Mobility and Stability – Coach Dan

Have you ever tried to get into a solid front rack position with just a barbell, but struggle to get to depth until you’ve loaded the bar with something heavier? Or perhaps you can get to the bottom of your squat, but you can’t stop and hover in the bottom of your weighted squat at your full range of depth? When it comes to our own personal range of motion there are often times that we sometimes use our weights to overcompensate through our true range of controllable motion, but what even is mobility and how do we get more of it?

Passive vs. Active Range

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that they were more “flexible” and even at times more “mobile” but in truth, the two words aren’t entirely interchangeable. When we speak about flexibility this directly relates to the absolute range of passive motion about a system of muscle groups whereas mobility relates to the unrestricted range that a system of muscles can actively move about a joint.

Although a great level of mobility will allow a person to perform many movements without restriction, where a person with good flexibility may lack the strength, balance or even coordination to perform the same movements. The ability to show control and coordination around these joints is where stability comes in. Creating neuromuscular connections to our range of motion allows us to actively stabilise rather than crash passively into our end ranges, which in turn can cause tears and sprains to our musculature.

Techniques to Improve

The answer to improving our acceptable range of motion isn’t simply about sitting in a long and pained stretching position. Mobility is in a way its own kind of strength training that requires a bit of focus and awareness of how your body feels in the positions that you put it through. There are two main techniques that I currently use to work on improving my active control while building stability through my newly created range of motion.

Maintaining and Developing Awareness

Controlled Articular Rotations or CARs for short are a great way of assessing and maintaining your range of motion at your major joints. Essentially what we’re looking to do through these movements is to improve the neuromuscular control around a joint in the body. So, what exactly does that mean? It means we try to move through the range of motion that we have in a slow and controlled movement while trying to scrape at reclaiming some of the lost range and control that we once had in our joints.

Think of it as trying to fight yourself from moving as you make your way through your rotation. This way you are actively reclaiming range while working to control your awareness around it. Take your ankle for example – think about pointing your toe down to the ground, and then make as big a circle with it as possible without moving any other part of your leg, but just rotating through the ankle. If you find that there’s a spot that you lose control and it “jumps”, slow it down and go back over it again to try to smooth it out.

Expanding Active Range of Motion

To work on creating a new range of motion we work on employing PAILs and RAILs techniques. PAILs stands for Progressive Angular Isometric Loading and RAILs is for Regressive Angular Isometric Loading. What we look to do is take our joint to an acceptable end range for a short period of time in a passive stretch, before performing a “contraction” in two opposing directions for a set amount of time.

Let’s take that ankle for example again. If you’ve ever done a stretch of your ankle with a weight on your knee, driving your knee past your toes, you’ve done the first part of this technique right. After holding this stretch, the way to finish this off think about pressing a gas pedal into the ground for 15-20 seconds (this is the PAILs contraction), then immediately after – think about pulling your toes to your shin without moving the knee position or picking the foot off the ground (this is the RAILs contraction). These two contractions at the end of this stretch work to create stability in the new range that you’ve stretched through to.

PAILs and RAILs work should be done carefully though. Working on an area that through injury is not doing anything to help recovery, and a general rule of thumb is that you should never work into pain with these moves.

On Next Wednesday’s blog, we’ll look at what techniques we could use to work on developing hip mobility and stability.


Monday

A) Front Squat
3 Sets of 12

B) 8 rounds
250m row
10 Dumbbell Thruster 22/16kg

Target Time: 12:00
Time Cap: 16:00

Tuesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Deadlift
3 Sets of 12

B) 3 Rounds
30/20 Cal. Assault Bike/Ski
30 Wall Balls 9/6kg

Rest 3 mins b/t rds
– The score will be your slowest round!

MetCon

2 rounds:
1,000m Row
750m Ski Erg
50 DB Front Rack squats 22/16kg

– 21 min Time Cap

Wednesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Teams of 2

120-100-80-60-40
Double Unders (each)
12-10-8-6-4
Legless Rope Climbs

*Double unders both partners must complete but are done at the same time, Legless are split “I go you go” style between the two partners.

Thursday

Classic CrossFit

A) Press
3 Sets of 12

B) For Time:
100 Strict Pull Ups
100 Push Ups

* If at 8 Mins in you haven’t finished strict Pull-Ups then switch to kipping.
-15 Min cap

MetCon

For Time:
1 mile Run
30 Rope Climbs
1 Mile Run

Friday

Classic CrossFit

A) Squat Clean
12 Mins to build to a heavy 3

B) 2 sets:
AMRAP for 7 Minutes:

50 Double Under
10 Burpee Pull Up

Rest 3:00 b/t AMRAPs
– Continue where you left off

Saturday

Teams of 2
2000m Row
20 Synchro Bar Facing Burpees
80 T2B
40 Power Snatch 60/40kg
20 Synchro Bar Facing Burpees
2000m Row