Pain is an indicator not just that something's wrong, but also that something is working correctly.
Pain will often communicate to you in no uncertain terms that your form, choice of weight, range of motion, and perhaps even your choice of exercise itself is incorrect. But, pain is also telling you that you have reached a limit in or of your body.
Pain, stiffness and injuries all play strong roles in how you should approach exercise. However, your internal musculature and skeletal makeup plays a much deeper role in identifying what your body will allow you to do and what your limitations are.
It is important to acknowledge these for what they are.
Boundaries and limitations are not nature's way of calling you inadequate. They tell you what you should and shouldn't do.
In other words, they are your body's way of identifying the playing field available to you. It is advisable to not push past your body's own limits without proper consideration about what those limitations mean and how they play a role in your health.
Today we will take a look at 8 different ways limitations and boundaries within your body will impact your choice and plan of exercises. It is vital to understand and address these limitations appropriately and regularly for a painless, progressive and productive exercise process.
1. Before beginning your session . . .
After your warmup, you should check to see if any specific joint, muscle, bone, or movement present any limitations. Before picking up the weight, doing even a quick check in your targeted exercise areas can give you important information about what is available from your body. If you find limitations, or find variance in right vs. left, then it is wiser to consider alternatives and variations to your exercises.
2. During exercise session
You may find during your exercise session - at a certain point, in a certain exercise, or at a certain weight - that something seems to be inhibiting your ability to participate without pain. Assessing for pain and limitations during exercise sessions helps in monitoring whether your exercise session is dialed in the right amount to meet your goals.
3. After your Session
I had a client who used back squats to train legs, but this would lead to severe impingement in their shoulder as a result of the posture of holding the bar over their neck. This pain would show up days later and would inhibit their ability to fully raise their arm above their head or externally rotate their shoulder in the socket. As a tennis player and Judo practitioner, they needed to be able to access this range of motion, so something needed to change.
It is key to distinguish between pain and soreness after a challenging exercise session. If you're new to resistance training, you may experience soreness within 24-48 hours after your session. However, if you find that your joints, muscles, or range of motion becomes more limited or impinged as a result of exercise then it is important to discuss it with a certified exercise professional.
4. Variance in left and right side.
An area you might not pay much attention to is how differently your right side behaves from your left. These differences often materialize as limbs bearing different size or joints developing better reach and flexibility on one side. This is most prominent in people who are single-arm or single-side dominant. Checking for muscular or skeletal imbalances allows you to tailor exercises specifically to train both sides with the appropriate resistance and bring balance to your body's ability.
5. Neuro-biomechanical limitations
How your body responds to resistance is a great indicator of how you will cope with different exercise alternatives and variations. Often, your body will compensate for a lack of mind-muscle connection by calling upon other muscles. You can commonly see this when your elbows flare, or your body otherwise unconsciously adjusts while exercising. These can sometimes be a result of poor form, lack of understanding of the exercise and a lack of emphasis of the targeted muscles. If a subset of muscles is limited in how much force they can produce, then it might come up short during your exercise. This is a common problem and the roots of many of our client relationships at Striation 6.
6. Available range of motion
In addition to looking at traditional motions such as flexion, extension, or contraction of your major muscle systems, it is also extremely important to assess how some of the smaller muscle and skeletal systems perform in their ranges of motion. Movements in your ankles, midfoot, neck, rotator cuff, hip abduction and adduction, all require precise examination so that you may understand where the boundaries are, and how to work with them.
7. End-range strength & flexibility
The stability or lack thereof in your joints as you reach the end of your range of motion plays an important part in exercise selection and experience. Being unable to move freely and without pain in your end-range means you have limited mobility in that particular joint.
Read more about how better mobility can lead you to avoid pain, stiffness, and injuries.
Some limitations in mobility might only have small and rather insignificant impacts on activities of daily life whereas others may have a huge impact (such as lifting things off the floor, picking up your grandkids, standing up after falling down). For good joints and mobility, its important to have strong and healthy muscles. Knowing your limitations in mobility also helps inform the choice of exercise variations that might suit you better while training your muscles sufficiently.
8. Postural limitations
Being able to hold a posture with stability while recruiting strength from the right areas help grearly in ensuring a safe movement during your exercise. But did you know even regular sitting, standing, and laying down postures can play a role in how you should choose your exercises? A client of mine has subtle differences in the position of their collarbone depending on whether they're standing upright or laying on a bench. This means the way they would approach (and correct for) exercises from a standing versus lying position will change.
The ability to perform well during sessions has a strong impact on the psychological and emotional experience of exercise. Performing well can provide the necessary boost to keep your momentum up, but performing inadequately can also lead to a significant drop in motivation. For an in-depth look at how your exercise choices can be improved, book a consultation and range of motion assessment with our certified exercise professionals.