Quality Vs Quantity – the answer to pain and injury

I should probably qualify what I am meaning when I use those words. ‘Quality’ refers to how well you do it, quantity refers to how often, hard, fast or heavy you do it. ‘Quality‘ can be a little hard to define, I mean how exactly do I know if I’m doing it well if I can’t use a number or piece of data to keep score with?

Quantity on the other hand is clear. Our approach to health is fixated on quantities. We measure weight in kilograms, nutrition with calories and human movement in hundreds of different data points. We measure time, cadence, group force reactions, weights, reps and sets, joint range of movements etc.

These things are all necessary in specific fields and for specific goals. However, I would like to make the point that focusing purely on the ‘quantities’ will never ensure that ‘quality’ is produced. You can hit the numbers, but you can miss the point. Think of the quantity as more of an ‘external motivation’, you are working hard for the trophy of pushing more weight, a faster time, a medal. These are fine if you have a good foundation (quality), but if this is lacking you will find yourself fighting an uphill battle! Or even worse sustain an injury.

We need to be careful as health professionals that we encourage clients to lay a good foundation. Make a tree good and the fruit will be good (good quality movement means better performance), if we chase the fruit only we will be misguided, and end up injuring people.

So what about quality then? It seems a bit elusive, however I think this is just because we are so used to measuring our movement performance with a number, we often apply an external focus to our movement practice. Here is a quick tip for understanding quality movement – if it is smooth and easy it is good, if it is jerky and difficult you need more practice. If you have the awareness to feel when it was right or when it was wrong without a coach pointing it out, you are well on the way.

If you have to hold your breath to do it, you need more practice. I’m not talking about 300kg deadlifts here, I’m talking about foundational movements. Can you lift your leg while lying on your back without disturbing the position of the rest of your body or holding your breath? Can you do the same thing on hands and knees? What is your balance like on one leg?

Never thought to test these? Well that’s fair enough, most of us enter the movement arena at a 24 hour gym or a CrossFit club where the initial challenge is the deadlift I mentioned.

Awareness is key. Spend time developing your awareness of genuine, integral and quality movement. Build your way up from wherever you find yourself and you might get to that medal, without busting yourself on the way there.

Our Physiotherapists are here to help you on the journey. We all practice what we preach and spend much of our time in our movement studio within the clinic. 


Ryan Craig, Associate Physiotherapist

Central Physio & Health 

Gold Coast movement & functional exercise centre