Re-examining movement from the ground up

Appreciating the fact that no functional action takes place in isolation, and is rather an integrated reaction dependent upon the actions of synergistic parts, will enable us to enhance clients’ motion, says movement expert Chuck Wolf.

Principles of human movement include overcoming gravity: existence within a tri-planar environment is influenced by ground reaction forces, gravity, and the control necessary to decelerate mass and momentum. In traditional methods of training, the spirit of pure human motion has been lost as the focus has been on force production (commonly referred to as concentric contraction) within an isolated environment, i.e. selectorised machinery. Somewhere within this paradigm, momentum developed a bad reputation and came to be considered bad form or ‘cheating’. In actuality, all muscles and joints work in three planes of motion, and the myofascia lengthens in all three planes to control momentum and gravity in order to produce useful output. Thoughtfully designed exercise movement patterns, therefore, should control body mass and momentum and allow the body the freedom to react and control the momentum by eccentrically loading prior to concentrically unloading.

With these principles in mind, functional movement patterns undergo a tri-phasic action that decelerates motion, momentarily stabilising the body prior to accelerating a motion. The movement pattern is continuous; the action is not held, as doing so would defeat the concept of muscle elongation, energy storage and transformation into force production (shortening). The interesting principle about movement is that muscle and joint actions consist of the same tri-planar motions, regardless of the individual’s age, sex or ability. What changes is the speed, velocity and amplitude of the motion. If this principle is understood, then human motion can be enhanced by allowing the body to build on its successes.

These principles and concepts suggest that the body is an integrated matrix of tissue that is dependent upon adjacent tissues and other regions to accomplish a goal or related task. So, why is it that when injury or tissue dysfunction occurs, we look at the site of the injury rather than assess other regions of the body where the limitations of motion may reside? The injury is the symptom, not the problem. We must understand how the myofascial matrix and the tensegrity (tensional integrity) model of fascia react to the compression and elongated tensions that balance the body and result in useful, effective, and economical movement patterns. Yet, this approach to appreciating body motions is dependent upon our understanding of integrated reactions from the foot up through the body.

To put this in perspective, the foot has 33 joints, 24 muscles, and 26 bones. There are tremendous implications within each joint motion of the foot, but if we were to be concerned with each joint motion, we would need a textbook dedicated to foot biomechanics to appreciate the intricate chain reaction of the foot. Yet, the foot has been greatly neglected and misunderstood within the fitness industry. By studying this region, fitness professionals are able to ascertain whether a movement pattern appears to be ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, and to create strategies that enable the foot to facilitate enhanced health, wellbeing and human movement. For example, I work with many clients/patients with back pain. It has been my experience that the majority of these people possess similar limitations in one or more of these key movement regions:

  1. They have limited dorsiflexion. This does not allow adequate loading of the legs, hips or back, causing excessive stress to the lumbar spine.
  2. They lack hip motion, especially in the frontal and transverse planes. In order to gain rotation in the hip, the hip must adduct. When a person has limited frontal plane motion, the back compensates for this movement dysfunction.
  3. They are tight in the thoracic spine, especially in the transverse plane. The most mobile regions of the body are the pelvis and thoracic spine. If either or both regions become limited in motion, the lumbar spine compensates for the lack of motion, excessive stress ensues, and back pain occurs.

Even though I have observed these maladies, this only explains the ‘what’ with the body, not the ‘why’. When we are able to understand what causes these issues, we can be intuitive in our programming and create training environments in which our clients can reach their full potential.

Isolation vs. Integration

The personal training industry has two firm schools of thought regarding integrated training versus isolated training – which camp are you in?

This year’s PT Breakfast at FILEX 2012, ‘The great debate: Isolation vs. Integration’ tackles the issue head-on. In this lively debate, some of the best in the business argue the virtues of their preferred training approach, and compare training philosophies and methodologies that can sometimes seem at odds with one another. Attendees can join chairperson Mark Davis and the expert panel as they duke it out over bacon and eggs. Plus, you can get involved in the debate as the floor is opened to questions.

Venue: The Star Room – IMAX Theatre Complex, Darling Harbour. 
Cost: $99 per person OR included in FILEX 2012 PT Gold Pass registration

For more information and to register, visit


A message from Chuck...

It is with great anticipation that I look forward to being in beautiful Australia, seeing many of my wonderful friends, and meeting many new ones at the FILEX Convention. I feel extremely privileged to be part of a world class list of outstanding presenters. I look forward to sharing with – and learning from – delegates at my sessions and Pre-Convention workshop. These sessions will allow us, as PTs, to review how we have been taught to train and condition the body, and compare and contrast it with how the body actually moves. I look forward to seeing many of you there.


Chuck Wolf, MSc (Exercise Physiology)
As one of the industry's top educators, Chuck brings a fresh approach to studying and training the body. He is the Director of Human Motion Associates, based in Orlando, Florida, and is a Fellow of Applied Functional Science with the Gray Institute. Chuck consults with a wide range of clients, from those seeking rehabilitation to high level professional athletes.



FILEX 2012 provides a fantastic opportunity to learn from Chuck’s incredibly in-depth understanding of functional training and human motion. Choose from:

  • Training movements, not muscles ● A1H
  • Anatomy of a lunge ● A3I
  • Flexibility highways in motion ● B2G
  • Put your best foot forward ● B3H
  • Bridging the gap: blending traditional exercise with functional movement patterns ● B5C
  • Myofascial matrix IL ● C2I
  • Movement 360: a new perspective on human motion ● Pre-Convention workshop: Thursday 26 April

For more information on Chuck’s sessions see pages 8, 23, 25, 28, 30, 31 and 33 of the printed FILEX brochure, or check out the fully interactive site at where you can also register for the convention and the fully comprehensive PT Gold Pass.