Endangered Human Movements – by Nicole Paine, DC, MSc, FRCms

The term ‘endangered movements’ was coined and defined by bestselling author and bio-mechanist Katy Bowman. She describes movements that we all naturally used to be able to do without effort such as a resting squat, barefoot walking/running, hanging and flexion of the hips to name a few. She also brings about the concept that many of our other movements are endangered in our lives from wrist rotation, normally done when you put a key in the lock of a car to ankle flexion because we simply no longer do this movement.

So many of us try to introduce movement in our lives in the form of exercise but see ourselves being sedentary the majority of the remaining part of the day. On average those living in Western societies sit for 55-70% of their day which equates to between 9-11 hours per day (1). So even if you’re a great exerciser going out for 1 hour or more per day our society, culture and habits still classify us as sedentary. Not only does sitting account for 7% of all deaths but it also increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and mortality (death) (1). As we sit our blood pressure rises, good cholesterol decreases, we burn less calories, insulin becomes less effective and much more (2). Sitting is only one part of the problem our overall lack of lifestyle movement – taking lifts, driving cars to get groceries, not carrying our babies, lack of need to expend energy to acquire food and all our modern conveniences are what endanger our movements.

As a chiropractor and mobility specialist I am witness to the proof of lost movements every single day in practice where testing a patient’s mobility, range of motion and function I see real restrictions, lack of range and inability to even lift our toes, squat or flex the spine. We wonder why we end up with so much back pain, neck pain and general musculoskeletal issues with such limited movements. The even sadder thing is that these lost movements and endangered ones I am seeing in younger and younger patients who should be at their peak of mobility and rather they are already restricted to movements they perform everyday such as sitting postures and poor neck movement from craning forward. The majority of my patients cannot squat fully to the ground, actively lift their big toe or lift their arms overhead without compensatory movement of the spine occurring. Where the mobility and range of motion restrictions are highlighted is when we ask our bodies to perform movements that require more range we have resulting in compensation and eventual injury.

Take a common movement – squatting with weight at the gym and assess what the basic mobility pre-requisites that are required to perform this exercise:
• Ankle dorsiflexion – flexion of the ankle past 90 degrees, generally minimum of 120 degrees so its can go past the end of the toes
• Full knee flexion – without full knee flexion the range of your squat will be limited
• Hip Flexion – a lack of hip flexion/tightness in the hips will restrict the motion
• Unlocking of the low back or lumbar spine will stop the body from full end range motion
• Core strength to hold your body upright in the squat position

So who suffers when we are lacking any of the above pre-requisites? Well as our human bodies are complex adaptive systems its hard to say exactly but what we do know is your body will find a way to accomplish the movement your asking it to do – but at the expense of other joints or tissues. For example, we see with lack of hip mobility a compensation of the spine where it has to hyperextend or get loaded more leading to potential disc or joint injuries when under load. (low back injury). There are infinite ways to compensation as your body never repeats the same movement or compensation twice but we do know it will compensate and when you add 100kg of load on top of an already restricted squat is it any wonder why or how injury occurs really??

So what’s the good news? Well the first step is recognising the state your body is in now, accepting where you are so you can do movement and exercise relevant to your current restrictions or state of mobility. To figure out where you are at you can do some mobility screening, range of motion and testing to see where your restrictions are OR the best option get assessed by a qualified mobility specialist trained in Functional Range Assessment (FRA) which will give you specific ranges, limitations and what to work on to improve using Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). FRA is used to determine your specific restrictions, state of mobility and where to start and FRC is used to give you the tools to fix yourself and to maintain ranges you may already have or soon acquire. Chiropractor & Mobility Specialist Nicole Paine is trained in FRA, FRC and FR (Functional Range Release) work and offers online skype assessments and mobility prescription from the comfort of your own home or visit her in her London clinic at www.livefreewellness.co.uk

Fixing your mobility takes time, commitment and patience. Committing to working on yourself your current body and your future body takes time and dedication but can be achieved with amazing results using FRC and FRA principles – remember our bodies change every 10 years meaning you can have a completely new body within time. Now it does not mean it will take that long of course as mobility gains can be seen with weeks or months of good work but know to undo all the ‘damage’ a sedentary life has imposed on your current body requires time to allow tissues and our nervous system to change and adapt to new inputs you must give on a consistent basis. If your willing to do the work the rewards will begin to arise with a mobile, free and comfortable body that is adaptable and healthier than the one you are currently in.

We all as children used to be able to squat, jump and play with a full range motion and mobility of all our joints it is years of sedentism and a culture that endangers movements that have led to the current state of epidemic immobility seen in society today. Here are a few simple tests for you to perform on yourself to test your current state of mobility:

1. Standing barefoot balanced weight on both feet try to lift your big toe on one foot keeping all other toes flat on the floor. Repeat on the other side. It is a normal human motion we should all be able to perform – lifting our great toe being able to dissociate it from the other toes and part of the foot.
2. Full butt to the ground squat – keeping your feet flat on the ground (no lifting those heels) and squatting bum down so your backs of your thighs are touching the backs of your calves. Ensure to not fall over if you are unsure do it with a wall just behind you in case you need to use it for support. This simple squat assesses your ankles, knees, hips and low back – any part if missing can restrict this motion and not allow you freedom to bring that bum to the ground.
3. Standing straight with arms at your side flex forward all the way up to 180 degrees so your arms are beside your ears. Look for deviations of the arms going out to the side, compensation of the spine allowing for what seems like more shoulder motion or head jutting forward. Our bodies are so smart and will compensate in any way they can until – well they no longer can and you hurt yourself. We should have full range of motion to flex our shoulders so they are behind our ears without our spine compensating, hips or ribs thrusting forward or straining our shoulders in the process. If you feel any of these it might be an area you need to work on.

All of the above tests are simple mobility screens, by performing these you can get an idea of areas that may need further assessment or attention. To determine the true causes of the restrictions or where your body is compensating, lacking in mobility a full assessment by a FRA & FRC practitioner is recommended. These screening tests do not replace what a qualified practitioner can do and are not intended to diagnose or treat. Contact Live Free Wellness for in person assessments or for online skype assessments email health@eatmovethriveforlife.com and to learn more about FRC & FRA visit www.functionalanatomyseminars.com


1. Chau JY, Grunseit AC, Chey T, Stamatakis E, Brown WJ, Matthews CE, et al. (2013) Daily Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 8(11)

2. https://www.fix.com/blog/natural-movement-for-optimal-health/

3. Movement Matters – by Katy Bowman

4. Move your DNA – by Katy Bowman

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