Control freak!

Yeah I was thinking of a suitable title for this post… Basically for any physical activity, especially those involving carrying a load, fast movement, etc you need to have good CONTROL of the joints and muscles which are involved. I will give some examples for the upper and lower limb.

*Upper limb: this involves the thorax, ribs, shoulder blade (scapula), arm bone, forearm, etc. In the video below, Dr Andreo Spina (chiropractor) shows EXCELLENT control of the shoulder.

As he and many others allude to, if there is poor control of motion, or insufficient motion in one of the joints, this could lead to unnecessary muscle tightness or potential strain! For activities such as hanging clothes to dry, this strain is probably not a big a problem as those who lift weights, do lot of smash (racket sports).

Now do you honestly have good control (or sufficient motion)? If not, you need to rethink whether you should do overhead lifts such as:

Overhead squat

Snatch (kettlebell fans usually use one arm at a time)

Tennis and other racket sports (serve, smash, etc)

You get the point… the situation is more complicated as it is not uncommon that one side of the body could be significantly tighter, less mobile, have poor control than the other. Here is an example of ideal symmetry, judging from the photo (incomplete information), it seems like the left and right upper limbs have fairly equal motion:


*Lower limb:

control is needed at the pelvis, hip, knee, feet, etc and it is in fact MUCH more difficult to control when you add fast movement to it (jogging, running, football, dance, etc).

I found this example of someone executing wushu with quite good control of the lower limb.

When he raises his knee above the belly button to kick, the lower back rounds slightly (can be improved); maintains good upper body alignment (no hunching) all the while he is moving and kicking.

As you can see, single leg activity is not easy. Consider the popular yoga ‘Warrior 3’ pose, well executed in the example below… even more difficult to control  when you are tired.

Sports involving running and changing direction (football, etc) is even more difficult to control the lower limb. the martial arts example below shows how difficult it is to control hip, knee, ankle and foot.

Oh yeah, even fun dance type workout (Bodyjam, Zumba, etc) could lead to knee injury if you can’t control lower limb movement, etc.

Take home message:
#1 Simplify if necessary. For gym goers, instead of attempting overhead lifts, modify the movement or use lighter weights, make smaller movements. Racket sports players can try to attempt less overhead smash, etc. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your shoulder.

For lower limb control, try taking smaller steps, reduce speed of running, jumping, changing direction, dancing, etc. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your knee, etc.

#2 Know your limits. Pros have generally been doing certain movements for a long time. Trying to imitate your favourite athlete or instructor is not always a good thing.

#3 If there is significant asymmetry (left versus right) tightness , motion, control, etc consider exercises which require simultaneous use of left and right side (barbell, chinup, pushup, etc). If you play tennis with your right hand, try practising with your left hand.
Take smaller steps, reduce speed of running, jumping, etc.

#4 Go for treatment. As always, seek treatment as soon as possible if you are injured, notice tightness that does not go away, etc.




Let’s keep it simple silly!


In the Internet age, there’s no shortage of info on the Internet about the ‘best’ way to design your training program for strength, fat loss, etc. I won’t bore you with another article or ‘secret’. Instead, I wish to highlight a few points that can help you reduce your risk of getting injured.

#1 Avoid fancy stuff

Pistols (one legged squat) and jumping to reach a box, jump down are impressive feats but could damage your knees and feet (impact force).

If you can’t stabilise yourself on the floor, it’s probably not a good idea to attempt suspension type training (eg, TRX) such as the following example.

#2 Keep expectations realistic

For those into strength training and endurance sports (marathon, triathlon, etc), the positive aspect is being able to MEASURE your performance (how many reps, kilograms lifted, minutes to complete, etc).

However, you need be realistic and not obsessed about achieving personal best and personal records. For example, a performance such as in the Crossfit video below is probably unachievable for average people.

#3 Sensible program per session

We seem to have an obsession with packing as MUCH as possible into a day in the office, gym, running on the road, etc. Whether it is ‘kiasu’ attitude (afraid to lose out) or as a consumer, perceiving that you get your money’s worth (attend as many group exercise classes since you have paid for your gym membership), etc, there’s only so much the body can handle. After that it breaks down! Think knee, shoulder, elbow wear and tear! Or worse, a heart attack while running a marathon!

Prof Stuart McGill has some comments about Crossfit (Prof McGill )

#4 Rest

You may need to rest one or more days for each day of intense physical activity. You also need some rest during your physical activity to catch your breath, etc.

#5 Stretch

While Crossfit has got a bad reputation for leading to injury, there is no denying that they do have some great ideas for improving mobility as Kevin Kula demonstrates below:

#6 Try different activities (aka cross training)

If you do predominantly strength or endurance activities, try adding or substituting with mind-body classes such as Yoga, taichi, or qigong; racket sports such as badminton, etc.

#7 Use your brain

There you go… KISS. Principle #7 reiterates the need to think rationally and not be driven by ego, emotion etc.