is putting on them as you squat down and get up. The motion of a clean squat also requires a full range of motion in the knees, thus ensuring that the knees are in the best health. A full squat that makes sure the knees never go forward than the feet also ensure a significant range of motion for the ankles at least in one plane. The hips and glutes get involved in a full squat. For anyone sitting long hours, it is very easy to completely deactivate the glutes muscles and lose the ability to do a clean squat without the knees sticking out forward. A straight back during the squat also tests out the strength of the lower back and gives you a good indication of how far you are from starting to generate any back pain or degenerative back diseases. In a nutshell, the squats test out the flexibility and agility of almost the entire lower body.
Overhead hangs (or dead hang as it is referred a lot of times) provide a similar test for the upper body mobility. The just fact that you are able to raise the hands in a straight plane above the head demonstrates a good shoulder mobility. The process of a hang (similar to what you would do when starting a pull-ups or chin-ups) engages the set of muscles right from the fingers, wrists, forearms to the shoulders. The ability to hold a hang for more than 10 seconds also demonstrates a degree of strength in the entire set of muscles to be able to hold your own body weight. In most cases if not all, this is also a good test to determine not just the arm strength but also the strength versus body weight ratio.
These two tests – although amazingly basic give a great measure of the body’s ability to handle itself. As you can see, these movements are not just restricted to athletes or sportsmen or physically active individuals. These are really the ways the body has been originally designed to work – right till the grave. If you are not able to do this movement – its an alarm that something is really off the track. It can be a metabolic spiral that causes weight gain and muscle loss, or it can be just an abuse of muscles due to wearing high heels or even just excessive sitting on a desk job. In any case, the inability to do these movements should be considered a RED alert and appropriate steps taken to get the mobility back.
Use the body the way it was designed to be. Move!