Orthodoxy and conventional wisdom has a habit of changing over time. When I came out of physical therapy school in 1983, we didn’t even have a philosophy for how bodies moved, or how bodies moved optimally. We just knew where muscles were and how to make them contract. We developed the science and technology of progressive resistance exercise to make individual muscles stronger. We adopted ways to mobilize specific joints or to stretch discreet facial planes. Bodies were machines, made of parts, and we were the mechanics. This was the ground floor of understanding—the era of ‘Isolate & Localize’.
Then along came Joseph Pilates and the good folks at the University of Queensland, who started talking about inter-relationships among these components. Progressing beyond old isolate and localize notions, Pilates philosophy and core stabilization principles now dominate orthopedic rehabilitation thinking. Their guiding concepts, either explicitly stated or implied in the exercises derived from them, have heavily influenced the way we look at movement and the way we prescribe corrective exercise. These ideas represent the new orthodoxy, and we are now in the era of ‘Static Integration’.
Integration implies that there are relationships between the parts—limbs to trunk, pelvis to head, scapula to thorax, etc. Static Integration derived exercise is primarily concerned with how to stabilize one part from moving as another part is moved. We even have a nifty mantra for this—proximal stability facilitates distal mobility. And, in some cases, this is actually true. But core stabilization exercise is not all that fundamentally different from our old isolate and localize paradigm. Kendall & Kendell, with a stylish new haircut. Doctrinal orthodoxy, modernized from vinyl to digital.
In essence, we simply moved from assumed or unconscious stability to trained or intentional stability. We moved from ignorance about integration to acknowledgement that bodies are integrated, but collectively we still have the same underlying misunderstanding about how bodies are coordinated. And these misunderstandings persist because both world views are insidiously and invisibly colored by a language construct we all had drilled into us in anatomy class—origin and insertion thinking.
Sadly, while origin and insertion thinking is a handy way of learning individual anatomical structures, it does not provide a realistic vision of how to integrate or optimally coordinate those structures. Fortunately, there is another way, a better way of thinking about how the body is, or should be, integrated. One that is not based on anatomical minutia and mechanistic thinking, but on realistic observation of whole-body functional movement and informed by principles of optimal movement. One that doesn’t demand piece-meal movement of individual parts, but one that allows for dynamic trunk movement and realistic pelvic control.
‘Dynamic Integration’ exercise has existed for a long time, but derives from movement systems that we in the West have historically dismissed as being unscientific. Yoga, Feldenkrais, T’ai Chi, Qi Gong and others dynamic systems are rich and complex, with oodles of juicy content for the curious and open-minded rehab professional. The bodies of work are sublime, but the language used to describe what they do can come off as soft and squishy—the kiss of death for the science minded health practitioner. Fortunately, there’s no need to swallow hook, line and sinker—and no need to wear special garments!
We can mute what they say about their systems and make our own interpretations. We can develop our own language to describe what each movement does, who we could use it with, what functional movement it simulates, and who it is contra-indicated for—and why. We can modify select movements to make them more appropriate for a rehab setting, then medically articulate and scientifically justify what we are doing to ourselves, our patients, our doctors and our payers. This is what we at TMS have been doing since 1999—East meets West on the common ground of muscle synergy analysis, functional application and clinical relevance.
We have done the work of observing and analyzing the gamut of human movement with our clients, have developed a coherent language and logical rationale, have spent countless hours exploring movement sequences in our own body, and have thereby gained invaluable insight about how to best optimize movement in our orthopedic patients. This type of expertise is impossible to get from a book or lecture, a theory or a double blind study. In going through this process ourselves, we have recognized that the best way to understand movement is to move—to pop open the hood and get your hands dirty.
It is this rare combination of clear didactic reasoning and eye-opening experiential training that makes us unique. To this end, we first analyze, articulate and provide solid scientific rationale for what we teach—Dynamic Integrated movement principles and techniques. Then, instead of sitting in a chair watching PowerPoint presentations, we engage you in a variety of fun and inter-related activities—group observation, partner practice, movement assessment, mini-lectures and personal participation in a series of progressive, non-traditional exercises or movement puzzles.
So if this resonates with you, if you’re willing to listen to unconventional wisdom, or if you have a personal affinity for movement, come check us out—we have a range of options to choose from. For a just-curious taste test, check out ‘Integrated Patterns of Movement’ on this site. If you’re willing to take off your socks and splash around in the shallows, come to one of our weekend courses. Or, for the full Imax experience, sign up for our certification program. Whatever level of immersion you are interested in, we are confident that you will never look at movement and exercise the same again!