Movement Quality and Endurance Performance

The importance of how we move has become increasingly apparent over the last decade, with movement quality known to have pretty significant implications in regards to both injury prevention and pain management (which I have written about extensively HERE).

In short, we have the capacity to develop unwanted movement compensations in response to inactivity, extended periods of sedentary activity (prolonged periods of sitting anyone?), and of course, in response to acute and chronic pain.

These movement compensations can lead to vast reductions in movement quality, which can alter the way in which we load muscle and connective tissue – which ultimately leads to an increased risk of injury.

Interestingly, these compensations may also have the potential to limit our capacity for physical performance.

Runners take part in the New York City Marathon in New York

Movement Economy

Something that I have always found very interesting is how inefficient we as humans are during exercise.

Did you know that our typical economy of movement is a mere 20%?

This means that during running, cycling, swimming, rowing (etc. etc.) only 20% of the energy we use in our body is actually converted into physical work. The remaining 80% is lost as heat, or wasted through inefficient movement (a concept known as energy leakage).

In short, this means that only a small portion of the energy we produce is actually contributing to our physical performance.

It therefore seems logical that if we move poorly, we will move inefficiently. From an endurance perspective, this means that our movement economy will be further reduced, leading to increased energy wastage and reduced performance.

But, fortunately for us, we do have the capacity to improve movement economy, and subsequently, endurance performance – this is actually one of the keys to improving our ability to perform endurance based tasks, in conjunction with more traditional training adaptations.


Improving movement economy

The first method we can implement to improve movement economy is strength training.

While I have written extensively about the role that strength training can play in improving endurance performance (read it HERE), I will again touch on it briefly in this post.

Strength training ultimately improves the efficiency of the nervous system, increasing our capacity to recruit motor units as a collective, and thus improving our ability to generate force. This increased efficiency (and increased force production) results in improved performance per unit of energy expended (in which we don’t have to work as hard to maintain a given speed).

In conjunction with strength training, we can also improve movement economy by improving our movement quality.

While I have touched on the importance of how we move in previous articles, I have not discussed the role it plays in regards to movement economy and endurance performance specifically.

By improving our movement quality through targeted training interventions, we increase our efficiency of movement. As mentioned above, this will reduce our energy leakage – and cause subsequent increases in our movement economy during endurance activities.

In turn, this results in less energy expenditure per unit of work done – which effectively equals improved performance.

This holds true whether we are taking about cycling, running, rowing, or anything else for that matter – reducing energy leakage will contribute to improved performance – that should be considered a given.

As such, it is integral that we pay close attention to how we move, and realise its associations with our ability to perform.


So what can you do about it?

Obviously ensuring that you are moving efficiently is the first step here. By ensuring you have a high capacity for quality movement, you can ensure efficient movement, causing reductions in energy leakage and an increased movement economy.

And if your not moving well (AKA presenting with low movement quality), then it is time to implement specific and individualized training interventions directed at reducing muscular imbalances and eliminating muscular dysfunction.

This will improve function, movement, and (via the various benefits outlined above) improved performance.

The tricky part is ensuring that your training interventions are actually targeting the areas that need improving – which is where a movement quality assessment comes into play.

By assessing movement correctly you can identify areas of dysfunction and then base your training interventions off of that (rather than running blind, so to speak). This ensures that your training is truly directed towards improving what you need to improve, and will ultimately guarantee increased performance as a result.

And if you’re not sure where to start, that’s what we are here for.

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