For as long as I can remember, the optimal movement has aimed for neutral position. The neutral position has become the standard, the ultimate goal to strive for, for everyone. We aim to provide most advantageous pressure, load and force distribution to the body by arranging the different body parts in optimal relation to each another.
The challenge with the neutral position is how to define it? What is the best position to suit all? Issue number one: what fits all, in fact, fits no one. This has been noted in relation to our position and movement as well. Nowadays the more appropriate term is the neutral zone. It is accepted that we all are individuals and our body type and proportions of different body parts vary a great deal.
The neutral zone is much better. It defines a range of positions, which are most likely favourable to our bodies. The neutral zone provides us with the basis for evaluating the position and movement of the body while leaving room for different body types. When we aim to move in the neutral zone, our purpose is to make sure we move in the safest and most effective zone possible. We will have our myofascial units in the optimal force production length, contributing to force production and safety.
The question arises, though. In everyday life, are we constantly in the neutral zone, while we work, move and exercise. No, we are not!
Then why aim for neutral as we exercise? The reason is simple. It is very prudent to learn the safest and most effective movement pattern. We plant in our brain the ideal way to move. As mentioned, we do this to minimize injury and to maximize force production and endurance.
Once we have learned how to operate in the neutral zone, it is time to aim for infinity and beyond, even to the point when the risk of injury becomes a factor. For we are bound to visit that point anyhow, whether we like it or not. As we casually stroll along the streets, we miss the pothole the rain has carved in the asphalt. Or a passer-by tackles us by accident at a crowded corner. We play basketball in our backyard and jump, as we shoot for that three-pointer. But we don’t land on the even ground, instead, we land on our friend’s foot. I’m sure you get the point.
One must be ready to adapt to situations that challenge us outside of the ideal plans and movement patterns. Lucky for us, our bodies have an astonishingly accurate and fast feedback system, accompanied with ingenious response system, allowing us to react fast in unexpected situations. The response system operates on several levels. Part of the responses travel via the brain, but this route is very slow, for the brain is relatively far away. Part of the responses comes from our spinal cord, where the message just drops by and is immediately turned into action in the myofascia. This system is called the stretch-shortening cycle. There is also speculation of a local model sensing the changes in position and movement, whereby the signal is carried between different layers of fascia, causing and immediate action in situations when there is a danger of overload. The last model needs to be studied further before its existence can be verified. But as my mentor and teacher James Earls often says: “If you are calling your neighbour, why would the call be forwarded from Siberia?”.
EASY DOES IT
As we move and exercise, we are every day, again and again far from the neutral zone. Therefore, on top of training how to hold the neutral position, we should also train outside of the neutral zone. This will slowly, little by little, strengthen our structures to sustain positions, which would otherwise cause overload to our myofascial structures. If we never leave the neutral zone, our structures may never adapt to function outside of it.
When training outside the neutral zone, in order for not to train for injury, we must advance with slow and careful progression. We must give the structures appropriate time to adapt to overload and get stronger. Building the body’s resilience outside of the neutral zone is like building a safety net, creating room for error. It is like insurance, when the accident happens, the consequences will be limited. However, building the optimal movement patterns is always the starting point. Movement in the neutral zone is the fundamental basis, which one must learn and apply, before progressing outside of it.
Later, in the practical part of the book, selected movements are presented with easy to follow instructions and progression both inside and outside of the neutral zone. (