This is a complicated topic that takes years of study to fully come to grips with the “why” and “how” it all works. The “so what” for the average surfer is pretty simple. So let’s step through it.
Joel Parkinson, the 2012 World Champion, has stability and flow dialed. Photo: Nate Smith
There is a commonly held belief among personal trainers and physical therapists that there are two possible outcomes when it comes to viewing a joint: It can either be flexible or it can be stable. These conditions are mutually exclusive and is often too narrow a focus for such a complicated system.
Exercise regimes similar to Pilates are touted as the one-size-fits-all approach to improving function through predominantly isolation-based abdominal stiffening exercises that actually do very little to improve function in the real world.
An isolationist approach to function leads to the design of exercise programs that aim to target individual under-performing muscles and then strengthen them. The aim is to then improve the function of the joint by creating more balanced resting length-tension relationships of opposing muscle function across joints. This is an important first step in any rehab program, but it isn’t enough on its own due to the fact that the body as an integrated system is much greater than simply the sum of its component parts. Creating stiffness through isolation exercise degrades function, does nothing to improve movement skill, and is detrimental to surfing performance.
“The stability of a viscoelastic system can only be thought of as a collection of related positions that are very rapidly adopted and modified by the central nervous system.” Serge Gracovetski (Stability or controlled instability, pp 281, Movement Stabilty & Lumbopelvic Pain 2007).
Traditional rehab models believe that in order for forces to be adequately dissipated across joints, the more stable they are the better. However, what Serge is saying is quite the opposite. He is of the opinion that the stiffer the joint becomes, the less likely it is to be useful to the body as a whole. Why? Because movement has bugger all to do with single joint muscle action!
What Serge suggests is that in order to dissipate loads effectively, your body has created a remarkable system of controlled and sequenced instability. It is the amazing coordination of perfectly timed muscle kinetic sequencing that allows you to be both adequately flexible and stable at the same time. This allows you to have both power and flow on the wave!
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Sources: The Inertia | Author: Ash Boddy