A mirror, by definition, is “a polished or smooth surface (as of glass) that forms images by reflection.” Additionally, a mirror is defined as “something that gives a true representation” (both definitions from Merriam-Webster).

In the Movement Industry, our techniques, our exercises, our movements should be a mirror. A mirror to what? A mirror to the ultimate task, the ultimate function.

The body, comprised of many joints, moves as a unit. Each joint affects other joints and is affected by other joints. Yes, one would say that the body is a Chain Reaction®. 

So here comes another question: Are our training and treatment strategies taking into account the above fact? 

In this blog entry, we take a deep dive into the Functional Movement Spectrum. Specifically, we focus on Joints, which is included as a principle / truth in the Biological Sciences. In “The Introduction” to this Functional Movement Spectrum Series, we identified the following descriptors for Joints: Integrated (functional) vs. Isolated (non-functional).

At Gray Institute®, one of the core Principles of Applied Functional Science, as well as Movement, is that “Function is a Chain Reaction®.” Dr. Gary Gray, now with his son Doug, has been teaching a seminar called Chain Reaction® for 30 years. Motion in one part of the body creates a reaction throughout the body. It’s that simple. However, the implications for rehabilitation, sports performance, and injury prevention are massive. With regard to joints, the Functional Movement Spectrum would have us decide if the exercises we employ create motion while the joint is Isolated from the rest of the body or Integrated with the rest of the body.

Over the past 50 years, researchers and equipment manufacturers have sought ways to isolate a joint. The researchers felt (mistakenly) that the need to control all the variables (isolate the part from the rest of the body) was critical to getting at the “truth.” Manufacturers wanted to create equipment that would be able focus on a specific body part / joint / muscle group. Unfortunately, this misguided approach produced study results that were not generalizable to functional movements (no external validity). The training gains on the equipment did not transfer well to movements of the entire body during specific activities / sports.

Pure isolation is non-functional in almost all circumstances! Why is integration of the joint a better approach? Using the knee as an example provides a compelling answer to this question. Excessive motion of the knee in the frontal plane can increase the chances of injury to the medial collateral or the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. This motion of the knee towards the midline is called abduction and results in a valgus position of the knee joint. Yet, watch any sporting event and it becomes clear that knee abduction is normal. It is the excessive / uncontrolled amount of knee abduction that can cause injury. Therefore, our training and rehab programs must allow this frontal plane motion, but have to teach / train the ability to control the amount of knee abduction.

Put your patient / client on a table to isolate and try to create knee abduction. Yes, it is impossible! In fact, many textbooks do not even describe frontal plane motion of the knee. When your patient / client gets off the table and puts his / her feet on the ground, then the knee abduction becomes the truth of weight-bearing function. The only way to train control of the knee is to integrate it with the foot, hip, and the rest of the body.

Lower extremity biomechanics validates the necessity of integration even more convincingly. Dr. Gary Gray would say this: “it is not because the knee is influenced by the hip and the foot, but rather because the hip and foot are part of the knee.” The femur is part of both joints and, therefore, any hip motion will directly affect the knee. A trans-femoral (above the knee) amputee controls the artificial knee joint through the hip. The same biomechanical relationship is present in all weight-bearing function. Training the knee to prevent injury must emphasize the hip while it is integrated with the knee and the foot.

Motion of the ankle and subtalar joints creates a reaction in the knee when the foot is on the ground. Ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion stimulate the knee and hip in the sagittal plane.  Motion of the subtalar joint activates a Chain Reaction® up the entire lower extremity in the frontal and transverse planes. Without integrated weight-bearing functional movements, the knee would never know what motions and forces are coming towards it from above or below. The knee can’t be prepared for function without experiencing integrated movements during rehabilitation and training.

However, training true function requires a method / strategy for creating a focus or demand on a particular joint or muscle group. Dr. Gary Gray created the strategy of Integrated-Isolation. The emphasis on a particular joint is created while that joint is still integrated with the rest of the body during functional movements. The movements are tweaked to limit the contributions from other parts of the “chain” in order to create a greater demand on the target joint. Not isolation, but Integrated Isolation.

Our bodies do not move in isolated regions, yet move as one integrated region. This truth should then dictate how best to treat and train the body, benefitting the individuals that are our patients and clients!

Interested in learning more? Please check out Chain Reaction® seminars at https://www.grayinstitute.com/courses/chain-reaction.

Would you like to see how best to assess and progress the body based on Chain Reaction®? 3DMAPS® (3D Movement Analysis & Performance System) accomplishes this (and so much more), differentiating itself from any other movement screen or assessment. Find out more here: https://www.grayinstitute.com/courses/maps