Content by: Deanna Niceski - Accredited Exercise Physiologist
You can tell a lot by how someone struts their stuff. You can tell their mood by the skip in their step or even potential dysfunction and injury if you are really being observant. We do it every day, a recommended 10,000 steps but how does it all work and why are we so special compared to animals?
Our body is an integrated system, we can’t separate the human body and decide a joint or muscle group can work in isolation. To get a deeper understanding I’m going to talk slings and how they enabled us to develop from quadruped beings into bipedal creatures.
Thanks to evolution and human adaptation this transition has allowed us to carry out more complex movements and tasks and challenged the body to cope with different stresses and demands, like walking.
“Walking is a [hu]man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates
Firstly, I want to address the foot as it plays a major role in walking. With 26 bones; 33 joints; and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments they are our foundation and “dysfunctional feet are like flat tyres”. We neglect our feet, by spending more time confining them into shoe boxes, or as I like to call them, foot condoms. Our feet have thousands of nerve endings that provide important sensory feedback to our brain. If we constantly keep them covered and compressed, we reduce the connection with the ground and through layers of padding, we are not only dulling messages and communication in our body but disconnecting part of our body from our mind. I’m not saying you should be going to work in bare feet, I’m merely saying be conscious on how much time you spend squishing your toes in your sneakers as it can impact neural links, balance, mobility, strength and other joints up the chain.
“When ‘cute’ shoes create deformed feet maybe it’s time to rethink how we view footwear” – The Foot Collective
We have many muscle and connective tissue slings within our system and each help facilitate dynamic movement and transfer force to make powerful actions. This will be a very long blog if I discussed them all and I don’t want to lose you so I’m only going to discuss the Anterior Oblique Sling (AOS) and the Posterior Oblique Sling (POS).
[pectoralis, external and internal obliques, and opposite adductor]
The AOS crosses over our lumbo-pelvic hip complex, which as the name suggests comprises of the lumbar spine, pelvic girdle and hip joint. It distributes force, load and maintains stability during movement, especially in our gait cycle.
“The primary function of this unit is to allow the transfer of forces safely in order to allow complex movement, without injury, and whilst facilitating efficient respiratory function.” – Vleeming and Jones
Basmajian’s study on the AOS showed that it provides harmony between our adductors and oblique muscles while walking. By providing this stability it contributes to our stance phase of walking, but it also allows efficient rotation of the pelvis which helps with swinging our leg through (swing phase) and optimal heel-strike in our gait mechanics.
He also concluded that as the speed of walking progresses into jogging and running, activation of this system is more prominent. So, the more we train this sling pattern to work consistently the more powerful, seamless and strong our movements and performance will be.
[latissimus dorsi, interconnecting thoracolumbar fascia, and opposite gluteus maximus]
You can’t have one without the other and as I explained at the beginning, we are now upright beings, so the increase demand on our posterior chain has dramatically increased.
Our beautiful, big booties are there for a reason, to propel us forward with movement and walking, not just for twerking. It has become the MVP and plays a vital role in supporting functional control and support in the phases of our gait cycle.
The gluteus and opposite latissimus dorsi work together by lengthening and shortening, which then allows our arm to extend and opposite leg to drive forward. That’s why we naturally swing our arms when walking and the technical term for this is reciprocal patterning.
With any dysfunction in this sling pattern, like all, compensatory tendencies occur that can then lead to injury and pain. If a muscle is weak and disconnected it puts strain on other areas along the sling.
We started from the bottom, now we here; mastering these important movements in our reality. Our body is catered to it, and efficient gait mechanics incorporates all the above to unify and create a sustainable pattern. Make sure your training programs encompass movements that work these slings specifically, so you can have a pep in your step. It will make you feel human.