Thoughts on hypermobility and the alignment police
I’m hypermobile. It shows up when I film videos, particularly when the exercises I’m demoing are unloaded.
I used to reshoot these videos to make it look “right,” but these days I just let my body be my body – extended low back, locked elbows, and all.
Yesterday, I posted a crawling video with said alignment “flaws.” I saw them when I posted it. I just didn’t care.
Today, I got a private message from a trainer, who I know it real life, telling me that I needed to “Be careful. Watch that anterior pelvic tilt, and engage my RA and TVA if I didn’t want to hurt my back.” #WTF
That dude, while well-meaning, is also a giant turd who is holding back the industry. My way of moving is NOT dangerous, BUT his way of thinking IS. Here’s why.
First, my body, my rules. I get to move it however I want. He has no business telling me what do with it. I don’t need to be mansplained on how to crawl around on the floor.
Second, he’s dead wrong. Moving this way isn’t going to hurt me. There’s no load and it actually feels better for me to move freely than to micromanage my movements. I have good body awareness. I’m strong. I don’t have any pain or acute injuries.
What has given me pain in the past is a fear of injury from doing things wrong and obsessively controlling my range of motion. If I did things his way, I’d still be in chronic pain and weak as shit.
What I know about my body now is that I inherently organize and create tension under load. If you have me do a bodyweight exercise, my muscles will engage enough to create that movement and you’ll see the full expression of my range of motion #sorrynotsorry
If you give me a heavy weight, my muscles will fire in response to the load to control it. My pelvis, elbows, knees, and hips will find a relative neutral. I don’t even have to think about it. I’ve trained my body to work that way and it happens to align rather nicely with the rules of biomechanics. More load means a greater need for joint stacking. Less load requires less need for said “neutral” alignment, as long as it doesn’t induce pain and there is some sense of control.
Freaking out over “safety” and being offended by the a person’s alignment isn’t just stupid. It’s toxic.
Want to help people?
- Understand the rules and when to break them.
- Don’t assume that you know a person’s internal experience from watching them move. You don’t live in their body. You don’t know their history. You can’t predict if they’ll get hurt. You also don’t know their motivation behind why they’re doing something.
- Consider their general preparedness to load, conditioning, and activities outside of that movement. CONTEXT MATTERS. I’m a 33 year old female, who regularly does push-ups, pull-ups, and comfortably navigates a 16KG kettlebell over her head. I was also a competitive cheerleader. My spine is built for extension. My tissues are adapted for weight bearing. Crawling with a small anterior pelvic tilt isn’t going to hurt me. If I was a deconditioned individual with pain and a spinal pathology where spinal extension was contraindicated, we’d be having a different conversation.
Also, if you’re not hypermobile, you might not understand how much harder we have it in the fitness space.
This isn’t because we can’t do all the things that everyone else does. We can! It’s because, not only are we more prone to pain, but we get picked on for moving “wrong.”
I can’t tell you the amount of harassment I’ve received for my “misbehaved” elbows, spine, shoulders, and hips.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been treated like I didn’t intellectually understand something, because I couldn’t make the “right” shape.
I can’t tell you how many people have messaged me to say “thank you for sharing videos of yourself moving freely without perfect alignment. It makes me realize that the way I’m moving isn’t bad or dangerous. If you can be strong, I can too.”
There is SO much that I could say about the practical application of science when training with hypermobility and chronic pain, but for today, I am going to leave it at this.
Don’t shame them for their “weak abs” and “poor TVA engagement.” It’s not just psychologically damaging. It also doesn’t work. Squeezing your abs won’t save your back. Backseat driving someone’s movement experience won’t get them out of pain.
The world would be a better place if we said less and allowed people to move more.