Lifestyle design junkies have long been enamored with the idea of the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle), which posits that 80% of our results stem from 20% of our efforts. The common cliché is: find the 20% of your activities that yield the most reward, and declutter the rest from your life.
There’s a similar principle in training, one that can give us major improvements in neuromuscular coordination. I’m talking about the Weber-Fechner law.
This rule straddles the worlds of psychology and physiology and gives us a solid reason to actually reduce our effort when training, particularly if we want those fun things like strength and mobility.
At the end of the day it all comes down to coordination. The living system needs to be able to effectively and efficiently organize itself to accomplish the task at hand. Whether our preferred modality is weight training or yoga, if the body isn’t coordinating well (as a neuromyofascial network), we’re in trouble.
Unfortunately most teachers and trainers are in the dark when it comes to improving a client’s coordination. It’s not something we talk about much in most certifications. That’s a shame because it’s the foundation of physical performance. Want increased active range of motion? You better believe your body needs to know how to organize at a given joint’s end range. Want more strength? Your body needs to know how to coordinate under resistance.
So how do we go about improving coordination? This is where the Weber-Fechner law can come into play.
The law asserts that the magnitude of a stimulus is inversely related with the body’s ability to sense changes in the stimulus. A big stimulus means you won’t notice small changes. Try noticing the difference in brightness when a candle is lit as you stare at the sun (don’t actually try this). Or add a 5lb weight on top of that refrigerator you’re carrying. On the flip side you notice right away when a 5lb weight is added when you’re carrying a pillow…even a 1lb weight would be noticeable then.
It’s an often-overlooked rule of our physiology with major consequences.
What this means for us is that a client is more likely to notice differences in their quality of movement when we break it down into slow, small chunks. This is a staple in most methods of somatic education, and it’s sadly lacking in other fields. By reducing the stimulus of an exercise, we allow our client to tune into subtle shifts in their body’s organization.
Is your client’s form just not clicking? Try reducing the stimulus. Give the nervous system a chance to learn new methods of organizing.
Are your cues not making any difference? Break the movement down into its component parts and move slowly through each of them. Find new options for stable joint configurations.
Think of it less as training and more as exploration and education. When you do less (better), you make huge performance gains in a fraction of the time.