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Episode 139: Getting Smarter about Strength: Coordination

Video Highlights

- How coordination impacts strength.
- SAID principle is always at work.
- The basics of motor coordination.

Today we’re looking at our second brain-body loop to help us understand how to become smarter for becoming stronger.

In our prior videos we’ve talked about how becoming stronger can lower our overall body threat. Whenever we lower our overall body threat, we can get out of pain and we can perform better.

Video 1: https://zhealtheducation.com/episode-137-strength-and-the-threat-bucket/
Video 2: https://zhealtheducation.com/episode-138-getting-smarter-about-strength-neural-drive/

Now from there we’ve said, hey, we have three primary brain loops that are involved in helping us become stronger and by understanding these we can understand better how to modify our current approach to training in order to achieve better results.

Our first loop that we talked about we mentioned this idea of neural drive. That my frontal lobe has to send a signal through my spinal cord to talk to the muscles of the body in order get them to contract hard and create tension.

That was loop number one. Today we’re talking about loop number two which is one that I find super interesting and super important.

Once again I’m going to start off by drawing my goofy brain. Today though, I’m going to add in a little section down here, that little colored-in spot right there. We’re going to call that the cerebellum which is the little brain that sits to the back of the big brain.

We’re going to put the spinal cord in and once again I will go with my award winning hand. All right.

Now, here’s the deal. Our second brain-body loop is not about neural drive. It is about coordination. It’s really tough to be strong if you’re not coordinated. This is going to be very important going forward.

Once again, because we’re trying to get smarter about, hey, how do I change or alter what I’m doing in the gym or not doing in the gym in order to get better performance out of my body? We are talking about a coordination loop.

In previous Z-Health videos, we’ve talked about what we call Neuro 101 and it’s this idea that the human nervous system, which is control of everything, works in feedback loops, what are called feed-forward and feedback loops.

Now I’m going to give you a very simple approach here.

If I want to say, “Hey, I want to open and close my hand really quickly, that requires a little bit of coordination. The way that is going to work, the initial command to make the hand open and close quickly is going to originate in what’s called the motor cortex, motor being movement.

The motor cortex is going to send a signal like we talked about in the neural drive video, that’s going to go down through the spinal cord. It’s then going to go out to the muscle fibers in the hand to cause them to contract and then relax in succession.

That’s the coordination aspect.

Here’s what’s really interesting. Whenever we send that initial signal starting down to the muscle fibers, another signal also originates at basically the same time. Now, and this is where it gets a little complicated so you might want to draw this out with me.

The second signal is actually going to go through what’s called the pons and also this thing in your brain called the olive and that signal is actually going to go to the cerebellum.

It’s going to tell the cerebellum what’s about to happen.

What’s fascinating to me about this is … so it got loop one, loop two. The blue is the imagined movement or the planned movement. The red is the actual movement.

Now we’re going to go … I’m kind of out of colors here so I’m going to just use the red, I’m going to keep going with the red. As I send my signal to my hand to contract, the hand’s going to start contracting but it’s also going to now make a loop and it’s going to send signals back up to the cerebellum.

What the cerebellum’s going to do, the cerebellum is going to compare what’s actually happening with what was planned.

If there’s a problem … Let’s say I told my hand, “Hey, hand. I want you to open and close quickly, make sure that the thumb is involved.” That’s what my frontal lobe is telling my hand to do. But instead I do this.

My cerebellum will recognize and understand that the thumb is not involved. It will then send a signal … so we’ll go back to our blue. It’s going to now send a signal back up to the frontal lobe to say, “Hey, the thumb’s not involved. Send some more signals to the thumb.”

Now, this is the basics of motor coordination. Why this is super important to us … If you remember we talked about four primary factors when it comes to building strength.

We talked about creating force, which is the neural drive that’s the tension aspect.

We talked about endurance, how long do I have to create the contractions. The speed of the contractions but I also mentioned the vector or angle.

The vector or angle is really about coordination. Whenever we look at our traditional forms of strength training … If I go into a gym and I’m doing a bench press or an overhead press or a dead lift or a squat or whatever, while they are complicated movements, they are a little bit more simple than maybe making a circle.

Does that make sense to everybody?

If you can think about it from that perspective, what we can do is we can begin to gauge the coordination challenge of strength work based off how challenging this loop is.

Now, once again your brain is so smart. We keep talking about this idea of the SAID Principle which is we’re going to get better at exactly what we practice.

If you’ve been doing the same forms and same types of exercises for 20 years, you’re probably really, really good at them. If you have pain that has never healed, if you’ve plateaued in your performance, one of the questions is, is one of your threats may be a lack of coordination.

Meaning do you need greater or different types of strength challenges in order to improve the activity of this brain-body loop.

This is the second of our brain-body loops that we wanted to discuss to help us become smarter about becoming stronger.

In our final video what we’re going to discuss is one additional brain-body loop that is highly neglected but absolutely vital to become stronger and get the great benefits of decreased pain and improved performance.

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