Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mobility and Warming Up

At the beginning of a workout it is common to do some preparation before the more challenging exercises. Typically this involves two things- slow stretching and some cardio. A more effective method is to perform mobility drills with slowly increasing intensity.

Mobility is the ability to control the movement of the body through its full ranges of motion. Flexibility, balance, coordination, and some strength are all required, and dynamic stretching is included. Mobility drills do not attempt to increase range of motion at a joint, but do prepare a joint to safely move within the range already possible. Mobility is fundamentally a dynamic process- it is being able to deliberately move your body.

Improving mobility means improving the interplay of muscle contractions and elongations to allow strong, graceful, and safe movement. The complex, multi-joint exercises that are the focus of modern exercise require this. As with other warm-ups, as the tempo of the drills increases, the body is warmed and blood flow increased.

The videos show three phases of a mobility warm-up. The entire sequence is intended as a continuous flow taking about ten minutes. If a stage is easy, go through it quickly. If a movement is challenging spend time trying to improve instead of struggling. Work to do each movement well, do not practice doing anything poorly. Movements where balancing is difficult can be practiced while lightly touching a wall or sturdy object. There are many other possible mobility exercises, these are some I have found that work well together.

Done for higher reps, some of these drills will make excellent cardio intervals. For some people they will also be good for building strength and can be performed more deliberately for that purpose. Many can be done holding a moderate weight such as a medicine ball, or something heavier such as a dumbbell, kettlebell, or sandbag.

Three areas where most people have postural tightness are emphasized: hip opening, chest opening, and upper spine extension(bending backward). The advantage of mobilization over passive stretching for posture improvement is the neurological integration of releasing the tight area with the contraction of the opposite area while the body is moving.

After the mobility warm-up is finished, foam rolling on problem areas can be done. As you transition to the rest of your workout, some specific preparations may be needed before each exercise, including light weight practice sets.

I have to ask for some tolerance for my video recording and performance skills. The material is good even if the production isn't. There are three stages, shown in two videos shot in two locations.

Stage I & II
Start on hands and knees, aka quadruped. This is the closest to traditional stretching, but keep things moving.

Next, work on improving mobility while standing and walking. Do ten to fifteen big steps of each drill. Here I take only a few steps in one direction just to stay in the camera frame.

Stage III
Here are some more advanced movements done while lunging, squatting, and crawling.

The video shows differing numbers of reps in each direction or of each movement. In practice each part of the drill would be done for anywhere from four to eight times, unless accelerating from an easy variation to a hard one.

I'm not doing these perfectly. There is one point where I unintentionally switch which arm I raise(0:46). I also don't do a smooth progression of the final drill, and do one of the moves only once.

A good plan for the kick throughs would be:
-Step forward with the left leg, kick through with the right.
-Step back, then repeat on the other side. Repeat.
-Next instead of stepping one foot back and then other forward, simultaneously switch feet.(the video does this from the beginning). Repeat.
-Increase the stability challenge by kicking the moving foot back and forward again without touching the ground(1:45). Repeat twice.
-Add a frontal stretch and posterior push by planting the foot and going into a bridge(2:06). Repeat the entire sequence four times.

The kick throughs work really well combined with a bear crawl. I like to have clients bear crawl sideways a few steps, kick through on one side, then crawl the other direction and kick through with the other foot.

Do these drills at the start of your workout, and you'll be ready to be awesome for the really hard exercises.

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