When it comes to strength training, people have started to come around to the idea that the body works as one, not a bunch of parts. In fact, that is one of the most important and differing aspects of functional training. Yet, when it comes to building better mobility we go back to bodybuilding. Not really sure why, but I think it goes back to the fact that people believe that if a joint like the shoulder lacks mobility then you have to perform isolated shoulder mobility. However, that is a path to insanity.
Jessica and I work in a great partnership. She looks at things through the physical therapy perspective and I can examine things through the scope of fitness and performance training. So, when she and I were discussing mobilizations that physical therapists do, she enlightened me to the fact that it is done to help actual joint restrictions that the therapist finds. Well, that isn’t something really the fitness professional or strength coach should be doing because it requires physical addressing the joint.
In that case, I get isolating the joint because the therapist found some type of actual physical restriction. This idea of simply moving a joint and hoping it improves the movement of the joint is just a false narrative. At the VERY least, it is a very inefficient way of trying to address issues like shoulder mobility.
Again, we have to ask WHY is a joint “tight”? I already gave one possible explanation, but what’s another? Something that the fitness professional or strength coach COULD address. Well, it starts with a basic understanding of what is known as the Joint by Joint Approach by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle. The philosophy is simple and is meant to be, it is to help one understand that a joint has a dominance towards mobility or stability. If we look at the diagram you see how the alternating pattern actually makes a lot of sense.
For some odd reason, people have said this model is not accurate. Well, it isn’t to say that the joints can act to some level with both mobility and stability, it is just saying a dominance. When you look at the knee for example, it looks like a joint that is built mostly for stability. The hip has lots of movement is made for mobility but also has qualities of stability to it. However, it is positioned between two areas (the knee and the lumbar spine) that don’t have a lot of movement to them. Doesn’t seem like it SHOULD be all that complicated, but leave it to the fitness industry to try to do so!
With that knowledge. How are we addressing the shoulder mobility question in a much easier way? If we look at the same pattern for the upper body we see hands-stability, wrists-mobility, elbow-stability, shoulder-mobility, and scapulae-stability. That is important because it explains why Thomas Myers shows that the hand has a direct correlation to the shoulder joint.
The above shows that if we don’t engage the use of the hands to connect to the shoulder, actually improving shoulder mobility is going to be quite difficult. Then there is examine how the spine is also impacted. If we look at the Joint by Joint, we see the lumbar spine is needed for stability and thoracic spine for mobility. While people try to perform a lot of thoracic mobility drills they often fail to realize how instability of the lumbar spine results in the thoracic spine “tightening” up.
Remember, our bodies always want stability to help protect ourselves from getting exposed to potential injury. We aren’t going to open our bodies up if our nervous systems perceives there to be instability. If we don’t therefore stabilize the lumbar spine, we won’t have much success in opening up the thoracic spine and getting that shoulder mobility we are all aiming to achieve!
Okay, so HOW do we do it? How do we get results like DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows from doing just ONE exercise?!!!!
At first glance people want to say “NO WAY” is that possible after a few repetitions of an exercise. However, it isn’t magic, it is just the science of human movement. What did Cory do and why it works so well? He used our DVRT dead bug progressions. That’s always our starting point because we are very stable, but there is a lot of nuance around getting the “magic” around the exercise.
What you needed to hear from Cory was the “little” cues that make such a HUGE difference in the movement. The Ultimate Sandbag gives us both the chance to engage the grip, create tension vertically and horizontally (most tools only allow one or the other) and the ability to build many levels of progression.
Why is that important?
Sometimes you don’t get the “magic” but that doesn’t mean the principles don’t work. You just have to find the right level of the movement to actually get the result we talk about. That might be a more challenging dead bug, a heavier dead bug, or even moving to our bird dog progressions which is a dead but in a more challenging environment.
So, what you see Jessica and I take you through are some of those progressions and keys. Starting at the beginning is key because if you compensate at the foundations then improving shoulder mobility is going to be very difficult. Not only shoulder mobility, but mobility throughout the body! People are often SHOCKED how their squats feel better, their deadlifts are stronger, and they can press without pain. That’s the cool stuff that we fall in love all the time!
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