Mobility before Stability
“First Move Well, then Move Often” – famous words of Gray Cook that are well know in the fitness, rehabilitation and sports community. How do we move well? Unless you developed general athleticism as a child, picking up a sport at age 30 might be difficult. If you learned to swing or throw at an early age, you might be able to get away with switching from volleyball to tennis or from baseball to golf. However, this is purely related to skill acquisition. Chances are, it has been a while since you last swung a bat and your flexibility and strength have declined. You might be at risk for injury. There are a few things you might need to address beyond the skill of your new sport.
We live in the age of computer sedentary lifestyles but attempt to compensate by participating in marathons, century rides or CrossFit. Unfortunately, in the process of achieving these goals, many are building specific fitness on poor general fitness. Running 40 miles a week without proper flexibility or stability in key regions of the body can create disaster during training. If you spend more than several hours a day at a desk, mobility exercises are vital to prevent injury in daily activities or fitness activities.
At the same time, many who are attempting to maintain generally fit with Yoga, Pilates and strengthening exercises are still doing it in the wrong order or are neglecting what they need most. Many people who love Yoga and its amazing benefits for improved flexibility may be overlooking their stability deficits. In order to move well, you must have MOBILITY before STABILITY and you must have both. Make sure you have enough range of motion in the joints and enough elongation in your muscles before you attempt to strengthen them with a repetitive movement (i.e. running a lot). Otherwise, you are just reinforcing a poor movement pattern. This causes more strain in the joints, which can ultimately promote osteoarthritis.
Save your joints.
1) Hip Flexor Tightness
One of the most common places I see mobility issues is in the hip flexors (muscle group in front of your hip). Because we sit so much, this muscle becomes shortened and ultimately affects our ability to use our gluteals (buttocks) well. This can severely affect your ability to run or rotate with good mechanics, thus putting more strain on the lumbar spine. I don’t even need to throw out stats on the prevalence of low back pain.
Try this stretch daily to help correct your hip imbalances.
To get more dynamic and specific is the Gary Gray tri-planar hip flexor stretch.
2) Thoracic Mobility Deficits
Also because of our prolonged time at desks ultimately leading to slumped posture and rounding at the shoulders. This creates stiffness in the thoracic spine (mid- back) and corresponding shortening of pectorals and latissimus dorsi muscles.
Try these stretches in kneeling and on the foam roller to correct your thoracic stiffness.
Knowing you have an imbalance or limitation is the first step. This may require help from a physical therapist. Performing these exercises consistently to override your body’s tendency to take the path of least resistance (desk posture) is the second step. Perform these as close to daily as possible and notable changes will be made in your posture and ability to perform better during training or sport.
Once you get mobile, we will address stability. Stay tuned.