Whitney Reese sat down again to discuss more on the subject of quality movement in fitness. Last time we talked about what good movement is, how people can recognize how well or poorly they’re moving, how people can improve their movement, and how coaches should be able to help their clients with movement. If you missed Part 1, read watch now.
On this video, Whitney discusses:
- What Open vs Closed Kinetic Chain movement is and when to use it
- What Open vs Closed Feedback Loops are to give you inputs to your movement so that you can improve movement more effectively
- If you can or cannot true test for “good” movement
- Why many professional athletes are “professional” (a bit of a teaser!)
What are open chain kinetic movements?
Whitney defined open kinetic chain movements as:
When your distal segments are not fixed
If you’re like me, you may need some help with what that means haha! Whitney went on to explain that distal segment is your foot or your hand and fixed really just means that the foot or hand is “locked’ in place - perhaps on the ground (think squatting).
An open kinetic chain movement example would be a seated knee extension - as compared to the closed kinetic chain movement of the squat. It’s open because your distal segment, your foot in this case, is moving through space.
Why use a closed chain vs an open chain movement?
Whitney explained that many coaches and physical therapists choose closed chain movements because they inherently remove pressure from the areas that are exposed in an open chain movement. For example, instead of doing Dumbbell (DB) bench presses or DB external rotations, a coach may have somebody do an FLR (front leaning rest) so that the shoulder rotator cuff has a reduced risk of injury - or further injury - while you develop strength, stability, and endurance.
If you cannot control your shoulder or scapula in a closed chain environment, you are at a much higher risk of injury if you try to “Test” the shoulder in an open chain environment.
As you prove that you can control something such as your shoulders/scapulas in a closed chain environment, you would then graduate to an open chain environment, but you can always continue to include closed chain movements because they may be beneficial for ongoing strength, stability, and endurance.
What is an open feedback loop in movement?
Please refer back to the first blog/video for a more lengthy conversation on this topic, but Whitney touched on it quickly again here - Whitney's Big Dawg Blog On Movement - Part 1:
An open feedback loop in movement is when the brain sends inputs to the body to process and do the movement, but there is no input that comes back to the brain to “close” the loop
If you look at a closed loop, you would often look at “slower” movements such as squatting. As you are physically doing a squat, your body receives feedback during the squat so that you can adjust/change what your body is doing to move.
Back to the open feedback loop, you would look at something such as kicking a soccer ball. Once you kick that ball, you cannot change what you do after you see (ie “receive feedback”) the ball fly through the air.
How do you combine closed kinetic chain movements with closed feedback loop environments?
Whitney gave a wonderful example to illustrate the power of using kinetic chain thinking and feedback loop thinking to benefit yourself or your clients.
Whitney give this example
- You want to strengthen your shoulder - they have had an injury to their rotator cuff (cough cough for many fitness athletes)
- Instead of doing pressure cooker open chain movements, you do an FLR
- Whilst (I hope you appreciate that distinguished vocabulary haha) doing the FLR, the coach taps on your elbow to bombard your system with additional inputs for your brain to figure out for itself how to properly execute the movement
- You’ve just used closed chain kinetic movement + closed feedback loop inputs to build strength, stability, and endurance in an otherwise vulnerable shoulder
You would get better and better in a closed chain, closed feedback environment, then you can progress your movement (only as you deserve to with quality) until ultimately you’ve earned the right to do open chain, open feedback movements on that shoulder.
Whitney then mentioned that we, as humans, begin in a closed kinetic chain - crawling - environment until we earn the right to walk. That progression doesn’t go away in terms of how we generally learn best, even as adults. This is why PT’s so often bring people back to that closed chain, closed feedback environment to begin to fix pain.
How do you determine “good” movement quantifiably?
Whitney mentioned that this is a very challenging issue for anybody to describe and solve for. The reason it’s so challenging is because if you look at something like testing people for whether they have a virus or not, you can test their blood (among other things) to actually see if the virus is there or not.
With a squat, on the other hand, there is nothing to test for. There is no gold standard to test against - what is good vs bad?
You can’t do it with a squat because you cannot confirm with an anatomical test. Blood tests, genetic tests, MRI’s, etc do not tell you an answer about the anatomy for what is “good.” Whitney said that the gold standard for understanding an rotator cuff tear is to scalpel your way in to physically look at the rotator cuff. Good luck knifing somebody half way through a squat lol. And, if you can see it, you’d have to go off of a standard for size and type of people which would make it just that much more complex.
Whitney went on to say that scientists agree on the fact that there is a gap between health and performance, and because there's a gap you need to look at the function and task of the movement they are trying to do to determine what good even is.
**This unlocked such a big point for me - this is a huge reason WHY giving movement feedback (open and closed loop feedback, not videos haha) is so beneficial to everybody getting better at movement more consistently and efficiently.
What makes athletes so good at their sports
No doubt about it that many hours of practice, competition, training, visualizing, etc...is important for high level athletes, but Whitney brought another perspective to this conversation.
She discussed how many professional athletes who are able to play more than 1 sport professionally aren’t just great at 2 sports, they are masters of movement patterns that correlate from the 2 sports that play at that high level. They master how to learn a motor skill, so they can take that skill of learning and apply it to a similar sport. It may look like they’re learning it faster, but they’ve simply mastered how to learn.
And with that, I know what Whitney and I will have to speak about next time!
Thanks so much for reading.