Pain-Free Programming – Watch out for rabbit holes

Written by: Anthony Carey

Sequencing of exercises is a critical part of how we design our corrective exercise programs and instrumental in what we teach in the Pain Free Movement Specialist.

From the feedback that I’ve received in the 18 years or so that I’ve been teaching principles of the Function First Approach – programming is always the most challenging aspect. Too many fitness pros go down one of two “rabbit holes”:

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  1. Programs built around giving symptomatic relief, which is clearly outside of our scope of practice. For example, the client whose knee is painful is given all “corrective” exercises focused on the knee. The inherent risk in this for fitness pros is that you have indirectly (and possibly unintentionally) made a medical decision because your intervention is based on pathology you have determined existed. Unless you are working in a post rehab capacity (different paradigm) with directives from a licensed professional you are treading on thin ice.
  2. Programs that follow a linear progression=”if this than that” or “first this than that” do not address nor acknowledge the diversity of the human body or human experience. Examples might be mobility always before stability or activate than integrate.

If working with the human body was that easy, programming from either of those rabbit holes would work every time. I wish it were that easy. We understand that programming, especially for the chronic pain client is difficult. Biomechanics is a piece of the pie and strategic movement is critical to success. And as movement professionals, that is our tool of the trade. But there is so much to the choice of the tools and the delivery of those tools that make or break a successful program for the chronic pain client.

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Movement is more than motion for the pain sufferer. It should be strategic, efficient, non-provocative & confidence building.

The follow up programming is no different. We change our client’s exercise program every two weeks. The major objectives do not change, but the variability of the input via the exercises is a critical piece of the process toward meeting those objectives. The role of variability in the corrective exercise domain cannot be underestimated.

When exercises are of limited biomechanical, neurological and physiological demand for the purpose of influencing the quality of motion, variable learning opportunities are necessary. Waiting for complete mastery of any exercise may actually slow the process toward the long-term goal.

The real goal is not to get better at exercise “x” or “y” or to strengthen this or lengthen that. No. The real goal is to assist the client to move better and be prepared for as much physical demand to the body that they may encounter.

There is a process to this and understanding the pain experience for the client is a necessity. Marrying the role of biomechanics with the neuroscience and psychology of pain are pillars of the Pain Free Movement Specialist curriculum.

Question: Does our approach to programming help? Tell us your programming strategy. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Written by:
Anthony Carey – Function First CEO
Movement Masterminds Education Faculty
Inventor of the Core Tex