The team of Performance Therapies and Performance Health and Fitness has been working hard to bridge the gap between rehabilitation, fitness, and performance. In doing so, we have been working on creating a common language and philosophy to provide clients with a safe and effective training program for their goals. This also gives our therapy patients the ability to progress well beyond the recovery from an injury or surgery. Within this common philosophy, we always discuss the progression of movement patterns through a spectrum of mobility, stability/control, strength, speed/agility/power exercises. No matter the movement pattern targeted, it is important we first establish the mobility to allow a good movement pattern. Next, we learn how to control and coordinate the movement pattern, followed by loading the pattern to build strength. Once strength is adequate, we build speed and goal-specific activities over this strong pattern to ultimately improve performance.
Mobility must be established first to safely strengthen a movement pattern. If we attempt to build strength over an inefficient or faulty movement pattern, we will strengthen compensations and be at risk for injury. In addition, we will not be able to maximize our gains in strength if there is an underlying mobility issue. If we are trying to strengthen through a mobility issue, our system will not be able to create as much force. One reason for this is reciprocal inhibition. When the brain senses tension in the muscles in one direction, it will inhibit or turn off the muscles that oppose it. So if there is constant tension on one muscle due to tightness or loss of mobility, the opposing muscle will not be able to contract as efficiently. A muscle will also have to contract more strongly to provide the same amount of force when it has to contract against increased tension in the opposing direction.
Mobility can be limited for many reasons, including: joint mobility limitations, muscle shortening, fascial restrictions or adhesions, scarring, trigger points, and neurological spasticity, among other reasons. It is very important to determine the reason for mobility loss to determine the best possible way to fix this. Many people think stretching is always the answer, when in fact it is often not the most effective treatment and may even make the situation worse. Other ways to improve mobility are joint mobilization/manipulation, foam rolling, trigger point release (manual or with dry needling), and at times it may be necessary to improve the proper stability around the joint. If you cannot seem to correct a mobility restriction, this may be a great time to consult a physical therapist. At Performance, all of our therapists are trained in manual therapy and can help evaluate the proper treatment to correct your mobility problem.
Many times, people have the proper mobility to create a desired movement pattern, but still struggle with the pattern even at low loads. This can happen for many reasons. One reason may be that to move an extremity efficiently, we first need to have a good stable base for it to move upon. Take a crane and boom for example. If a crane wants to move a large object, it first must be able to control its boom, but in order to control its boom it needs a very stable base. If the base is not on stable ground, the crane will not be able to stabilize its base. Therefore, it will not control its arm, and the object will move the crane instead of the crane moving the object. As humans, our stability system works very much in this way. We need a stable base in order to use our extremities efficiently. Therefore, we must learn to stabilize our trunk, our pelvis, and our bodyweight into the ground before we can efficiently use our extremities well. In other scenarios, we may not know how to coordinate the movement patterns, and we may need to learn how to coordinate or pattern a specific movement. If we don’t have an efficient movement pattern prior to adding load to it, we are at increased risk for injury, and our performance will not be nearly as good as we would like.
Once mobility is appropriate, proximal stability is achieved, and control of the movement through the full range of motion is established, the body is ready for strength training. Ideally, much of our training should be spent in this phase. Some clients may be ready for strength training on day one, while for others it may take two to three months of mobility and stability/control work to get the body ready to safely strength train. However, for all clients the goal is to be able to train strength in functional movement patterns. Strength training provides us the ability to increase our work capacity, which will minimize our risk for injury and increase our ability to perform.
After developing strength within a movement pattern, we need to think about what our goals for training are and design activity-specific goals that fit our individual lifestyle. Maybe you are an athlete trying to return to sport. Maybe you are a golfer, and you want to be able to hit the ball further and more consistently. Maybe you are a young parent or a new grandparent, and you want to be able to carry your child and play with them on the floor. Or potentially you just workout to look good and stay healthy. Regardless of the situation, all of our lives demand some change of direction, some component of velocity, and the ability to accelerate or decelerate. This may be at different levels for each individual, but all individuals should train these principles to reduce risk of injury and to increase performance and function. It is important to determine goals within your fitness program and incorporate some goal-specific exercises to prepare you of the demands of your lifestyle.
Incorporate all of these principles into your training, and you will be well-rounded, less prone to injury and perform better!