Overuse – Misuse – Disuse

Posted: 04/08/2012 in English, Science and stuff

By Scott Sonnon

Why do we face such distress when we begin a new exercise program or a new level or training?

Why does it create nausea, vomiting, headaches, and body aches?

How does exercise ACTUALLY cause us pain and injury?

Why do we experience a cacophony of mental noise telling us to stop and quit?

The answers of these questions can be found in the Three Critical Exercise Errors people make. They allow their bodies to suffer Overuse, Misuse and Disuse.

1. Overuse

We overuse our bodies when we repetitively perform a similar movement without sufficient time to recover. We neglect recovery because we don’t understand one very critical point: recovery is development. We don’t grow from work. We don’t adapt from effort. We don’t benefit from exertion. We grow, adapt and benefit during the period of recovery.

The degree to which we recover determines the growth, adaptation and benefits we reap. If we don’t restore and recuperate fully, we only gain a small percentage of development. But the corollary to that is, the degree to which we don’t recover equals the amount of overuse we suffer. We either have progress or regress from our efforts depending upon the degree to which we completely recover.

The body will do everything possible to stop you, including headaches, nausea, phantom joint pains, sweats, chills, et cetera. If you refuse to heed these warnings and persist, then your body will compensate for your overuse by making certain areas tighter and other areas weaker to make it less dangerous to your health overall. These leads to functional imbalances, ticking time-bombs which suddenly explode when you attempt even the most mundane tasks in your life.

2. Misuse 

We misuse our bodies when we try harder and more desperately with poor form. Though work ethic remains a critical ingredient to growth and development, hard work without good mechanics is like firing a cannon out of canoe. Struggling harder without effective mechanics to hold the effort is like pouring hot water into an overflowing teacup; it only wastes water, burns you and creates a mess.

Think of it this way: if on a scale of one-to-ten, you perform an activity with a technique level of eight (very good technique), you still have a “two” which is producing an unknowable, untrackable, and most likely an undesirable result. Most people don’t use very good technique, however. Most people use “so-so” form to do activities. If you use a “five” of good technique and a “five” of poor technique, then half of what you’re doing works against you, canceling out any benefits you may be receiving by your good work.

You don’t merely adapt to your good technique. You adapt to the poor technique as well. And it accumulates. Excessive stress wreaks havoc upon your form and you rely upon defensive reflexes. You adapt to both of the “5s” – and eventually that misuse will cause a catastrophic failure resulting in severe injury. But along the way, your misuse will cause diminishing returns, plateau, backslide into regress, then first aches and pains, and finally injuries.

Misuse will also cause illnesses and diseases if you persist beyond the injuries. Stress-related disease is the world’s number one killer; not bombs or bullets, not cancer or viruses. Excessive stress.

3. Disuse

Move it or you lose it. Movement is life. Your nervous system craves complexity. Aging itself involves the loss of complexity, so as you don’t move, or as you take fewer risks, you age more rapidly. If you don’t keep moving in all the infinite ways that you were designed, those neurological pathways will become overgrown with weeds and briars, so when you eventually try to move into that underbrush, it will be slow, awkward, painful and hazardous.

Unfortunately, it’s even bleaker than the above. We think of sedentary lifestyle and risk aversion as inactivity, as “doing nothing.” But your nervous system doesn’t recognize it as inaction. It registers it as a highly specific action which demands adaptation (just like overuse and misuse). Disuse stresses your body, so if you’re sitting behind a desk, on the couch or in the car all day long, you will adapt to that specific stressor. Your nervous system will make it easier to use less effort to repeat the same position for longer. You become “chair-shaped.”

Disuse causes you to lose movement potential and it causes you to strengthen limitations. And like overuse and misuse will lead to imbalances, injuries and illnesses due to the excessive stress it causes.




  1. An useful information about–“Disuse causes you to lose movement potential and it causes you to “strengthen limitations”.

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