Free Solo. The movie, quadrupedal gait, and crapping your pants (all in one blog post).

I recently crapped my pants at the movie theater. Thanks Alex Honnold.

i have been waiting a year to see Free Solo on IMAX. I saw it on Saturday night. The theater quickly took on a particular odor. Yes, Alex lives, finishes the climb, you know this at the start. But the last 30 minutes of the full length documentary has you riveted, palm sweating, writhing in your seat, saying things inside your head like “he is 3000 feet up, there is no rope, he has nowhere to go, he is doomed”. And then he is not. I promise you this, you will not believe what you see. Please do not see this on anything but IMAX if at all possible, El Capitan and Alex deserve this format if at all possible. I promise, you will get the same pit in your gut that you get when you look over the top of the highest of roller coasters.

Are there possible neurologic differences in climbers such as Alex Honnold as compared to other quadruped species? Primarily, there is suspect of an existing shift in the central pattern generators because of the extraordinary demand on pseudo-quadrupedal gait of climbing because of the demand on the upper limbs and their motorneuron pools to mobilize the organism up the mountain. We know these quadrupedal circuits exist. In 2005 Shapiro and Raichien wrote “the present work showed that human QL(quadrupedal locomotion) may spontaneously occur in humans with an unimpaired brain, probably using the ancestral locomotor networks for the diagonal sequence preserved for about the last 400 million years.”

Some research has determined is that in quadrupeds the lower limbs displayed reduced orientation yet increased ranges of kinematic coordination in alternative patterns such as diagonal and lateral coordination. This was clearly different to the typical kinematics that are employed in upright bipedal locomotion. Furthermore, in skilled mountain climbers, these lateral and diagonal patterns are clearly more developed than in study controls largely due to repeated challenges and subsequent adaptive changes to these lateral and diagonal patterns. What this seems to suggest is that there is a different demand and tax on the CPG’s and cord mediated neuromechanics moving from bipedal to quadrupedal locomotion. There seemed to be both advantages and disadvantages to both locomotion styles. Moving towards a more upright bipedal style of locomotion shows . . . .

Here, read the entire post I wrote several years ago, instead of me piecmeal it here.

https://www.thegaitguys.com/thedailyblog/2019/2/4/gait-and-climbing-part-1

Gait and Climbing (and DNS): Part 2.  Introducing 14 year old Ashima Shiraishi.

14 year old “sends” V15 , a 30 move roof climb in Hiei, Japan, called “Horizon”.

“the present work showed that human QL (quadrupedal locomotion) may spontaneously occur in humans with an unimpaired brain, probably using the ancestral locomotor networks for the diagonal sequence preserved for about the last 400 million years.” - 2005 Shapiro and Raichien

I am flipping the script a little today for DNS’ers (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization). Watch the video if you wish, but the point I will be drawing your attention to is the 2:15 mark when she goes inverted on the roof of this apparently “more simple” V9 route. Note, this is not a video of her historic ~30 move V15 route. Stay tuned for that, it is not available yet.

Look closely. In the video, a then 9 year old Ashima is climbing upside down, a roof climb, defying gravity’s push. Spin this picture 180 and she is crawling, finding points of “fixation” or “punctum fixum”. What is neat about climbing is that you can have one, two, three or four points of fixation, unlike walking (one or two points) and crawling (two, three or four points of fixation). The difference in climbing is that gravity is a bear, wearing you down, little by little. A deep similarity in climbing to any variety of crawling is that both involve pulling and pushing, compressing and extending over fixation points. Other common principles are those of fixation, stability, mobility and neurologic crawling patterns in order to progress.

Ashima just recently, in early 2016, was the first female to complete a V14d (it is said it may even be upgraded to a V15a, maybe even a V16). Not many pros of any gender can say they can complete a V15 so this is a real big deal for a 14 year old. Stay tuned for that video.

DNS, Kolar and Climbing

I took my first DNS course with Prof. Kolar 10 years ago. It was an interesting eye opener and I had just enough clinical experience (9 years at that point) to grasp just enough to take it back to my practice and integrate it. Since that time, it has been fun to see it grow and see young practitioners excited to get their first face palm epiphanies. I have been returning to it often, blending it into my rehab work much of the time. There are few hip, shoulder, spine, breathing or global stabilization exercises I prescribe that do not have a DNS component to them, with my own flare and alterations and amendments as necessary. If you have taken a DNS course you will know why I am bring the topic into climbing. If you have not taking a course, you will be a little lost on the conceptual spill over.

As you can see in the video above, start really paying attention at the 2:15 mark in the video when she goes inverted on the roof. Cross crawl patterns, concepts of fixation, compression, expansion, crossing over, and tremendous feats of shoulder and hip stability on spinal stiffness and rotation.  Now add breathing, oy !  Now add doing all of this by mere finger tip and toe tip fixation ! When you consider all of this, it becomes almost incomprehensible what she and other climbers are doing when they go inverted like this. Amazing stuff, finger pulling/compression and foot pushing to compressively attach the body to the wall and progress forward.

Lucid Dreaming, A climb in the Buttermilks

Last year I wrote a piece on Lucid Dreaming, the name of a rock (another V15 climb) in the Buttermilks of Bishop, California. Here is that blog post. Lucid Dreaming is no ordinary rock.  To summit this rock is basically only three moves off of three holds, from your fingertips, starting from a sitting position. The remainder of the climb is sliced bread. If you can do the three, you can get to the top. The problem is, only a handful of people in the world can accomplish the feat. In the piece I outlined many principles of crawling, quadruped and climbing from a neuro-biomechanical perspective. Here is a excerpt from what i wrote in Gait and Climbing, Part 1:

In climbing there is suspicion of a shift in the central pattern generators because of the extraordinary demand by pseudo-quadrupedal gait climbing due to the demand on the upper limbs and their motorneuron pools to mobilize the organism up the mountain.  We know these quadrupedal circuits exist. In 2005 Shapiro and Raichien wrote “the present work showed that human QL (quadrupedal locomotion) may spontaneously occur in humans with an unimpaired brain, probably using the ancestral locomotor networks for the diagonal sequence preserved for about the last 400 million years.”

Some research has determined that in quadrupeds the lower limbs displayed reduced orientation yet increased ranges of kinematic coordination in alternative patterns such as diagonal and lateral coordination.  This was clearly different to the typical kinematics that are employed in upright bipedal locomotion. Furthermore, in skilled mountain climbers, these lateral and diagonal patterns are clearly more developed than in study controls largely due to repeated challenges and subsequent adaptive changes to these lateral and diagonal patterns.  What this seems to suggest is that there is a different demand and tax on the CPG’s and cord mediated neuromechanics moving from bipedal to quadrupedal locomotion. There seemed to be both advantages and disadvantages to both locomotion styles. Moving towards a more upright bipedal style of locomotion shows an increase in the lower spine (sacral motor pool) activity because of the increased and different demands on the musculature however at the potential cost to losing some of the skills and advantages of the lateral and diagonal quadrupedal skills. Naturally, different CPG reorganization is necessary moving towards bipedalism because of these different weight bearing demands on the lower limbs but also due to the change from weight bearing upper limbs to more mobile upper limbs free to not only optimize the speed of bipedalism but also to enable the function of carrying objects during locomotion.

The take home seems to suggest the development of proper early crawling and progressive quadruped locomotor patterns. Both will tax different motor pools within the spine and thus different central pattern generators (CPG). A orchestration of both seems to possibly offer the highest rewards and thus not only should crawling be a part of rehab and training but so should forward, lateral and diagonal pattern quadrupedal movements, on varying inclines for optimal benefits. 

Dancing, Jiu Jitsu and Climbing. Bringing things together.

So, what am I doing with all this information? As some of you may know, I have been expanding my locomotion experiences over the years. First there was three years of ballroom and latin dance, some of the hardest stuff I have ever done, combining complex combined body movements to timing and music at different speeds, each time changing to different rhythms or genres of music. Some of my deepest insights into foot work and hip, pelvis and core stability and spinal mobility originated from my dance experiences, particularly Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Waltz and Foxtrot. On a side note, some of my greatest epiphanies about the true function of the peroneal-calf muscle complex came during a private session on a difficult Waltz step concept. It was such an epiphany I sat down and wrote scratch notes on the enlightenment for 20 minutes right there in the ballroom. Next I moved into the very complex martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and after three years it is clear it is an art that you could do for a lifetime and never get to the end of the complex algorithms of defense and offense. This art will stay in my wheelhouse to the end if I am able to keep it there.

Rock climbing, this one is the next on the list. After years of sharing my hands on peoples physical problems I know I already have above average grip and finger strength, so this could either prove to be a blessing or a “career ender” in terms of finally finishing off my hands for good. But it is on the list, and it won’t leave my head, so for me that is the tipping point. Climbing is next. I need to understand and experience this, so I can understand human locomotion better.

I will have the video of Ashima “sending” V15+ when they put it up, stay tuned. I have a feeling it is going to be a jaw dropper, I hear the whole send is inverted which boggles my mind. We will dissect her roof crawling and I will try to have some new research for you.

If you want to come down my rabbit hole, come read some of my other related articles:

Part 1: Gait and Climbing. Lucid Dreaming

and my 3 part series on Uner Tan Syndrome. The people who walk on all fours.


Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

___________

References:

Shapiro L. J., Raichien D. A. (2005). Lateral sequence walking in infant papio cynocephalus: implications for the evolution of diagonal sequence walking in primates. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.126, 205–213 10.1002/ajpa.20049

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Oct;21(5):688-99. Idiosyncratic control of the center of mass in expert climbers. Zampagni ML , Brigadoi S, Schena F, Tosi P, Ivanenko YP

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;107(1):114-25. Features of hand-foot crawling behavior in human adults. Maclellan MJ, Ivanenko YP, Cappellini G, Sylos Labini F, Lacquaniti F.