A few thoughts on the meaningfulness of commonly accepted approaches to physical problems. In the world of sports and therapy there seems to exist an unspoken law that an experienced or diagnosed bodily problem, but also a performance deficit, has to be met with a sequence of exercises (or medication) for the respective problem. Whether the objective is to enhance the running technique, to perform better squats, to strengthen the abs, to cope with a muscle hardening or to loosen aching joints: the “problem” is identified and the enthusiastic trainer or therapist parades fires away on his extensive knowledge and suggests and array of suitable exercises. There is a particular exercises for each and every problem. This is of course legit, since the athlete requires training or treatment, but the crux of the matter is: do we really know what the problem is actually about? According to which standards do we decide upon measures or do we merely demonstrate exercises in hope of solving the problem?
Status Quo: Nearly all approaches on solving our athletes’ problems are neuronally spoken “OUTPUT”-oriented.
What does this mean? Output concerns any action with which we respond to the world within ourselves (body) and the world, which surrounds us. It therefore shapes our overall psychological, physiological and emotional condition. This sounds important and philosophical, although it simply reflects our neuronal reality. Our nervous system simply manages three tasks: first, it receives input from the environment and the body via the sensory organs; second, all this information is combined and interpreted within the brain and an ideal course of action is decided upon; third, the course of action is implemented – OUTPUT is created! Out of all three tasks however, the output is the least important. I cannot stress this enough: a sprint step, a take-off, a squat, a lunge, a muscle hardening but also PAIN and metabolism disorders, in other words – all symptoms which we work on as trainers, constitute output and can only be considered in coherence with and in dependency on incoming information (input) and the decision on a course of action (after its integration and interpretation within the brain).
Brief Excursion: Pain
On this occasion I will rather undertake a brief excursion because a lot of people still believe pain to be an “input”. NO! The “nociception” is the input. This means that the signals are sent by the pain receptors and then passed on. The conscious perception of “physical” pain is OUTPUT! “Physical” was put in quotes because a pain occurrence, which we perceive within our body, is simply the result of a decision, a kind of “opinion” formed within the brain, on how to handle the overall situation. Pain is not situated within the body and does not imply that something is broken. This holds true vice versa: broken tissue does not necessarily entail a pain occurrence. Pain is only an explicit call to action, unfortunately without a package insert.
Classical OUTPUT-Oriented Approaches vs. Modern Neurocentered Approaches
But let us return to the physical problems of our athletes. Classical approaches will most likely meet knee aches with therapeutic tissue treatment and measures for knee strengthening and stabilization in order to rebuild motoric and functional basic patterns. Squat problems are encountered with technique-centered measures and in case of dysfunctional abs there are highly functional exercises in accordance with the most recent know-how in abdominal function research. But do we thereby really embrace the problem in its entirety? Do we really know what’s behind the knee ache? Do we really know what the results from the MRI scans signify, and whether our exercises are actually sufficient and our approaches are actually expedient? What exactly is a “knee ache”? Why is the musculature hardened and why does my knee rotate inwards during squads? All these problems are OUTPUT-results and have to be considered as such. Behind all output occurrences are decisions, which the brain has made on the basis of the data situation in order to protect us. All measures, which solely concentrate on output, neglect the actually crucial aspects.
Opposite to the classical OUTPUT-oriented approaches, which we find almost exclusively in sports, therapy and medicine, in the future, the focus should be set on more complete, neurocentered approaches. An enhancement of the incoming signal quality and an individual improvement of the integration and interpretation of these signals/this information in the respective “old” and “new” cerebral areas should be foregrounded to thereby improve the output. The unilateral focus on output can and must not be considered detached from the “conditions” that have created it.
In the following, the research and statistics aficionados amongst you will find a few facts on output-oriented approaches, which surely sound familiar. Manual-medicinal interventions only show limited positive results; if anything, fascias can only be influenced through pressure for a short-term; stretching shows almost no effects on motion range; strength training (including functional strength training and core training) rarely has a positive effect on motion quality and specific athletic performance and can occasionally be performance reducing.
As long as we do not integrate a transparent screening of the most important brain cerebrals into sports scientific, therapeutic or medicinal studies, all of the results have to be considered with great reserve. Why something is effective or not (output) can only be understood satisfactorily from a broader perspective, which includes neuronal principles. We have to rethink our approach and stop to invariably correct deficient output via output itself!!
Hence a rather sad note: unfortunately it is impossible to show universal “neuroathletic exercises” for particular problems, which are detached from individual and situational conditions. I believe that anybody who claims different is either not being truthful or postulating from his current level of knowledge. Again a reminder: in the currently turbidly booming world of neuroscience (especially online, the spectrum ranges from amusing to unbelievably presumptuous), neuro athletic training describes a very specific field of work in competitive sports and are neither a vocational training nor a synonym for neuronally based training or exercises. As much as we would like to help you (we are often contacted on the matter): without individual, situational and problem-oriented testing we do not know exactly what in between the incoming signals, their integration and interpretation, the decision based upon them and the output has led to your current condition. The brain is a simply complex. We are not about “the one exercise” that alters the condition. Rad exercises rather exist in the world of symptom-oriented fitness, therapy and athletics, but unfortunately not in neurocentered approaches.