Never Put Fitness on Top of Dysfunction

“If a pro team recruits you to make money for them, and you perform very well, but you get injured the first time you get in the field, you’re not a good investment.” ~Gray Cook, PT, co-founder of Functional Movement Systems

Are athletes who are strong and fast considered to be fit? Is fitness an indicator of how well we move and the risk of injury?

Your risk of injury is determined by how well you move, not your physical fitness.

We often define fitness by our body fat percentage, BMI, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol. It is very possible to have people who are physically fit and cannot move well and those who are not fit and move very well. This is because fitness does not always address the neural aspect of movement and human behavior. In order for us to produce quality strength, endurance, speed, and power, we must first have quality movement patterns. Thus, being overweight does not always equate to having poor movement, as demonstrated by Sammo Hung, one of the many legendary martial artists and well-known actor and film director in Hong Kong.

Mobility and stability are the foundations of movement. Mobility implies that your freedom of movement without restrictions and pain. Do not confuse this with flexibility, which refers to one joint moving in one plane of motion in isolation with the rest of the body. Stability refers to motor control, your ability to control movement. This also connects with your breathing pattern. How you breathe while you move dictates your stability and mobility.

Like a dance couple, these two always work together to create harmonious movement patterns. If you ever watch “Dancing With the Stars” or a classic Jackie Chan kung fu movie from the late 1970s, you would see the beauty of mobility and stability in action. The strength, balance, grace, and power of the movements are based on these two factors.

This video demonstrates an example of how two dancers with different body shape and size can have their own grace and patterns.

However, many people assume that to become more fit or stronger, they have to run longer or add more weight to a movement pattern. For example, if you cannot perform a lunge well and you frequently lose your spinal alignment, adding more weight onto your movement will not improve your pattern. Could you get stronger by doing so? Yes, you will get stronger, but in a wrong way. Your brain and body adapts to the load and produce compensations to maintain balance. This is why many athletes and gym-goers get tendonitis, ligament tears, and muscle strains. Their strength and endurance exceed their ability to move, their stability and mobility. In other words, they have enough strength to blow out or wear out their own joints.

The biggest mistake many coaches and trainers–including myself when I started in the industry over ten years ago–make is that we emphasize on quantity to improve quality when it should be the other way around. Once we establish movement QUALITY, then we can explore quantity–strength, speed, endurance, power; all the good and fun stuff.

Just remember, while you increase quantity, maintain your quality.

For your own movement screening, please contact Nick at 858.722.5216 or email him at


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