Author: Skoti Pepper
What is ‘Cross-Hemisphere Movement’? The action of moving opposite limbs at the same time. For this to happen, a bunch of functions need to take place, for example: If I decide to move my left hand, the left cerebellum has to communicate with the right cerebrum in order to operate anything I wish do with my left hand, thus the opposite is true for my right hand, and any other movement through our body into our midline (imagine a line splitting the body in two, drawn from the top of your scalp to your bum hole).
When we engage the body and brain in activities that call upon us to repeatedly utilise this set of functions we can train ourselves to become more efficient in our ability to perform a task (practise). Sometimes the learning curve might be slow and other times it could be faster (which is a different conversation), but there WILL be an uptake in skill the more you expose yourself to it.
Once we recruit the skill, there will be a literal pathway of neurons from the brain to the skill related body parts, this pathway will be fortified over time by layers of fat to protect the signal, turning it into a superspeed highway of neurotransmitters firing a message. We in turn then understand this as ‘being good at kicking a ball’, playing the piano well, or even being a bit of a Don at knitting.
Now we understand, very loosely, what cross-hemisphere movement is and how it gets us to a place of efficacy with how we want to move, what are the benefits of this?
1. Improved Core Strength
If you avoid, or simply just don’t cross the midline with exercise, you will inevitably stiffen your body and the integrity in motion will diminish rapidly. You need a fortified core for more movement planes than sagittal (forwards and backward motions), such as crunches (pass me the sick bucket), most gym machines etc. In fact the reason your lower back sucks balls most of the time is because your core is lacking regular structure and you’re not practicing moving across the midline, moving opposite limbs and, particularly, not moving around on all fours with good execution. Abs machine, nor electric shock ab therapy is gonna do anything for you here other than make you look like a banana with a set of ice cubes under the skin.
Think about strengthening and supporting the core through movement in terms of rotation of torso, moving sideways, moving backwards and in every direction you can basically think of. This will then feed into everything you do, from walking, to moving cumbersome objects, crushing that Parkrun or even scaling that mountain.
2. You’ll Burn More Calories
It is simple really, the more muscles you use during an exercise, the more calories you’re going to burn, in comparison to isolated exercises (assuming your intensity is on par to the comparable exercise). The more muscles you recruit, develop and consistently activate, the more tissue the body has to repair then the more calories you burn on top of the calories you burned during the exercise.
3. Improves Concentration
Most people make cross-hemisphere movement all about travelling, trying to get to the otherside of the working space. They are not in the moment. The point of this work is to take one step at a time, treating each step as a rep, kinda. So if the exercise is move left foot and right hand at the same time then just do that, then follow up with the right foot and left hand at the same time. By virtue of focussing on just the exercise in the moment you will inevitably travel. Keep coming back to what the task at hand is, not where you’re trying to be.
At first your attention will waiver and you’ll potentially ‘not get it’, but just coming back to the moment of the exercise and you’ll eventually tap into the coordination and synchronisation, through exposure. Over time, you’ll be able to concentrate a lot more easily on other tasks. But…you got to keep showing up and applying yourself, once or twice won’t cut it here. Even those voices ‘I’m not getting it’, ‘I’m not good at coordination’ are just barriers that you have to shutdown, as that is the same as listening to someone else, when the exercise is about what you’re doing which in this case is learning to concentrate to coordinate so you can start getting a stronger core, not listening to unhelpful voices so you can just bail because you think you’re shit.
4. Improves Mood
As you are forced to concentrate when performing such exercises, it restructures the brain and body connections and therefore we spend less time stressed, misaligned and imbalanced. Exercise such as yoga, dance, animal movement, calisthenics and functional training, qi gong, tai chi etc can all assist in providing level of relaxation and invigoration, because we’ve created steps towards neurological harmony.
The animal that we are (which is basically the basic thoughts and feelings that get processed in the limbic system, such as happiness fear, anger,disgust, joy, sadness, surprise and love.) understands and responds super well when we reach neurological harmony (in conjunction with hormonal harmony). Our human side of us (the prefrontal cortex of the brain) then reads this as positive set of feelings and thoughts and gives us a more personal and tangible ways of feeling which come out in our personalities in each of our unique ways.
When there is an imbalance going on, this can manifest in stress signals being produced sometimes so subtle we don’t notice but they can be a slow eater of mood (basically causing traffic jams in that superspeed highway of neurotransmitters I mentioned at the start). Sometimes the stimulus can be super obvious, so we match that with our expression within fight or flight. It is all just hormones that we are trying to keep optimised so we can function accordingly to our environment.
5. Your Joints Will Become Stronger
Now who doesn’t want better joints?! I know their are some twenty odd year old’s rolling their eyes at this one (not all, a lot of my friends are in their twenties and they’ve got a spotless attitude towards their joints), but yeah, back to the point, STRONGER JOINTS. The more range of motion, independence, unison, variable movement you give to your body and limbs, the more sustainably versatile your joints will become (not to mention point 1 again).
This is a subject I could talk more about, but I’ll just leave you all with this for now. I genuinely believe that despite your sport, job, focus in life, incorporating as much variable cross-hemisphere movement into your life will reward you over time in many ways. A lot of this work can be unmeasured, which is a great addition to anyone’s life, as we seem to have everything measured which actually contributes towards a more subtle, underlying, convoluted form of stress (again, another conversation).
Take some time out to think about how you can start integrating your body and brain into each other with some cross-hemisphere movement, and give it the real time of day.