Strength & Fitness

Range of Motion Anxiety

It seems our "Movement Prerequisites" blog caused a bit of anxiety! There was a bit of "I'm not anywhere close to that" and "I really need to work on my mobility".

It was difficult to write. I originally had a lot more of "If you can't do this, then NO this..." and those are very decisive statements to make. We switched a lot of them to "Should not do this". We do not want to scare anyone, we are just looking out for your health.

Your health, aside from markers a doctor would look at, includes: can you carry your kids around, can you carry your groceries in at 80 years old, can you get back up off the toilet your entire life. Those are a far cry from doing thrusters and pulls up...but if your squat is missing something now, how do you think it will look when you are 80? You may be doing this now so you can still bike, ski, keep up with the kids, and any other physical activity...but how you take care of yourself now will have a huge impact on the future.

How does my mobility go bad?

There are obvious reasons why we need to maintain our mobility, we want to be able to keep doing the things we love.

Think about it this way though, your joints/tendons/muscles are like a car door. Under normal circumstances, the door opens to its regular stopping point. Even if you push it a bit harder then normal (like working out), it will at best bounce back a little bit but it won't hurt it.

What happens if you back out of the garage with it open and bend it all the way past its stopping point? That's what could happen when you slip on ice, or step in a pothole, or crash your bike, or fall skiing....you push something past its limit and it breaks. Keeping yourself limber will minimize the possibility of something moving to its breaking point.

Your mobility changes for a few reasons.

  1. "If you don't use it, you lose it"  
    Have a desk job, drive a vehicle all day? Of course, your shoulders are going to pull forward, of course, your hip flexors are going to shorten. Weeks to years of being in the same position, your body will default to that position.
  2. Lack of strength = major or minor injury over the years = body shuts down that motor pathway
    We can keep using my shoulders for example. Years of baseball where the muscles used to pull my arm forward were far stronger than those pulling or holding my arm back (strong chest muscle, weak upper back). Then I began CrossFit where we still pushed way more than pulled, added some kipping pull-ups and toes to bar, which severely stretched my weak rotator cuff muscles. My brain said, "no more" and now I can't get my arms fully overhead because it thinks it will hurt my shoulders again. These are the "minor" injuries above. I never really "hurt" my shoulders. I just kept pushing them past their limits and my body protected itself.

How do I fix my mobility?

First, you need to understand the difference between Flexibility and Mobility. We use mobility the most because everyone has a general idea of what we are talking about. There is a difference, however.

Flexibility = The ability for a joint to passively (assisted by gravity or load from an external force) reach full range of motion. It is how much true range of motion you have before the joint, joint capsule, or ligaments really can not go any. If you were to bring your arms up to your ears as far as you could, but I can gently push them closer together, that is your flexibility.

You would be lacking...

Mobility = how actively flexible you are. If I can push your arms closer together, you lack the strength to move them there yourself, therefore you lack Mobility, not Flexibility.

My shoulders now lack the Flexibility to get overhead. I have to reprogram my brain, and by default the muscles and tendons I've hurt, to loosen back up. We do this with Eccentric Loading. Simple really...we slowly stretch the muscles under a small load until we reach the end of their ROM and hold for :03 sec. We then reset and go again. 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Now, if you have flexibility but lack the strength to move your body into a certain position, well it's just as simple. Need to get stronger.The how and what to do? Too many variables depending on what part of the body we are helping.

But, this ties back to the injury aspect mentioned above. What if you have a freak accident and have the flexibility but not the mobility? You would be better off than vice versa, but your body may still lack the strength to "save" you if you do have an accident.

What do I do now?

4 possible options.

First, we have to determine if you lack Flexibility or Mobility. Then either 1) Eccentric loading, or 2) Strength work.

But, for most every day people...you have to 3) plan a time to get up and move around! Have a desk job? 50min of work to 10min of moving and stretching would be ideal. Sure, it's not always convenient, but you can not just sit all day. Have at least, a morning and afternoon break to get the blood flow moving and stretch. Anything will be better than nothing.

After workouts, do not rush out of here! (we know some of you have to)Take some time to do the 4) cool down. Whatever just got beat up in class, needs to calm down.

The ideal, post-workout, stretch should be 2:00 min per stretch! That is how long the brain needs to help relax the area to keep it from doing what it did to my shoulders.

Options 3 and 4 are easy to begin to incorporate. We already do a cooldown, don't skip it. Moving at work? Set an alarm.

For options 1 and 2, ask your coach. Again, it's not prudent to explain them further here, we do not know what you need yet. But once we do a few quick tests and figure out where you are lacking, it's not too difficult to make a plan.

Remember, this may be done for other reasons with a more immediate impact, but this is all the building blocks for what you will be capable of in old age!

Last, these things take time to reverse or fix. Be patient! In the meantime, do not be afraid to modify movements to keep yourself safe. There is no shame there, it's the smart play!

Coach Ryan

Ryan King

Owner / Coach