Assessment is an essential element of physical improvement.
Ideally, frequent assessments are made not only to your body aesthetics (weight, fat, muscle, etc) but also to your ability to move freely with stability and strength (mobility, stability, strength, etc).
It’s also possible to move great and look like shit.
*** I should clarify what I mean when I say “look great”… it’s in the eye of the beholder. Our perception of what a great body looks like is grossly skewed by mainstream models, magazines and media. Obviously, carrying higher levels of body fat can raise health concerns, but “looking great” doesn’t have to mean visible muscle striations and the almighty six-pack. If you’re body type allows you to feel confident in your own skin in any situation, good for you, you’re there.***
Besides, most magazine models, movie actors, and testimonials from famous workout programs like P90X and Insanity are manipulated and photo shopped to amplify their physiques. Did you know that?
Having looks without movement or movement without looks both carry their negatives.
The best approach might be to meet in the middle. It’s more than possible to improve both at the same time without sacrificing one or the other.
If you look great but you cannot move without encountering restriction or pain, life’s activities become a hassle and certain movement patterns might be avoided altogether. No one enjoys feeling pain, so we tend to avoid moving in ways that cause it. I’m not referring to that burning sensation felt in your arms and legs when executing push-ups or squats, but rather the debilitating lower back pain experienced while you attempt to pull up a pair a socks. Or maybe it’s the pinch in your shoulder when you reach overhead for a clean glass in the cupboard.
Looking great isn’t the only qualifying element to health.
The advances in made in assessing (and correcting) movement over the last 10 years or so have been tremendous. The physical therapy world and fitness world are beginning to bridge gaps to one another, with ancient practices like indian clubs, yoga and martial arts adding value to the mix.
We have a much clearer understanding of joint function, breathing and soft tissue health and how it all ties together to create a highly functioning body.
We understand that six-pack abs, bulging biceps and a set of trapezious muscles big enough to scratch your ear lobes may not mean a damn thing if movement dysfunction is present.
On the other hand, maybe you move really well but you pay little attention to your body composition. I know a lot of people who are extremely athletic but don’t pay much attention to what they put in their mouths food-wise. Ironically, poor eating can case inflammation and pain in and around your joints also. Here are some common foods that are worth re-considering. Eliminating most of these foods, or at the very least reducing and substituting with more nutrient dense options can work wonders.
In the operating room, it is obvious that a lack of attention to body composition will eventually restrict joint range of motion. Many of the patients in need total joint replacements are also overweight/obese. The increase in body fat literally prohibits the patient from achieving a healthy range of motion in the knee joint. The additional weight combined with the lack of range of motion earns them a trip to the operating room where a surgeon hacks, cuts and pounds his way to an artificial knee.
This is an extreme end of the spectrum, but it’s worth mentioning none the less.
Both scenarios described have solutions. But it requires that you take a step back and assess what your next move is. Just like a chess match, there is a next move, unless you’ve waited too long. Then it’s checkmate.
If you desire the lean body, assess your training habits while simultaneously assessing your eating habits. I’ve tried to out train my diet before, and it’s a pain in the ass. Once my eating was in check, my body appearance improved but ironically so did my performance, skin and quality of sleep.
If you want to improve the quality of your movement, learn a few simple assessment tests give you feedback as to what’s going on. If you cannot squat with arms extended overhead or perform a push up without breaking at the midsection, you’ve got some work to do. Film yourself while you test out. You don’t have to show anyone the video, it’s for your reference and education only. Watch yourself, compare it with other folks, preferably a fitness professional that moves effortlessly and do some research on how to fix your hang ups.
I would start with the Functional Movement Screen, and someone who knows how to conduct such as test.
Consistently assessing yourself gives you important information on you where you are, your progress thus far, and allows you to decide on the next course of action. It gives you focused direction. It creates a clear and simple route from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in the future).
Assess and make the next move.
Cheers to assessing, correcting and building non-photo shopped bodies!