Nervous System Controls Range of Motion

Categories: Blog Aug 27, 2018

And now, a guest post co-created by OS Instructor and brawny Physique Model, Mark Shropshire and OS Master Instructor and Monster Expert, Dr. Mike Musselman:

In a conversation that I had with one of my personal training clients, it became apparent to me that I had not done a good job explaining to her how the RESETS are supposed to work.  She was complaining of lower back pain that had persisted for the past few weeks.  I asked her if she was doing her RESETS on a regular basis.

“More or less every day” she replied.

“How do they feel?” I asked.


And there was my answer.  My next question was “Does it hurt when you do them sometimes?”

“I guess a little bit, but I can still do them”

It was at that point that we stopped what we were doing and I hastily scribbled the above diagram on a whiteboard for her.  And as we were going over it together it occurred to me that maybe it would be beneficial to others to go over this component of Original Strength……DON’T MOVE INTO PAIN.

Pain changes the way you move – literally changing motor patterns in the brain. Activation of type IV mechanoreceptors AKA nociceptors causes reflex muscle spasms of the injured/painful area.  This leads to decreased motion and altered motor patterns. The opposite goal of what we are shooting for in OS.  Increased Nociception also leads to sympathetic nervous system activity which leads to sympathetic mediate muscle spasm which decreases blood flow to working muscles which decreases oxygen and nutrient transport in and waste transport out of the muscles.  Increased sympathetic activity also means increase cortisol levels and increased cortisol levels inhibit neuroplastic changes in the motor cortex which means your RESETS are less effective at resetting and wiring in better movement patterns.  Also, remember pain is a cortical response to nociception (ie emotional response) that has reached a threshold and one is now consciously aware of, nociception is actual tissue damage/stress that is injurious. The previous actions mentioned can be taking place with sub-threshold levels of nociception which is another reason diaphragmatic breathing, especially through the nose, is so important to help maintain a better balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

If these altered motor patterns are repeated often enough – they began to stick. This is termed a movement compensation.  Over time these compensations can become the “new movement reality” to the nervous system. Literally, the compensations have been repeated so often to the exclusion of other patterns that they are now “normal” to the individual.  Think about this….statistically, there are more overweight and obese people in the United States than there are non-overweight and obese.  Just because its “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing.

OS RESETS are not immune to this.  If you are moving into pain with a RESET, then it is no longer a RESET.  It is a painful movement, plain and simple.  If you are moving around a painful area of a RESET, then you are compensating for something.  The answer may be to regress the RESET – make it more achievable.

Here are some easy things you can do to regress the OS Big 5 RESETS:

Breathing:  Make your body “shorter” by bringing your knees to your chest – think fetal position. Fold your tongue and place it on the roof of your mouth – it can make belly breathing even easier for some people.

Head Nods / Rotations: Lay with your head in contact with the floor and simply tuck your chin down towards your throat.  Move your eyes up and down and side to side – have a focal point.  Don’t forget that breathing and head and eye movement are RESETS that you can do inside of all other RESETS.

Rolling: Egg Rolls are a good place to start, but for some, Half Rolls do the trick.  Remember that you can insert head nods and rotations, eye movements and belly breathing at any “sticky” part of a roll to help smooth it out.

Rocking:  Reducing the range of motion is a good place to start.  One of my other favorites is to hold a position, either deep in the sit portion of the rock or out in front and add ….. You guessed it, head nods + belly breathing.  Try adding a breath cycle while looking up and then again while looking down.

Crawling: Reducing the range of motion of the hands and legs, what I call not taking such a big step.  Changing knee position, either wider or narrower.

Cross Crawls of any variety are a good substitute for crawling if you can’t get down on the floor. “Elbow to knee” cross crawl – don’t forget to reach back with the hand / extend the opposite shoulder

“Wrist to knee” cross crawl – just an easier version of the above picture.

Where do all these wonderful ideas come from?  How about we dust off the workshop manual and take a look at what is in there.  Everything you need to “become a chef in your own kitchen” (as Tim would say) is there.

Let’s not forget that speed is a load to the nervous system – it sometimes hides compensations for instabilities.  Slow things down – be absolutely present in the movement and pay attention to subtleties – your body may be trying to tell you something!

Understand that there is no substitute for sound medical advice and if you are in pain despite your best efforts not to be – reach out and get help.  Always remember that OS is not a substitute for medical advice.  However, when the body begins to move the way it was intended (I am speaking from experience here), sometimes wonderful things can happen.

To learn more about Mark, check out his sweet bio here.

To learn more about Dr. Mike and his Monster tracking skills, check out his Moments here:

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