Blog Post By PPT Trainer, Bandoll Pho
“The body will become better at whatever you do, or don’t do. If you don’t move, your body will make you better at not moving. If you move, your body will allow more movement” – Ido Portal
“What is mobility?”
“Mobility”. Now that is a word that has been thrown around gyms more than its predecessor “functional”. Unfortunately, both terms have been used without any in-depth knowledge and understanding of what it really means, therefore limiting its potential benefits.
The more important questions is, what does it mean to you? Does it mean you need to be able to touch your toes, or be able to do the splits or perhaps an overhead squat? All of these are technically correct but what is missing is specificity; being specific about the inhibiting factors. These factors include everyday life, training style, training frequency, incorrect form or weaknesses in stabilisers and prime movers.
But with all mumbo jumbo aside, we all would like to move freely, perform better without pain or discomfort, and of course avoid any serious injuries that would put our goals on the backburner. Now isn’t that worth investing in.
“We are what we repeatedly do”
When we are born, we are gifted. Gifted with the ability to move, to want to move and a curiosity to keep on moving. We have a clean slate, no injuries, no inflamed joints, no tears, no bulging discs, but then life happens and movement isn’t our top priority. We start thinking that moving less just happens with age, or is this an excuse for laziness?
Nowadays we spend a majority of our days seated in a chair, which places our hips in a constant fixed position, shoulders rounded and lower back flexed. (Did you just correct your posture after reading that?) Now if I was to ask how many of us can squat below parallel, or execute an overhead squat, I would get a sea of mixed answers with only a handful of people who actually could with good form. Coincidence? Now before you go out buying ergonomic chairs, standing desks or replacing your chair with a fitness ball, we should take a step back and figure out what you need.?Training programs are and should be tailored to the individual; mobility is no different. Everyone is different, what is stiff in one person may not apply to the next. I’m not going to give you a “fix-all” stretching program because well, it doesn’t exist. What we need to look at is specificity, specificity to the problematic areas.
Let’s run through an example. Since we spend so much time sitting, slouching becomes a habit, which results in protracted and elevated shoulders. Similar to stretching, to allow the body to get into a certain position, another muscle or muscles must relax. If they relax for too long they become inactive and weak. To rectify the problem we must, to put it simply, do the complete opposite.
Protracted and elevated shoulders will need retraction and depression. To allow for both we first identify the key inhibitors of each movement. We then release and stretch the tight muscles, in this case will most likely be tight pec major/minor (chest), upper traps (the muscles that sit to the side of your neck), latissimus dorsi (largest of your powerful back muscles) and even the neck muscles like scalenes and levator scapulae.
As you can see, things can get a little complex when it comes to mobilising. Finding what works for you will require some detective skills, but no one knows your body like you do. Test, release and re-test. You will usually see an immediate improvement in range of motion and a decrease in tension. So start with basic stretches first and then move onto using different tools like foam rollers, balls, bands and rolling sticks for a more specific release.
“Beyond stretching and releasing”
Mobility starts with releasing then moves on to activating and strengthening which is a topic for another day soon. The most important part to take away from this is to identify weaknesses and start implementing some drills when you wake up, during work, before or after training and even while watching the tele.
We owe it to our bodies considering all the stresses we put on them day in day out. This isn’t an overnight achievement, mobility takes time, patience and a little bit (or a lot) of discomfort. But in the end, if we move and feel better, that is surely a small price to pay.