If you are a sports and fitness club member then you’ll need to listen closely because this affects you.
It is becoming widely accepted that mobility training to improve your movement is a good thing to be doing and there are lots of benefits (not least that you find it easier to move around in your daily life).
As a movement therapist and mobility coach, I believe that good movement is the single most influential factor in a person’s health, even over and above good nutrition.
But be warned, there are also pitfalls that if you’re not aware of them, will cause you more harm than good.
Pitfall #1: Not understanding your own body enough to make the techniques successful
This is a problem because there are an increasing number of methods in the mobility marketplace that require you to alter your joint positions using external equipment such as resistance bands.
While this in itself isn’t the problem, when individuals who don’t know anything about anatomy or their own bodies start using these methods, injury can occur because the joint may well be encouraged into a position that is not suitable and that the body cannot stabilize.
This video demonstrates an example of a mobility technique that is designed to hold the leg bone in place while the hip is repositioned.
I was once taught that there is no such thing as a bad exercise, only an inappropriately prescribed one, and with this in mind, it is worth pointing out that this technique in itself is not bad.
The question I have is if you were to copy this video, how would you know that it was appropriate for you? Do you know exactly where and how your hips are stuck? Is it even your hip that is leading to your restricted movement?
If you cannot answer these questions with any degree of confidence, then I would suggest that this style of mobility work is inappropriate for you.
This style of movement improvement is designed to specifically alter joint positions which can have a huge impact on your movement capabilities. Used appropriately, this can be a good way to make gains but it requires a great deal of knowledge about anatomy and a good understanding of your own body’s requirements in order to do it well and safely.
The trouble is most people will never know enough about their own bodies to be able to make such techniques appropriate and therefore successful.
Pitfall #2: Using too much force or resistance
Adding resistance to mobility training has been used for decades. You may well have seen people using barbells in the gym doing movements that involve standing on a box and bending forwards so that the weight travels below the athlete’s feet.
The added weight provides more resistance to the stretch which requires an increased amount of muscle activation during the action. Some believe that this switches the body from resisting the stretch into helping perform the movement, therefore allowing a greater range of movement.
This is a problem because the more resistance that is used, the more the muscles must work to control that movement. This forces the joint and all the surrounding muscles to move into ranges that your body considers unsafe.
Your body only has two jobs: to protect and stabilise. Everything you do, you do in the context of these two jobs. You eat because not doing so would damage you, you need to be able to move to do that. You work because your body needs to move, not moving is damaging to your health as organs and other physiological systems need to be moved in order to function properly.
If your body is not allowing you to move in a certain way, then it is because you are likely to hurt yourself further if you were to do so. Adding a weight, resistance or simply forcing a stretch will force your body to move into the area it was trying to protect and you will increase the likelihood of injury.
This style of mobility training is doubly inappropriate if you add a lack of understanding of your body into the mix.
If your body is protecting a movement, there is always a reason why. Not knowing this reason and simply forcing the issue will always lead to further damage.
Pitfall #3: Too much, too soon
Most people do their mobility training immediately before their training session to capitalize on their new range of movement, which encourages the brain to use a new movement pattern. This is one way to improve your body position during your training, but this can also be a problem.
Foam rollers, resistance bands and weights are all forms of forcing your body to be better. If these are the techniques being used, then it is highly likely that your body will not recognise the new range of movement and therefore will slip back into its old patterns of movement before too long. Training immediately after these methods is often the only time that you will see any real benefit from them as the body is being asked to use these new ranges of movement immediately.
This in itself is not the problem.
The problem comes when a new range of movement has been achieved and no consideration is given to the lack of endurance of the muscles in this new range.
Let’s say for example that you were a runner and you’d been having problems with your hip. If you used a mobility method that forced the body to change position, it is very unlikely that you would do anything else before you set off for your run.
If your training plan was to run 5 km, it is more than likely you would just go out and run that distance.
For your body this is a real problem because it is not used to using this new range of movement, and certainly not for that length of time. If I was only hopping for the first time today, I may well be able to hop 1 km but I would be more likely to cause myself damage if I did so.
It would be more appropriate for me to build up the endurance and strength in my hopping a little bit at a time.
Too often we are focused only on the desired goal, whether that is a body position during a specific movement, or the requirements of the training plan. This leads to a complete disregard for the body’s needs and will always lead to injury.
This lack of consideration will lead people to only recognise that there is a problem when they are actually injured, rather than heeding the warning signs, of which there are usually plenty.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to change this situation without needing to understand anything about anatomy and it’s really easy to get started!
Dynamic stretching is a safe, fun and easy to implement method of mobility training that my clients have affectionately nicknamed ‘wiggling’.
‘Wiggle Your Way to Fitness’ is a short read, jam packed with tips and tricks of how to get started with learning more about your own body and fitting fast, effective and fun mobility training into your day so that you never have to worry about mobility training causing you injury ever again!
Go grab your copy and get started today!