Should we move in a certain way?

I’m trying to do what my coach says, but I can’t…

Have you ever been told; ‘No don’t do it like that, you need to do it like this,’ but you still can’t quite get it the way you’re being told? In many circumstances, there are underlying principles that we aim to adhere to. However, in every circumstance there are outliers, parts of the puzzle that seem like they don’t fit our humanised funnel of thinking. And movement is currently a hot topic of discussion in the professional field of sports and conditioning. Now before we dig in a bit, it’s important to state that just because outliers exist, it doesn’t discount the majority of findings within research. Most observations, research and studies have flaws and outliers and yet the majority still reach the same conclusion.

Why can different people get into different positions?

The tricky part in understanding individual differences in movement is that there are many things that can affect a person’s ability to express physical tasks. We’re going to be talking about ‘movement’ today in terms of ‘range of motion’ and about how different people can get into different positions. We’ll define range of motion as it sounds, the amount of range you have in a particular motion. Now this makes sense when talking about a specific motion, such as knee flexion (bending your knee). The problem here however is that these motions never happen on their own. They are connected to a much larger system of systems, that has constant ongoing motions that all affect one another. Because knee flexion IS affected by other motions, the amount of knee flexion you can create will also be affected by the amount of hip extension (pulling your knee behind your body line) that leg is in. The more hip extension you create on that side, the less knee flexion you’ll have. If you go into hip flexion, you’ll likely be granted with more knee flexion. It’s usually a universally inverted relationship too, so the more knee extension you have, the less hip flexion you have.

What can our range limits be down to?

And there’s just one example of how one affects the other, but a great way to recognise that our specific ranges can’t really be accounted for so easily as it depends on the positions of other limbs/tension being created. How does this apply to individuals and their differences in movement? Let’s take ten people, there’s a big chance that the principle of one motion affecting the other will ring true for all ten of these people. But by how much and why is a deeper topic. We’ll continue to use knee flexion as our example. It’s likely that the cause for affecting each person’s ability to express this range of motion is antagonist tension, but where that opposing tension comes from is likely very different from person to person. For one person it might be because the bone structure of their knee joint doesn’t allow them to compress as much as the next person, who has less bone in between the joint’s connection, meaning they have more room to move. For another person it could be that they have very dense tendons which could affect their ability to be elongated. Perhaps its tendon length; shorter vs longer tendons. Perhaps it’s their brain perceiving it’s an ‘unsafe’ range of motion, so it automatically restricts that range in a conscious state through the nerve. 


And this is just to name a few. You can start to build up a picture of the complexity of the human body and why we shouldn’t funnel something as complex as movement into ‘standards’ that we’ve created based upon something we’ve seen/read/looks aesthetically pleasing. Each person is different to the next and should be treated so, many things can be changed through training and through many different methods. Just think next time about if it’s worth the training based on what the cause of the ‘problem’ might be, or if it isn’t a problem at all and if the solution is not doing it, or simply performing it differently.


Find yourself surrounded by coaches who will look at you for you, and not try to put a square box in a round hole. Find it here at our gym Lift Off, in Bishop’s Stortford.

Coach Mike