Our bodies love connection. We understand stability well and we seek it out in our movement. If you’re a coach, you may have noticed that if you ask a large group to hold the bottom position of an air squat for any period of time, almost 100 percent of the athletes will clasp their hands. Maybe it’s coincidence, or maybe this is the body telling us something.
Let me use another example. Take any weak or seemingly immobile athlete and ask him or her to squat freely. If you notice range-of-motion issues or common faults like loss of lumbar position or knee-tracking issues, you may deduce that this person is simply not strong or mobile enough to squat. However, give them a light weight plate or kettlebell to hold out in front and you may find that that same athlete is almost instantly able to achieve better form. Things like depth, posture and knee tracking can improve almost magically.
Or are we witnessing the natural desire our bodies have for points of contact? Think about this same concept with even more obvious examples like the difference in difficulty of a free-standing handstand versus one with heels touching the wall. Obvious? Sure. Helpful? If you dive into what this could mean for other movements, most definitely!
Carl Paoli first turned me on to this idea. He used it to explain another seemingly obvious human habit: sleep. The reason we sleep lying down speaks to this very concept. Lying flat offers up virtually the most points of contact our body can find. When you’re extremely tired, like I often am, you may hug a pillow because it seems to feel more relaxing. Again, this just means more points of contact for your body and less work for your system.
Witnessing and connecting these simple ideas with the help of a nudge from coach Paoli, I’ve viewed this as a first-stop option when coaching athletes with movement issues. Whether this means having an athlete with hip issues squat to a box for a variation of the Bear Complex or allowing an athlete to drag his/her heel on the floor on the upswing of a pistol, adding points of contact is a miracle worker for scaling movement.
What are some ways that you’ve used this principle to accomplish movements that are otherwise seemingly impossible?