Knowledge of muscles can inform your teaching
In my last article, I pointed out the importance of knowing your muscles. In this article what I’d like to do is share some examples of how I use my knowledge of muscles to help students and to help you understand how to use the same information. By knowledge of muscles, I’m talking about where they attach and what action they create.
When students or other teachers ask me about a particular problem or technique, my mind starts to process what is being described. I think about what I know about the posture and what it is the student or teacher is after. In other words, what is it they are trying to fix, achieve, or just understand more clearly?
Questions to consider
My mind very quickly asks questions such as:
- What action is being performed? Is it one that requires strength or flexibility?
- If it’s strength, which muscles contract to make that action happen?
- If it’s length that’s needed, which muscles restrict that action?
- Does it look like the strength or flexibility is present in other “similar” postures?
- If there is pain, which muscles are involved in that action that could contribute to it?
Many of the answers to these questions start to create a general picture of what is going on. They also allow me to remove extraneous information. In other words, if it appears to be a strength issue and the movement is clear, there are only a certain number of muscles that contribute to that action. That list pops up in my head and then at least I have a starting point for instruction.
If it’s a flexibility thing, the list is, in a sense, the opposite. For example, let’s say the action is flexion of the hip. I will then have a list of muscles that are extensors of the hip joint. Those are the muscles that restrict flexion of the hip. That list is useful because then I can point it out to the student. That teaches the student something about, not just inform the posture they’re asking about, but also other postures that need that same kind of flexibility.
A knowledge of muscles helps in understanding injury
This is the same process I use when someone describes an injury. Unless it is a sharp pain in a very small area, I typically default to assuming that there is some sort of muscular dysfunction. This is a topic that could be an article all by itself. For the moment, what I mean is that the muscle is sufficiently dysfunctional (for any number of reasons) that it is causing pain in the person asking the question.
Not always, but a very common cause of muscular dysfunction is overuse. When a muscle gets used repetitively it is possible that it gets hypertonic, lacks sufficient blood flow, or is experiencing other low-level dysfunctions that can produce pain. In order to determine which muscles may be dysfunctioning, you need to know which muscles are involved in a particular action. If you haven’t learned your muscles, how would you know where to start with that process?