Whether training for health, general fitness or athletic performance, movement quality should be a priority. Quality movement is the precursor to quality training and quality training leads to you becoming stronger and more athletic.
In the pursuit of more strength, more speed, more power or whatever element of fitness is being trained for, there is often a lot of deliberation over the intricacies of program design such as how much weight should be lifted, for how many reps, how many sets, how many times per week and so on and so forth.
However, to me, many who sweat over these details are missing the most important aspect of athletic performance training, the component that will play a bigger role in an athlete’s long-term success than slight differences in programming: Movement Quality.
You could have the best program in the world, or be lifting heavier weights than you’ve ever been able to, but if you perform a movement or exercise poorly, at best you won’t get the most out of the exercise and at worst you’ll injure yourself, particularly if the movement involves lifting weights.
I’m not suggesting that lifting heavy weights is a bad idea, nor am I trying to discourage anyone from pushing themselves to lift more weight or do more repetitions. What I am saying is that movement quality shouldn’t be sacrificed in the pursuit of ‘more’ when training for athletic performance — a movement performed well with less weight and/or less repetitions will do an athlete more good than a badly performed movement with heavier weight and/or more repetitions.
What does ‘Movement Quality’ mean?
In a strength and conditioning context, movement quality essentially refers to your technique when performing an exercise.
More technically speaking, movement quality, or your technique, is the visual representation of your conscious motor control, which involves the interaction of your musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Basically, your brain, your spinal cord, your bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments work together and the output is movement.
When training for athletic performance we’re interested in the quality of the output — are you moving optimally and in a productive way or is the way you’re moving producing less than optimal output or even potential for injury.
The more optimally one is moving, the higher level of performance they will be able to tap in to.
The benefits of good movement include:
Enhanced performance of a given exercise — all forces and energy being applied, used and transferred in the most optimal way.
Activation of muscles that are supposed to be activated
Proper distribution of loads across the joints and muscles
Effective use of leverages leading to more strength, power and speed
Increased athleticism (freer and more powerful movement through full ranges of motion)
When a person is in control of their movement, the movement will be smooth, fluid and controlled.
Often when lifting weights I use the phrase ‘you control the weight, don’t let the weight control you.’
One’s movement can only be optimal if they are in control of what they are doing, and that goes regardless of the speed, type and/or loading of a movement.
The more efficiently, freely and powerfully a person moves, the faster, stronger and more resilient they’re going to be. Free, powerful and efficient movement should be trained, developed and improved in the gym, not broken down by going beyond a load, number of repetitions or technique that one is capable of.
Lifting, Running, Jumping
Quality movement is not just important when lifting weights — great attention should be paid to how someone is moving when they are sprinting, jumping, landing, throwing, speeding up, slowing down, pushing, pulling and changing direction.
All of these movements can be improved and optimised through the understanding of and coaching of optimal positions. This way, the effort that is undoubtedly being applied, can be applied in the most effective way and the athlete can improve their performance as a result.
Movement and technique are topics I’ve been interested in since I started studying training and exercise science. I’ve always been more interested (and impressed) with movement that looks smooth, powerful and controlled than with how much weight is being lifted.
The range of individual variance in movement style, technique and optimal positioning is fascinating and is a never ending learning experience. I encourage all who lift weights, run, jump, throw or do anything physical to prioritise good movement over the load lifted, distance covered or number of repetitions performed.
When it comes to training for athletic performance, quality definitely beats quantity.
If you enjoyed the article then it would be awesome if you could share it, thanks!