I hope the sunny weather has been treating you well. A couple months ago I had the unique opportunity to attend an FMS (Functional Movement Systems) seminar. Meg and I both attended, so it was kind of fun to actually learn some cool fitness wizardry together. One of the take home points (at least for me), was that most of the movement we do throughout life is very developmental: from the point we are able to roll around as babies to the moment we figure out we can sprint. It all builds from day one.
With that said, there is a synergistic balance between strength, stability, and mobility. The term mobility gets thrown around a lot and seems to have bunch of different definitions. When we think about the term, most people simply think about flexibility, and there is a difference. So, saying that you can touch your toes and saying that you are really mobile, are two completely different things. The goal is not one or the other, it’s simply creating a stable relationship between the two. Something that Kanye and Taylor are working out, at the moment.
Here’s my take on what mobility means:
Achieving challenging ranges of motion while exhibiting dynamic control, in relation to the individual.
So, in a nutshell, flexibility looks at where you can get to, and mobility looks at what you can do once you are there.
For more on this, check this out, and click the video featuring Mike from Global Bodyweight Training and Dr. Andreo Spina.
The reason I’m going over this is so you understand the difference between the two, because I may be referring to one or the other. The challenge for most people, is that they don’t spend enough time owning the movement pattern, which would create the mobility and subsequent stability they might need. Or, they spend too much time in the wrong positions. (Think sitting)
The problem with this is: When you create the habit for your brain, it’s really hard for your body to edit-undo the pattern without around the clock attention. So, if you don't spend the necessary time pushing your mobility boundaries, nothing will really change unless you can control and own that movement.
At the seminar, I was looking for a little more insight as to why I had been going through a bit of a hip issue. I had tried everything! Soft tissue work, adequate dynamic warm up, core work, adjusted my training program, breathing, rolling, etc. The fact of the matter is that the so called “fix” was right in front of me, but I just wasn’t looking in that direction. So here’s a bit of history about how my “injury” started:
Signed up for a Marathon, running 15-30 miles per week.
Strength Training Program including some heavy as hell, bilateral compound lifts, 4 times a week.
Squatting 2 times/week and Benching 2 times/week, as well as other barbell lifts.
Limited Upper Body Mobility exercises - I basically stopped all of this stuff because I was short on time.
Whoa, that’s a lot.
Keep in mind too, that I said this was a hip issue. I was dealing with a lot of discomfort on my left side that would radiate through my hamstrings, and sometimes, on the days after I squatted, I’d feel a lot of discomfort on the side of my hip.
Here is a prime example of why paying attention to total body mobility is important.
As it hit me in the seminar, there wasn’t anything wrong with my left hip. It was my right side, and generally upper body mobility. After doing all of those heavier bilateral lifts, after about 9 months of creating stiffness and imbalance, my body started to counteract the issue by shoving my hips to the left when I would squat, deadlift, bench, or row. Anything where I’d have two hands on something.
To compound the issue, I was running that way, cementing it. No wonder I hit a wall, and started to experience some discomfort. My whole left side was simply overworking to compensate for my right side's position.
Additionally, this isn’t to say that, “OMG, never touch a barbell again.” In fact, I’m borderline addicted to deadlifting.
But what I learned from this, is that you need to pay attention to the details. I didn’t work enough on my upper body mobility, and as a result, hit a point of diminishing returns. I simply wasn’t preparing the right way, and I won’t make excuses. Additionally, there usually is not one “cause” of something. It is the combination of factors that all come into play.
Flash forward, after addressing a ton of soft tissue work, t-spine mobility, shoulder flexion/extension on my right side, my hip is feeling a lot better. It’s funny that I didn’t pick up on it earlier, but as Biggie said, “If you don’t know, now you know.” So... sure, I was flexible enough to get into those positions, but because my mobility and ability to control them sucked, I developed sub par positioning. Eventually my body said ouch.
So when you’re dealing with a bit of an issue, it’s okay ask questions that might not make sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a client a question about something seemingly irrelevant, and had them turn their head in confusion like a velociraptor. If you can’t figure it out, find someone that can ask the right questions and help you. Don’t wait, and don’t suffer. Here are three suggestions:
What movements have I been doing or not doing lately?
Do I feel my mobility is limited in other areas?
Is this discomfort painful to the point that I need to get it checked out?
Don’t get focused on one approach or tactic and think that that will solve all of your aches and pains. It all matters. How you sleep, stand, lift, hydrate, eat, sit, etc. The brain responds to consistency; the brain likes habits; and the brain controls the body. The more you can put yourself in new positions and postures, the more you will be better suited to handle something high on the difficulty scale.
Constant movement and exploration kind of balances it all out.
Till next time,