Pattern overload By Paul Chek
Pattern overload is injury to soft tissues secondary to being locked into a particular
pattern of movement or restricted in one or more planes of motion while performing
a work or sports movement pattern.
Although pattern overload is much more common in an environment that restricts freedom of motion, such as machine training, I have treated numerous cases of pattern overload in workers and athletes that were unrestricted in their motions.
Pattern overload results primarily from: a) An inability to properly
load share. b) Being isolated or restricted to a specific motion with loss of movement freedom in one or more planes. c) Overuse of any given pattern of movement, regardless of freedom of joint motion.
INABILITY TO PROPERLY LOAD SHARE
The human body is very intelligent and economical. To protect itself from unwanted injury the body will naturally sequence the recruitment of muscles in as to provide optimal load sharing across as many muscles and joints as possible. For example, when performing a bent-over row, the body will select the appropriate motor sequence to divide the load among all the working muscles, allowing each working muscle to make its maximum contribution when most favorable with regard to the biomechanics and neuromechanics of the motion.
An example of faulty load sharing can be seen in those individuals that have been taught to adduct their scapulae prior to initiating the pull with the lats and other muscles. This faulty motor sequence disrupts load sharing by recruiting the scapular adductors first, shortening them beyond the range of their optimal length / force relationships and leaving the scapulohumeral musculature to continue the work. This often leads to strain of the teres major, minor and infraspinatus muscles, or pattern overload.
The athlete who regularly performs pulling exercises in the manner described above will likely have a shortening of the scapulohumeral musculature, which eventually leads to faulty scapulothoracic rhythm. The result is scapulae that rotate prematurely during all pulling or abduction movements. Over time, this results in stretch weakness of the middle and lower trapezius, and rhomboid musculature. Individuals with this type of dysfunction will present themselves clinically as experiencing pain between the shoulder blades and often demonstrate reduced range of motion in shoulder abduction, internal rotation and shoulder flexion.?
ISOLATION OF MOVEMENT BY RESTRICTING 3D FREEDOM
If you filmed anyone, even the most elite athlete, for 1,000 reps of the bench press, he or she would never perform the exact movement twice in a row. This is one of the body’s methods of protecting muscles, tendons, ligaments and all working soft tissues from overload. As one set of muscle fibers or motor unit fatigues, the body changes recruitment slightly to favour another fiber bundle, which results in slight alteration of bar path. This slight alteration of movement pathway will also serve to protect tendon fibers and all other working tissues.
As you may know, the Smith machine is an Olympic bar mounted on guide rails, which limits movement of the bar to one plane. The lifter using the Smith machine will be unable to effectively alter bar path, increasing the potential for wear and tear of the exact same tissues each rep. In other words, predisposing them to pattern overload! If you watch carefully as a lifter begins to fatigue while performing any Smith machine lift or machine lift of any type where the resistance is guided, you will see the lifter attempting to alter the position of the proximal motion segments. An example is the body squirming around on the bench under the fixed bar. This is not only an unnatural movement for the body, it also puts unwanted torque on proximal joints, such as the shoulder and the neck, increasing the chances of injury.
OVERUSE OF ANY PATTERN OF MOVEMENT
The terms repetitive stress injury (RSI) and cumulative trauma disorder are commonly used in a physical therapy or medical practice to describe tissue breakdown and injury due to repetitive exposure to a particular movement.
These injuries are common among athletes, musicians, workers who perform data entry and assembly line workers. Pattern overload
describes RSI in the athletic performance and conditioning environment. It is a major source of injur y among amateur and professional baseball pitchers, quarterbacks, tennis players, golfers, swimmers and distance runners.
Whenever someone performs, conditions and / or trains using predominantly one pattern of motion, or has poor motor skills in a given pattern of motion, the risk of injury to the respective working tissues is elevated.
To avoid pattern overload in athletes performing repetitive motions, the conditioning coach and / or therapist must be careful not to prescribe exercises that serve to load weakened tissues unless there is specific therapeutic intent and sound rationale for such training.
For example, the in-season tennis player coming to the gym to condition for tennis (a sport of high-speed lunging) may very well have a significant degree of breakdown in the working tissues from practicing and competing alone. Should that athlete choose to, or be directed to perform high volume or high-intensity lunging exercises in the gym, the chances of sustaining injury to the knee extensor mechanism and ligaments, hamstrings or low back increase significantly. If the athlete has any degree of pain or inflammation in the joint, there is likely to be a corresponding deficit in stability.
Another underlying cause of pattern overload is poor or non-existent periodization of any given training and conditioning programme.
In addition to periodizing general stressors to the body, care must be taken when writing programmes to execute exercises in the correct order. Some general rules for organizing exercises in a · programme are:
Exercises should always progress from the most complex to least complex · movement patterns. Exercises should progress from those requiring the highest level of movement skill to the least demand for · movement skill. Exercises should generally progress from those requiring the least base of support to those providing · the most base of support. Exercises should progress from those requiring the greatest cognitive demand to the least cognitive demand.
The only exception to these guidelines is when an elite athlete is being trained by a professional coach trained in the science and practice of strength and conditioning.
Pattern overload is a very common, but frequently overlooked source of musculoskeletal injury.
To reduce chance of injury, care should be taken to periodize the use of machines and exposure activities that require chronic exposure to any specific movement pattern.
The stabilizer system of the body should always be cleared as sufficient to handle the repetition and loading of any pattern of movement to be encountered.
Today, with the massive increase in the number of people working in a seated position and our overindulgence with machine training, there is a tremendous lack of movement skill in the population at large.
This means that much more attention to detail must be applied to learning, teaching and execution of seemingly common free weight exercises and movement patterns.
Using a tornado ball requires huge amounts of stability and very specific individual progression.