Don’t overthink your movement

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Don’t overthink your movement

While working with a client, I asked her to open her hand.  Now, this might sound like an easy thing to do, but for some, it takes concentration.  If there is a disconnect between your hand and brain, moving it on command might be difficult.

I wanted to share this story, to discuss a simple way of thinking that can be used for a challenging exercise, or an exercise you have never done before. 

This way of thinking, is called intrinsic and extrinsic.  Think of intrinsic as an internal thought, and extrinsic as (yes, you guessed it) an external thought. 

Regarding the client I mentioned at the start of this blog, we used this way of thinking to achieve certain movements.  For example, opening her hand.  All we wanted to do was open her hand, to be able to stretch the muscles in her arm and hand.  Before learning about intrinsic and extrinsic thinking, I just asked her to, “open your hand”, which is intrinsic.  When that didn’t work, we moved to extrinsic thought.

An extrinsic way to open your hand, would be to think about reaching for something.  For example, giving someone a high five is the same as opening up and stretching out your hand.  

Another example I like to use is the push up.  When preforming a push up, you use all the pushing muscles of the upper body.  Intrinsically, I can ask you to squeeze your pectorals (chest), Deltoids (shoulder caps) and Triceps (back of upper arms) to do the movement, or extrinsically, I can ask you to think about pushing the floor away from you.  

If you know how to isolate each muscle you want to contract, that’s great, but for many people, thinking of a movement that uses the muscles is easier than just contracting your pecs.  

So, when trying to learn how to do a movement, think of the movement you want, not just how the muscles move.  This might help you to learn a new move (when exercising at least).  I always use intrinsic and extrinsic thinking in my personal training and outdoor fitness classes, and intrinsic and extrinsic thought patterns can be used in sports, school or work. 

I hope this method of thinking  helps you attain your fitness goals.  Find out the many other ways that I can help with your fitness goals at

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