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restoring lost function--threat modulation!

Posted by Chad on December 1, 2009 at 6:42 AM

Below is from Chris at Conditioning Research.  Once again, what you do during the course of the day DETERMINES how your body will react...flight or fight/move or don't move.  Is it starting to make sense now??  He is speaking on a seminar he took about Z-Health.

"This seminar did what the books and articles I've read previously have failed to do - it put the exercises into context, it explained the reasoning and the theory that justify the moves. It makes more sense now - it is about threat modulation...reassuring your nervous system that things are OK.

We went through a lot of theory and then applied it to some kettlebell moves.

I'll try to present the arguments here and develop some of the ideas in future posts:

  • The body is oriented on survival not performance (this links to some paleo/evolutionary fitness ideas. What are we designed for? survive, to escape danger, be it a predator or anyother threat).

  • Take a neurological perspective- look at the nervous system as central - it is always "on", it is fast and it is plastic (malleable - you can learn things that stick). It is always active, always adapting to the demands that it is facing. Back to the old SAID principle - your body will adapt to what you do with it

  • Your neurology is binary - it recognises only 2 states - THREAT or NO THREAT

  • A THREAT state limits efficient movement in some way or other - there could be pain or tightness or weakness for example, or a limited range of motion.

  • A variety of things can induce a THREAT state - lack of movement, fear of falling, being unbalanced, stress.....even poor body position - the arthrokinetic reflex for example.

The challenge then is to reduce threat signals to improve movement and performance. 

So how do you do this?

  • Focus on Proprioception - this is more than balance, it is about you brain knowing where you are in space....but more it is about your state. 

  • Mechanoreceptors - thes eare within muscles focussed around joints. They map movement. It is an active map of where we are and where we are moving....They send signals to the brain, the nervous system.

  • Movement will send signals through the nervous system, activating these mechanoreceptors.
  • Lots of movement can "drown out" the pain signals.

  • Movement will encourage the nervous system to see you as in a NO THREAT state.

  • It is all about trying to maximise the stimulation of mechanoreceptors, to keep movement signals going through your neurology, keeping your proprioceptive system active and so to modulate your state.

Specific mobility drills promote movement around each joint to promote a NO THREAT state.

'It turns out that there are some great ways to talk with the nervous system via movement.  We’re designed to move.  We have joints in our bodies for a reason. So by moving the joints actively we are sending loads of all clear/no threat signals to the nervous system.'

There are other things you can do too to promote that state - careful breathing, go for a walk without shoes (or minimal shoes--this is my addition and opinion) etc.

Paul Chek has a similar idea.  He says that we are basically always working into extension, against flexion. Flexion pulls you together, the flexors pull you into a foetal postions. Think about it - your abs,biceps etc, you curl up into a ball. This is how you start and also how you finish - old people gradually curl up again - there flexors get stiff and they are pulled over, stooped. As we are fit and healthy, weare extended - your back, triceps, glutes, and quads fire and you standstraight. Rif says:

'It’s easy to forget that our bodies are under a constant source of pressure from gravity at all times. Gravity is always trying to bend us over, push us down and return us to the fetal position we started from. Many of the muscles in our body are all to happen to ‘go with the flow’ and bend us over into a ball. Our modern seated lives do not help this at all.  It’s easy to go from bed, to chair, to car seat, to office seat, back to car seat to couch to bed every day. And then we wonder why our backs or necks hurt or why the exercise routine is not working as well as it should.'


Where this fits in that the foetal position is the threat response. All the flexors fire and you curl up. When threatened, your posture collapses."

So, movement is important?  Is that what's missing in today's society?  YES.  It's not so much about weight loss, but moreso about how your body functions in a healthy way--in other words, is it firing on all cylinders?  Movement MAKES it fire on all cylinders--lifting heavy, joint mobility work, steady state 'cardio', intervals and other high intensity training--it is ALL needed to be a better YOU!


Categories: Mindful Conditioning, Mobility, Fitness/Tasks