Mobility – Training’s Fifty Shades of Grey
I consider mobility to be top of the tree when it comes to physical attributes. That said I don’t really see it as a goal in itself for most, if any people. Most of us want to lift more, run faster, jump higher, hit harder and so on. That’s great and it certainly isn’t my place to tell you what your goals should and shouldn’t be, neither is it anyone else’s. As a result I don’t think everyone should be spending hours and hours trying to achieve the splits, just so they can. Mixed message?
Not at all.
Mobility is top of the tree because assuming you have sufficient cardiovascular and organ function to just stay alive it is the first and base requirement you need to achieve anything physically. It sounds silly but you can’t deadlift unless you can lean over and reach the bar, you can’t get a competition squat PB if you cannot hit depth. It does and has to come before strength in the list of attributes required for anything. Strength as an attribute then comes before a developed cardiovascular capacity.
This idea causes all sorts of people, militant runners generally, to get out of their proverbial prams and have a paddy. Bear with me. I’m not trying to belittle anyone or tell them what they’re doing is wrong, I’m trying to give you a fresh perspective. If you are not strong enough to stand then you can’t run, simple as that. So, I’m not saying you need to have the flexibility of a gymnast to be a good powerlifter, but you do need enough mobility… to be a good powerlifter! I’m not saying you need the strength of a powerlifter to be a good runner, but you do need enough strength… to be a good runner.
In all cases of physical achievement or improvement, you need enough mobility to start with to achieve the positions required safely. Then you can start stabilising those positions and learn to apply more force through them safely. Once you can stabilise them and apply more force you can work on how long you can maintain that level of work for. So, as you can see there are physical attributes that facilitate the development of others we may be more interested in.
If we try to ignore that then we will hit a sticking point, or maybe worse get hurt. There is an argument that cardiovascular capacity can become a limiting factor for strength and power gains by limiting recovery capability and/or volume of training so there may come a point where that is the easiest factor to improve to help the rest of your training keep progressing. That’s a different discussion for a different day.
So, having drawn you in with an erotic literature reference what the hell has mobility got to do with shades of grey? Well when speaking to Ash from AOA about his own injury challenges we discussed mobility as a continuum, not a black and white scenario.
A shades of grey continuum. What do I mean by that? Well, if we take being injured as the ultimate outcome of not being able to get into and then stabilise ‘safe’ positions then black would be being so injured you’re immobile.
We as a training community tend to think of ourselves as being either injured, black, or not injured and able to train, white. We might kind of recognise a period of rehab in between where we were previously ‘injured’ and we’re now rehabilitating until we get back to being ‘not injured’ but we only seem to recognise this grey area as existing in that direction, from injured back to not injured, and often as a fixed period until the physio says ‘you can train again’. I see our movement health completely differently. Take white on one end of the continuum to be a point where we can voluntarily access and stabilise all of the ‘safe’ ranges of movement of all of our joints.
A point where we would have the absolute minimal risk of injury and the maximum ability to perform with our current strength and cardiovascular capacity levels. A point where all that could possibly go wrong would be doing something stupid and genuinely stepping way beyond a weight that was reasonable to think we could lift and trying anyway.
At the other end of the continuum we have black, a point where we can’t use any of our joints without pain and damage and we’re totally immobilised. In between are shades of grey, from discomfort to little niggles to bigger niggles, to changing form or changing exercises in order to reduce pain to… ‘injured’.
In reality nobody will ever reach completely white or completely black, we’re all somewhere in the middle in terms of how well we move. So every time you stand up, walk, sit, lift, run or do anything with poor patterns and imbalanced movements you are giving your body negative inputs in terms of movement, forming bad habits, practising and embedding poor muscular firing sequences.
The more intensely you do any of these things, the more often you do them, the more you will move further and further into darker and darker shades of grey in terms of your movement health, closer to being injured and immobilised and further from a low risk high performance state. Simply sitting too much at work, I the car, at home and so on is one of the biggest negative inputs in modern life and it seems like nothing. So are we all doomed to injury and pain? Of course not! Every time we get hands-on therapy, massage, self-treat muscle over-activity, rest in good positions, get good sleep, move well at sensible intensities, practice good ‘safe’ movements and teach ourselves and practice better firing sequences and positions we are giving our bodies positive inputs.
When we’re doing that we’re moving ourselves into the lighter and lighter shades of the continuum. Safer and safer states and closer and closer to low risk, high performance states.
So what does this highly theoretical waffle actually mean? Well it means that you can’t expect to just be in a state of ‘fixed’ where you can do just what you want and not get hurt, it doesn’t work that way. It means that the more demanding your training, the more you push the envelope, the better you need to treat yourself in terms of recovery and rest. The more time you spend in poor positions, static or moving, loaded or unloaded the more time you need to spend doing rehab and prehab work, stretching, foam rolling, getting massages and looking after yourself.
The really good news is that you can give yourself a head start. If you get assessed and find out what mobility limitations you have that are, at the moment, not symptomatic, you can address them before they cause problems. Don’t wait until you’re so far down the dark end of the continuum you’re in significant pain and are contemplating quitting training. Take looking after your movement as part of your training.
Take it seriously and as a little, well more of a huge bonus, getting into mechanically better positions can often improve the numbers you can lift without actually getting stronger! Just through better mobility facilitating your ability to express your existing strength you may well lift more, with less risk of getting hurt. What’s stopping you?
What Causes Trigger Points and Tight Muscles?
Both have the same contributing factors including training, flexibility, movement patterns, posture, nutrition, hydration, rest, stress, and other lifestyle factors. Our bodies learn to compensate for what we throw at them every day, but we can exceed our ability to recover via too many intense workouts, poor posture, and other lifestyle factors.
This is when you need assistance using recovery techniques or through seeing a professional. If you lived a perfect life with everything in balance, you would theoretically never have either of these conditions, however I’ve yet to meet this lucky person.
Credit – breakingmuscle.com
How Your Pelvis & Shoulder Are Linked
Biomechanically the pelvis and shoulder are linked. This is what is referred to as a Myofascial sling.
The hamstrings starting from the tibia then insert into the Ischial tuberosity. This then continues along as the Sacro-tuberous ligament and then through the thoraco-Lumbar fascia. This then continues to the Latissimus dorsi which then inserts into the opposite scapula and humerus.
Therefore your Hamstrings actually attach to your arms!!!
So....if there is tension through this sling caused from a rotated pelvis, then the infraspinatus (a muscle on the scapula) can go into spasm and so prevents the biomechanical function of the shoulder. This is a common cause of shoulder injuries.
In order to reduce risk of shoulder injuries the pelvis must be in good biomechanical shape.
Therefore if you have shoulder pain, then you will need to have your pelvis assessed.
I'm really not going crazy if I assess your pelvis before looking at your shoulder!
Credit - the body mechanic