Always Focus on the Fundamentals

Whether you are an athlete, coach or medical professional it is important to remember that the fundamentals should be the foundation of everything that you do.

Personally as a rehab professional I often need to keep myself in check in order to focus on the fundamentals as I seek out the latest and greatest exercises to help my patients reduce their pain and improve their movement patterns. I know that I am not alone. In fact I think that it is human nature to want to skip past the fundamentals in order to find the next best thing that will achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time. In reality you will probably get results faster if you would have just stuck with the fundamentals.
For instance if you want to lose weight, rather than yo-yo dieting,  just stick to eating right 80% of the time and with regular exercise you will be able to lose and maintain your ideal weight without feeling like you are depriving yourself. The same goes for a strength and conditioning program. If you stick to the basic principles of exercise programming to include pushing, pulling, change in elevation and rotation through multiple planes of motion then you will achieve the results that you are looking for most of the time.
The more you read about the top athletes in any sport you find that they always focus on the fundamentals and they are obsessive about practicing them.  Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Leonel Messi, and Cal Ripken Jr, all practice(d) the fundamentals obsessively and when you watch them in a game they never stray from proper form which is what makes them so consistent and the greats of all time.  Whether it be passing, throwing, dribbling or shooting each of these athletes practice these obsessively behind closed doors. We often think that they are born with innate talents. This may be part of the equation but it is what they do behind closed doors on their own that helps them elevate to the next level; their drive to succeed.  John Wooden once said “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” If you don’t master the fundamentals you cant expect to achieve the results in any aspect of life that you are looking for.
In medicine the fundamentals can mean the difference between a life and death situation.  Would you ask a first year med student to perform brain surgery? No they must master the basics of medicine before they can perform a highly skilled brain surgery. The fundamentals can be as simple as knowing the proper baseline blood pressure and heart rate, 110/70 and 60-72, or prescribing proper diet and exercise that can prevent and cure many diseases. But believe it or not many physicians prescribe meds to mask the symptoms of lack of activity and improper diet rather than prescribing the fundamental fix of exercising 30+ mins a day most days of the week!
In athletics the fundamentals are the basis for all development of skills. Without the fundamentals you cannot develop the prerequisite performance and skill to help propel you to the next level.  Would you ask a basketball player to dunk before you taught them how to jump and then coached them how to jump higher? No. You would first teach them proper jumping form them coach them through plyometric/jumping drills to help them jump higher before you asked them to dunk.
Sport coaches, do you ask your players to perform a cross court pass before they have mastered the short pass to another player?  Strength coaches, if your player cannot squat, lunge or push-up properly do you ask them to load these exercises? Therapists do you ask someone to plank before they can properly engage their core?
Focusing on the fundamentals does not only work on a the foundational skills and movements of a particular sport  but it works deep within the central nervous system to help movement patterns to become automatic helping to improve coordination and movement skill to perform a task in the most efficient manner.
In closing I feel John Wooden again provides us with a very applicable quote, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”  Taking the extra couple of minutes to master the fundamentals early can help you to develop the proper foundation to build from as your children grow, patients progress and athletes get stronger.
Contributed by Dr. Jon Herting, DPT


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