Monday, March 3, 2014

Motor Units not Muscles

Thomas Meyers (Anatomy Trains) was giving an answer about the gamma motor nerve system and one of his comments really is important.

"The brain doesn't organize movement through muscles, but through motor units."  This is a huge concept.  It's not about the muscles.  What can I recruit to do the action?  Its all about the motor unit.  The average being 10-100.   Motor units which is then motor control.  Motor control is the use of the neuromuscular system to activate and coordinate the use of muscles/joints in an activity or skill.

If you have never lifted weights before the first time you start to lift or even an experienced lifter with a new exercise, the rapid strength gains that happen in the first few weeks are all motor unit recruitment being trained, not true strength gains.

New stuff is being discovered all the time about motor control.  Purkinje cells and climbing fibers are no known to play a large role in learning the "correct" skill.  As an example when you swing a tennis racket and it feels good or bad.  This article, (Neurons Coordinate To Fine-Tune Motor Control) is an excellent look into some new information that is being discovered with motor control.

I believe techniques where you muscle test and have a hard time staying strong or finding the muscle are examples of the brain not being able to coordinate the motor units.  Find the block and the brain is able to coordinate easier and the test starts to be strong.

Neurokinetic and Muscle Activation (techniques I've trained in) are examples of therapies directed at improving motor unit recruitment and thus improving motor control.

A simple way of improving motor control is to slow down the movement.  One of the reasons I believe things like Tai Chi can be a great exercise.  For the more athletic population,  try a slow Turkish Get Up.  Talk about shining a light on lack of motor control.  Give it a shot and see where it gets difficult.  Train those motor units.  

No comments: