I love discussing mobility training in our blogs because if I’m being honest, I neglected mobility work for a long time in my lifting. Not because I didn’t believe mobility was important, but because like many, I had been really frustrated in not getting results from the time I had devoted to mobility training.
You see, in the late 90’s as functional training started building momentum in fitness, we were told that bad posture was due to tight muscles pulling on one side and weak muscles on the other side. This stemmed from renown physical therapist, Vladmir Janda’s work. At the time revolutionary, but over the years even Dr. Janda would say this model had imperfections.
During that time we spent A LOT of time stretching “this and that” muscle. Seriously like half the training session was stretching, yet, we weren’t making much progress. Why? You will find out soon enough! However, I gave up on this model, not making much progress with any of my clients. Then around 2001, the idea of joint mobility started gaining popularity as practitioners that had a background in martial arts were showing a lot of unique drills and great movement skills. What was often overlooked was the years and years that many of these coaches had in not only these exercises but this type of overall training.
That is why so many people keep jumping around from mobility training program to mobility training program time and time again. I can understand why as we are told that we should be able to help people’s mobility, but we find this or that drill too difficult, it doesn’t change one’s movement, we don’t have progressions, there are actually many reasons that people don’t have success in their mobility training.
What I have learned in making all the mistakes that I have discussed in the past 25 years of coaching has helped me create better solutions. For one, we are talking about mobility training, which is simply our body’s ability to control its movement through a range of motion. We often say joint mobility, but there are many factors that impact if we are actually even dealing with the joint. Soft-tissue, neural coordination, and the joint all play an integrated role in mobility training. Therefore, we should be looking to address all these issues, but spend our time on the type of training that has the biggest impact on our ability to move with great control and fluidity.
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This pandemic has put a halt on every aspect of life. People are moving less and sitting more than ever. Sitting can be very problematic and is a leading cause to many of our mobility issues. Artificial stability provided by sofas, chairs, etc. causes parts of our body to “turn off”. The stability sectors of our body stop doing their job because they are not needed. Add to that, terrible sitting form and shortening of muscles resulting in a lack of mobility. — A very common issue that arises with prolonged periods of sitting is low back pain. This can be due to tight hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. Frequently, stretching is prescribed to help alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, this proves to be more of an immediate relief and not a solution. A better approach to solve this issue is the connection of the body from the ground up. This solution serves to reinstate the order of our body, where the stabilizing and mobility sectors once again perform their purpose. — Situations like these serve as inspiration to make classic mobility drills better. Such is the case with the movement on display. Originally intended to fix tight hamstrings, this movement misses the big picture of how the body is connected. Instead, it falls into the trap of body building mobility where it looks at the body as different parts and not a unit. This results in less efficient mobility drills. — A better understanding of how the body works seeks to create mobility drills that trace the pre-existing chains of the body. For instance, tracing the spiral line that connects the right foot to the right hip and then crosses over to the left shoulder can lead to better mobility in not only the right hamstring, but the upper back and left shoulder. Successfully linking these chains will take the “brakes off” the body. — This drill is not exempt from creating proximal stability, which results in distal mobility. In other words, making the core muscles stabilize the spine, which results in the body feeling safe, allowing the extremities to move with freedom. Proximal stability is key in creating better mobility drills, understanding this will lead to bodies moving safely and with freedom.
Strength coach, Martin Adame, shows how we integrate the 3 primary factors of mobility training (soft-tissue, neural, and joint control) in a smarter way to approach our mobility training.
Just like our strength training, our mobility training should focus on integrating the body in functional patterns and tapping into our nervous system wants to control our body through patterns like lifts/chops (as Martin shows above), core stability (which happens through tension we create in our hands and feet), and positions that don’t overwhelm the nervous system so it goes on guard.
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For many walking is a leisure activity. For my Parents it’s their everyday exercise. Walking together has helped my Parents embark on their fitness journey. While this addition made my very happy, a challenge presented itself when I tried convincing them to add resistance training. — Luckily their passion for walking and desire to improve their three mile time(walk) served as the catalyst to add some kind of training into their training regimen. I designed a quick activation routine with the #USB core bag which would help them move and feel better. Some of the benefits my Parents have experienced from this warm up include: 1. Disappearance of knee pain on planting leg(Dad) 2. No more low back tightness(Dad) 3. Increased feeling of stability and fluidity(Mom) 4. Faster three mile time(Mom) don’t tell Dad I told you. PLEASE! — Improving quality of life has quickly moved to the top of my list as a Coach. The ability to help my Parents continue to do something they enjoy and improve their performance is by far one of the most rewarding feelings. — I am aware some of the drills aren’t done to perfection. Nevertheless, I am okay with that, we are a continuous work in progress striving to get better every day. In fact, my Parents are now asking if we can progress to a heavier bag. They enjoy resistance training. I am a happy Coach and a fortunate son who gets to make walking better for my loved ones.
I love what Martin shows in working with his own parents because this is a perfect way to demonstrate why these principles are so important. Here are real people that probably have some change to their joints (as we get older arthritis and joint degeneration is pretty normal), they aren’t elite athletes that have years of movement training behind them, they need cuing that isn’t overly complicated and movements that show them how to use their bodies smarter. That is why in DVRT we coach with real people in mind, not the 1%.
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Short post today, not much to read. Woke up with a tight low back. Decided to share one of the drills I use to make it feel better in seconds. —— It’s important to highlight that as always we followed simple but important rules of better mobility : 1. Didn’t bodybuild mobility 2. Connect the body from the ground up. 3. Proximal stability creates distal mobility. In other words, we made the body feel stable and safe, which takes the “brakes off” and allows the extremities to move freely. —— If you have any questions regarding how to create better mobility drills to address some of your needs drop a comment below. Or if you’d like for me to create content about that same topic you have questions about let me know.
Of all the mistakes that I have made the biggest was thinking there was some “magical” exercise that would fix my clients’ mobility issues. Trust me, there were plenty of people out there that would tell me as much, but then I would go back and find that it didn’t work and get frustrated. Instead, focusing on concepts and principles allowed me to adjust the mobility training to fit my client and not try to force my client into a position or drill that wasn’t good for them.
If we focus on the concepts of putting people in positions where their nervous system feels comfortable and doesn’t guard if we use core stability by loading our body with deliberate tension that is impacted by how and where we create the tension, if we have people perform functional patterns that are natural to the body, we can create much greater success than most imagine. It won’t happen overnight, but if we can show improvements that keeps all of us motivated from coach to client. That is how “magic” actually happens from being intentional and consistent.