Compensatory Movement Patterns

In my last year of university (12+ years ago now – yeesh), there was this guy in one group project I was a part of that did absolutely NOTHING.


Instead, he played lots of video games, smoked pot, drank beer… but at least he worked out.

He would show up at group meetings without any of his tasks complete.

And he barely knew what the class was about, let alone the project.

Because the rest of the group members didn’t want to get a bad grade, they picked up the slack and did all of his tasks on top of their own.

I’m sure the mark was lower than if all cylinders were firing and I bet the added stress to the other members affected other areas of their lives too.

And this is exactly what happens when you’ve got something that’s not working right, whether it’s a weak muscle, restricted range of motion or pain that stops you from performing a certain movement – something else picks up the slack.

Because you’ve still gotta eat, brush your teeth and wipe, your brain works its way around this and figures out a way to get it done.

Fitness and rehab peeps refer to this as a
Compensatory Movement Pattern…

… a movement pattern you use to get around issues that prevent you from executing the movement properly (or at least how you’d normally do it).

For example, if you’ve got a stiff thoracic spine (area of your spine between your shoulder blades) with limited thoracic extension, to push a barbell overhead, you’ll either:

A) Tear up the anterior aspect of your shoulder joint
B) Hinge at your lumbar spine so you don’t tear up your shoulder joint

Great options.

So which to choose?


Instead, you’d choose NOT to push a barbell overhead in favour of something else, perhaps an Incline Dumbbell Press but there’s no one saying you have to swap a push for a push so you could do a Seated Row or better yet – the Twisting Wall Press (my recommendation as it addresses the root cause).

Do this and you’ll be avoiding using a compensatory movement pattern and avoid options A and B.

Another problem with compensatory movement patterns is that even if they don’t result in an injury, if you keep using them over time, they become your new normal and at the very least, that lowers the ceiling on your potential and is an inefficient way to move.

On Friday I’ll be sending you a video showing you exactly what I’m talking about because I’m dealing with a bum wrist right now that is limited in extension and radial deviation (thumb to forearm movement) so I can show you exactly what it looks like.

I just wanted to lubricate your mental gears a bit and teach you the definition so when you get the video you’re ready to soak it all up.

Understand this concept and it may help to prevent you from suffering this pain in the bum-bum where you either get injured or have to spend time reprogramming this pattern.

The one thing I’ll mention now is the most common cause of a compensatory movement pattern is PAIN, so if you’re dealing with any pain right now, getting the concept you’ll learn in Friday’s video may save you a lot of time and frustration down the road.

We’ll talk then.


Coach E

P.S. That guy was me. I like to think I’ve matured since then. 😉


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