Move More, Move Better, Move Smarter
By Chris Carlsen
Move More, Move Better, Move Smarter
As you read in my previous posts (Somatics and Fitness and Heart Rate and Motor Efficiency), somatic movement plays an important role in my training philosophy and methodology. In this post, I wish to highlight the science behind the principle that makes Somatics so effective: Pandiculation.
Pandiculation may appear to be stretching, but in fact, it is not. The act of pandiculation entails resetting muscle length and regaining neurological control of muscles. It also reeducates all muscle movements: concentric, isometric and eccentric, therefore allowing the brain to regain voluntary control over muscular movements. This, in turn, increases muscle length and promotes flexibility. While pandiculating, a strong signal is sent to the sensory motor cortex, which in turn reboots the movement function of muscles and allows for greater sensation, motor control, balance, proprioception and coordination. Eccentric control is the key to restoring muscle length. We also do not want to force the range of motion and should instead strive for a nice, smooth movement. Somatics involves pandiculating through a series of movement patterns, which will lengthen our muscles each time we complete the pattern. When our nervous systems sense all the muscles working together in an appropriate fashion, a greater range of motion is permitted. Pandiculating should not be confused with stretching. If we try to stretch past are comfort level , we will trigger the stretch reflex. Within the stretch reflex, muscles do not communicate with each other synergistically and the muscle just tightens up again upon resuming an activity.
A large part of the brain is devoted to movement,coordination and balance. When we throw a ball, swing a bell or sprint, billions of cells are processing input from the outside world. The chemicals transmitted from the brain make contact with the environment and receive stimulation from the external world. In the case of babies, their world is an endless place of discovery and movement. Every cell is alive. I found that the power of Somatic Exercises allows us to return to the rediscoveries common during the infantile state, resulting from exploration of movement on the floor as we did when we were babies. Going back to this primal position allows us to reconnect with movement capacities that we lost over the course of our development. We are reeducating sensory motor movement without the stress of gravity or body-weight. This factor is important in creating awareness of our bodies and to reverse sensory motor amnesia, wherein we fail to remember how a muscle should move or operate. And, as with everything in fitness, breathing guides each somatic movement. As I discussed in my blog covering heart rate, the lower our heart rates are, the greater our motor awareness.This increased awareness allows us to pick up little “hiccups” or inefficiencies within our patterns and are easily discerned (think of a record skipping).
Somatic training has important implications for my method of acquiring easy strength. Sometimes slowing down the tempo to implement changes and rebuild a client’s speed and strength, but with better control, is required. I personally practice Somatics on my off days from training, followed by some mobility work and locomotion drills (such as carioca, skipping, bear crawls). My control during these latter activities is enhanced by performing Somatics beforehand. This not only aids in recovery,but allows me to feel the true resting length of my muscles the day after a weight workout and gives me an indication of my form. I can also use Somatics before a workout to acclimate my body to movement and restore my resting muscular length before lifting (especially if I feel I slept wrong). If you plan on using these techniques before a workout, just make sure you do some swings after, which will reactivate the nervous system.
Interested in Somatic training? Have back or neck pain ?Want to learn more? My teacher Martha Peterson has great resources you can use at home.