Think of movement as risk. Not normalcy.

Posted on October 14, 2019

(Last Updated On: October 14, 2019)

We who move people have caused an awful lot of confusion about what’s appropriate and what isn’t. To the point it’s become common to get a stick up one’s ass about “abnormal” movement.

Half the world thinks a hunchback posture means your body is terrible while half the world thinks posture is irrelevant.

There has even been a trend towards saying lifting with a rounded spine isn’t something to worry about. Or letting your knees cave in when you jump / land / squat is fine.

Inevitably, one group pulls a study or two backing up their point of view. The “lower back rounding is dangerous” group cites something showing how much more compression the discs go through, while the “lower back rounding is fine” group writes a variety of angles summed up as it’s not that simple.

Each then calls the other group a bunch of cherry picking pseudo experts and strokes themselves in grandeur.

Neither is how you should approach kinesiology.

Thinking is work!

One reason so many of us like to cite research is because it involves no thought. Find a abstract study backing up your view -which there always is- link it, “science bitch” it and move on.

Maybe this is ok with physics. With human movement, it doesn’t work well. Inanimate objects don’t have countless contradictions; humans do.

First, the fact is we, the human movement people, don’t have great research. We don’t have studies with tens of thousands of subjects. We don’t have the world’s leading scientists at the best universities with the best funding doing this work.

Second, a hallmark of human health is find what’s normal, find how people deviate from that, get those people to be more normal, voila, we have a treatment.

Kinesiology doesn’t work this way.

Get a bunch of people with knee pain? They won’t all move the same. You may be hard pressed to find any general takeaway. “30% moved this way; 20% that way; 15% this way…” doesn’t exactly give you a guiding light.

Get a bunch of people who move a certain way? They won’t all have knee pain.

There are too many variables-

  • The knee can hurt for innumerable reasons, not just your squat technique
  • Just because a person moves a certain way, doesn’t mean they move that way enough to cause an issue.
    • Some people have more robust joints than others
    • Some have higher pain thresholds
    • Some don’t exercise often enough for, say, how they squat to cause a problem.
    • Some will never exercise hard enough. They’ll never put enough weight on the bar.
  • How the hell do we quantify normal?
    • Normal movement in America sure as hell ain’t normal movement in a developing country with little to no computer access. Normal movement in 2019 wasn’t normal in 1919.
    • Our environment changes what normal movement is. If you grew up in X environment, you’ll probably have a higher tolerance than someone who is put in X environment as an adult.
      • A kid growing up at a computer will likely tolerate computer posture better than a 45 year old in 1999 who just started using a computer
      • It’s the difference between growing up running vs trying to learn to run when you’re middle aged and obese. Or growing up skate boarding vs trying to learn it at 30 years old. It hurts a lot more at 30!

Research is not going to answer much for you in this domain. Instead, we think…

What’s the upside? The downside? What risk am I willing to take? Will I be properly compensated for that risk?

“WHY would I lift with a rounded back?

What’s the benefit of doing so?

What will lifting with a rounded spine provide me I otherwise won’t get?

What’s the downside if I’m wrong about lifting with a rounded back?

Is that downside worth the potential upside?”


“Is this the human body’s natural way of doing this activity?”


“Does research say this is probably ok?”


“Does someone else, or a lot of people, do this and they’re fine?”

That is lazy thinking. Driving a car isn’t your body’s natural way of transporting itself. Eating any modern food is not how your gut evolved to digest food. Plenty of smokers are fine.

That doesn’t mean all driving is automatically awful. Or genetically modified food isn’t something we should be doing. Or you should smoke.

You can’t do,

“How should the average person do this movement?”

Because average doesn’t help when an individual is in front of you.

First, we don’t make 5’6″ inch door frames because that’s the average height of a human in America. We instead think about more than the average and make doors which accommodate more than 99% of people.

-> A Smart Car, this thing, is made for people up to 6’5″, which is well above the 99th percentile of height in America.

Second, again, in the human movement world we don’t have strong enough statistics to say much about people to begin with.

That doesn’t mean we’re hopeless. This is true of many ailments, even ones with a lot more and better research than the movement world has.

How many of us know a pregnant mother who drank, and their kid(s) are fine? I’d bet you know way more mothers who had a drink during pregnancy and their kid(s) are fine than you know of people with fetal alcohol syndrome. Yet are you going to purposely get repeatedly drunk while pregnant? No, because you’re not insane.

It’s not like we know the exact amount of drinks a mother can have…but what’s the benefit of her drinking? Is there any benefit from drinking she can’t get from another modality? (No.) What’s the downside if you’re wrong about drinking while pregnant? Catastrophe. Soooo don’t drink is the recommendation. Once we think, it’s not complicated.

The fact is you won’t find a non-drunk fitness professional who goes around suggesting their clients lift with a rounded spine. Or tells their client to hunch their back more when they sit at a desk. Or feels fine with their clients knees caving in during a squat or jump landing.

Somehow half of us will cite research saying “don’t worry about it”…”the average person is fine”…yet somehow none of us suggest doing it…somehow we think about more than the average.

In the lung cancer world, most smokers will not get cancer (some sources say over 90% of lifelong smokers won’t get lung cancer!)…but we’re coherent enough to realize many who get lung cancer are smokers, soooo, you know, don’t smoke.

Because what’s the benefit of smoking? Are those benefits unobtainable without smoking? What’s the downside if smoking IS dangerous for you? There’s no upside that can’t be attained without smoking, but there’s enormous potential downside with smoking. Who cares if we can quantify it exactly? Throwing smoke in your lungs can clearly be damaging. When it comes to playing Russian roulette, do you really care whether there are 6 or 100 chambers in the gun, when you have the option of not playing??

-> This is often when lazy thinking will retort with “Well, just don’t get in a car then either, right? You could get in a car accident tomorrow.” No. Getting in a car does have upside. Upside you can’t receive otherwise. You ARE compensated for that risk. Your life can literally transform, positively, by whether you have access to a vehicle.

In the movement world, most who have their knee cave in will not tear their ACL. In fact, the number of ACLs torn relative to the number of times knees have caved inward rounds to zero. It is an extremely rare event in that context.

But we can think enough to realize many who blow their ACL will do so when the knee caves in. That any benefit of letting the knees turn in is likely outweighed by the risks. That merely watching a knee cave in a certain degree makes many of us nauseous….soooo, don’t let your knees cave when you squat.

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