How often have you seen a runner go by, or someone in the gym doing something that just doesn’t look right. “Maybe the runner is flicking their arm out on one side when they run”. You kind of think to yourself “Yep we need to correct that” this person could be much faster.
But what you see may be deceiving you? The arm flick, is it a real dysfunctional movement? Or is it a compensation pattern? If we trained the runner not to flick the arm would it make him better or worse at running?
It might just be a question of coaching, it could have been that the runner always carried a water bottle in that hand and even without the bottle the same motion appears. But maybe the runner has a shoulder issue on that side that we did not know about, or perhaps one leg is shorter than the other and the runner needed that motion as a compensation to be balanced when they run.
Without asking further questions or assessing the runner we opted to see a bad motion. Running technique has been associated with better running economy and there are some research studies that would agree with this. But to change technique without knowing all the story may not be a wise decision.
The same could be seen with the golfer having trouble getting arms into position in the back swing. From the short video supplied by the golfer it looks like we needed more flexibility in the shoulder to bring the club backwards. But asking questions and assessing further we find that it could be linked to the stiff ankle that the golfer had, and not being able to transfer the weight over the foot to get into position. Giving flexibility exercises for the shoulder may have caused an instability problem.
Changing technique might well be the best thing to do for the client, but it could also be the last thing to change as if we improve shoulder motion in the runner and gain more movement in the ankle for the golfer, they may achieve a better technique and a balanced body without doing much to coach a better technique.
Of course, it’s usually more complicated than this, but sometimes you need to consider that something else may need optimising to improve performance. What seems to be the problem may just be the result of the problem or condition.