Last week we talked a bit about flexibility, one of the unsexiest of unsexy topics. This week it's mobility. Still unsexy, yet still so very important. Mobility is the just the ability to be able to move freely and efficiently. It includes flexibility (if you're tight as a drum you can't move) and coordination. Both of these will come easier with practice and by paying special attention to your weak points.
These are the three most important areas I focus on when it comes to an immobile client.
The squat is basic movement pattern that we SHOULD be able to do naturally. I'm sure most people in the fitness world have seen this picture of a young'n squatting perfectly by now. That just shows you that this movement pattern is basically instinctual, and not something that should require years of practice to get right.
Well, mostly because of our cultures lack of activity and our desire to sit down for every damn thing, squatting is no longer a natural movement for anyone over the age of 13.
Go grab a mirror or a video camera and watch yourself squat. I guarantee you'll see at least one, if not all, of these...
- Rounded upper back
- Heels coming up from the floor
- Upper leg not able to reach parallel with the ground
- Upper body leaning forward past a 45 degree angle
- Knees caving in
Some of these are because of weakness and other are because of tightness of immobility. Either way, they are affecting the way you train and the way you live your life.
Your thoracic spine is just your upper back. You know, the part of your back that is always rounded from sitting at the computer and is making you look more like a hunch-back each day.
Thoracic mobility is a major issue because a) like I just said, we're all hunched over a desk/computer/steering wheel all the time and b) it causes problems with all kinds of movements and exercises that we need to be doing to stay sexy and awesome as fuck.
- Lay on the ground with your lower back flat against the floor
- Lock your elbows and wrists, so your arms are straight at your sides
- Raise your arms straight up and overhead, trying to touch the back of your hands to the floor above your head
- Take notice of where your arms are when you can no longer keep your lower back flat on the floor
The reason your lower back (lumbar spine) comes of the floor is because you lack the mobility in your thoracic spine. So, to make up for it, you unconsciously bend and contort your lumbar spine to meet the end result.
This isn't a huge issue when you're just laying on your back with no extra load on your spine, but when you're pressing over head or squatting it becomes a major problem.
Your hamstrings run across both your knee and your hip, meaning that its tightness or immobility can affect you in a range of different ways. Causing your lower back to "tuck under" at the bottom of a squat or just being generally stiff and immobile are both problems.
Just like with anywhere else in the body, tight hamstrings will cause issues in the areas surrounding them when you attempt something that they aren't capable of doing. Similar to the thoracic spine, lack of mobility in the hamstring will put more force and pressure on your lower back.
I can almost guarantee that you have tight hamstrings, but just for shits and giggles try these two tests.
- Lay on the ground in a doorway with your hip in line with the frame
- Lift the leg closest to the frame up and keep it straight
- Keep lifting it as far as you can while keep in the knee locked out and body flat on the ground
- Make a note of where your leg is in relation to the frame when you can no longer keep a straight leg or flat body
- Repeat on the other leg
- Grab a box or something 3-4 inches tall
- Put one foot on the box and the other foot on the ground
- Pinch your shoulder blades (ie keep a flat upper back) and touch as far down as you can on the leg that's on the ground
- Repeat on the other side and make note of any differences in how far you can reach