Did you know that it’s possible to increase ROM in minutes, just by moving?
The common approach to increasing mobility or ROM before training is often to static stretch or use a foam roller. Unfortunately ROM is largely misunderstood, especially in the fitness industry but I’ll leave this statement for another blog post!
For now, just understand that you can increase ROM in minutes using movement.
The idea of increasing ROM through movement comes from the principle of motor-learning and skill development that suggests that if you want to learn a new skill, it’s best to perform that skill in as many different ways as possible so your body learns to overcome the task at hand in a variety of ways, thus increasing skill.
How It Works
Skill development happens when we try to accomplish a movement task and the body has to react to complete the task. As we move our Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) relays feedback to our Central Nervous System (CNS) and brain which then adjusts the neurological pattern to help us perform a successful movement.
In other words our body adapts to overcome a movement challenge as it goes.
As ROM is controlled by the CNS then successfully completing a movement challenge tells the CNS that it’s ok to move in that way and if you set this challenge up right, more ROM can be achieved in a movement purely by experiencing it through a more difficult movement variation first.
Using this thought process in the training environment we can take a movement that we want to improve and add a selection of variables into that movement which will make the movement more challenging.
If we then combine this principle with a knowledge of movement, we can then start to set challenges for the body by manipulating the movement in question.
An example would be manipulating a squat to require a greater degree of hip flexion – this would be a great thing to do if you lack the motion of hip flexion in your squat!
How To Improve Mobility With Movement
Here’s an example of this in action…
In the picture opposite, Sarah is performing an overhead squat with a PVC pipe and adding in a left rotation.
The rotation of the torso left increases the requirement of left hip internal rotation and adduction, and right hip external rotation and abduction. The movement was then performed on the other side.
Note – If you try this movement you’ll probably find one side easier than the other. This may start to give you and indication of where your tightnesses lie and how this would effect your movement.
Of course there are dozens of variables you could add in, and the more specific to the individual you can make them, the better.
We also performed the following squat variations:
- Toes elevated (blocking ankle dorsiflexion)
- Thoracic lateral flexion (increasing loading on 1 hip)
- 1 foot elevated (requiring more hip flexion on the 1 side)
The picture on the right shows the difference in ROM after about 10 minutes of adding variables into the squat.
- Torso more upright
- Increased depth
- Feet straighter
As you can see the movement has improved by simply challenging the body to perform the same movement in a number of different ways.
This is what you can achieve using the principles of motor-learning and skill development, so do you really need to be static stretching and foam rolling before your workout?
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