Mobility - Know Your Role

Mobility is a term that has been so broad brush and ill-defined that it too can categorize itself as a “buzzword “ within the fitness industry, right there alongside “functional training” and “glute strengthening”.  Mobility has been brought to the masses as a means of selling foam rollers, bands, and more lacrosse balls than the sport of lacrosse, but as the dust settles on years of this broad spectrum implementation of improving mobility we are finding that injury rates haven’t budged.

I’m going to try and refrain from making broad-spectrum overgeneralizations, as I will often reference that it is these overgeneralizations are to blame for conceptual errors that are widely perpetuated in strength and conditioning and rehabilitation.

So rather than taking an antagonist stance on mobility as a means of improving performance and decreasing injury rates, rather, I’m going to suggest where mobility fits in the continuum of interventions.

Let's consider that initial feedback loop, the one that most athletes or patients will report:
Stretch->Strengthen-> Stretch -->Repeat

The athlete utilizes stretching to neurologically overriding any perceptions of tightness and allowing that joint to move further into positions of structural instability- in the case of the shoulder- the full overhead position being the most structural unstable.

Now, with range of motion or “mobility” being transiently improved the athletes then immediately loads that position with weights (barbell overhead press for example).  Now they’ve improved the mobility, and forced this overhead position where the ability of the structure to assist in stability is minimal and the ability of the function to assist in stability hasn’t been trained properly, then they load this position in attempts to build strength, the body will not only limit how much force output can be produced But also its allocating energy to tighten muscles in order to limit the ability for the body to be in this position under load, as it is now at a high risk of injury being in an unstable position under heavy load.

So in the vicious cycle of stretch-strengthen-stretch-repeat stability work can be looked at as a tributary out of this never-ending enterprise.

Mobility’s role shouldn’t be looked at as a means to prepare to strengthen, but rather, a means in which to prepare to stabilize effectively. The stimulus of functional stability cannot be evoked and progressed without the joint in questions being able to move into further and further positions of structural instability.

Stay Strong,

Jordan Shallow


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