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Top athletes are the best cheaters
I’m not actually talking about performance enhancing drugs here, rather something a lot simpler which is applicable to everyone and anyone especially if you participate in sport or training.
What do I mean by cheating? When I perform a functional assessment on a patient I will always look for “cheating” on special tests particularly when it comes to functional muscle testing. What is noticeable is that often the more advanced the athletic development of the patient, the greater their ability is to “cheat” the tests. So, by cheating I am referring to the ability to compensate for a movement which may mask the problem. Average Joe does this rather crudely overall whereas the athlete does this far more efficiently and subtly, often in a way in which they don’t even feel that they are cheating.
So, what does this mean?
Athletes cheat. Over years of training they will find the most economical way to perform at the highest level, even if this means sacrificing technique to get the job done. To enhance the performance of any athlete it is essential to identify these subtle compensations as well as the more obvious ones.
A thorough functional assessment should be performed by all primary healthcare practitioners AND trainers/coaches and should be done BEFORE working with a client. This should demonstrate the client’s ability to perform global and isolated movements and should highlight cheating/compensation patterns in both. The earlier you can identify and correct a movement pattern to eliminate cheating the easier it will be, hence why it is essential to take time with beginners to get things right at the start as it will only take longer and become more difficult to fix problems later.
But remember, at the highest level in sport you will observe all sorts of technical errors, even among the very best, technique can get ugly. You could argue that these elite athletes would perform better if it were corrected but some things are best left alone. There is always a reason why someone has made it to the top and genetics play a huge role in this. Regardless of your athletic level a potential problem identified is better than on which goes unnoticed. As to how you should go about fixing it will depend on the level of compensation, your athletic goals and the time frame available. Ideally a problem should be isolated, corrected and then integrated into full movement patterns, but for some athletes this can be too much back tracking which is where you will need to be strategic and time-efficient with your approach to correction. However, for most of the general population, who are inefficient cheaters, back-tracking is often necessary to create a long-term solution which will allow better progress without injury.