Measuring Movement Quality: The Importance of Predicting Athletes’ Transition from Distal to Proximal Stability

As explained in our first article about “Measuring Movement Quality”, there is no single right way to accomplish a task, even for the same person. In fact, as they become more proficient, athletes display more variability in the movements they produce, while improving the outcomes of the latter.

However, as an athlete improves his performance, or a physical therapy patient makes progress through his treatment, it is possible to determine a predictable shift in how they move – in reality, they transition from distal* to proximal* stability.

Movement and Stability

Consider the incredible degree of strength that humans are capable of generating. The world’s strongest powerlifters can wrap their hands around a barbell and pull over a thousand pounds off the floor. A gymnast can launch themselves into the air at full speed and land smoothly on their feet. A baseball player can hurtle a ball at over 100 miles per hour.

At the same time, we are capable of flexing, twisting, and bending ourselves into an amazing array of positions. Think of the movements that a surfer makes to stay in the right place on a wave, the graceful arcs of a dancer, or the contortions of a yoga practitioner. We can move our skeletons through an incredible range of motion while generating force and resisting outside disturbance.

The muscle tissue that holds a thousand pounds off the floor or cleanly absorbs the impact of the gymnast is the same tissue that stretches effortlessly for the yogi or melts into softness during a massage.

We are built to simultaneously move and stabilize. During any athletic movement, some muscles are lengthening, some are contracting, and some are holding a static position despite outside disturbances.

How this happens varies a lot from one person to another, and the shift from distal to proximal stability is one of the core transitions we see across different situations.

The Transition

A novice athlete, or someone in the early stages of a rehab process, will generate a lot of stability in their arms and legs. They will tense up, grip tightly and brace from the outside-in. Their limbs will be rigid, first and foremost, while the core of their body will be unstable, wobbly, and easily shifted.

An advanced athlete, or someone on the other side of a good physical therapy protocol, will do the reverse. The first thing to create stability and generate force will be the “core” of the body – the spine, ribcage, and pelvis. The core holds solid and efficiently transfers power, while the limbs are more mobile and adaptable to the demands of the situation.

This is why a sensor technology that monitors whole-body movement quality is so valuable. It allows us to see these global changes as they occur and track the progress of an athlete, as well as notice potentially harmful shifts before they have a chance to create injuries or problems.

The Cipher Skin patented sensor technology now makes it possible to collect and analyze authentic motion data on the whole body, over a long period of time; it truly enables determining a predictable shift in the movement – a priceless data all athletes have always been looking for in their quest for the perfect movement.


See how Cipher Skin can help improve your athletic training program or performance.

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