Monday, February 07, 2011

mobility & posture drills

there's been some movement in athletics to training body structure. you see it in the increased attention to exercises that focus on concepts like "core," "stability," or "deep tissue."

the common thread in the various approaches to structure-based training is to develop the finer, sometimes smaller, muscles and connective tissue needed to help stabilize the body as it moves throughout the various ranges of motion required by the athlete. the theory follows a train of logic:
  1. good structure is necessary to place the body in the best position to exert force necessary for motion (where structure is "good" if it maximizes the amount of energy expended by the athlete into desired motion);
  2. good structure consumes muscular work;
  3. underdeveloped stabilizer muscles & connective tissue means that good structure is more dependent on work from the the larger muscles and attention from the mind;
  4. larger muscles are used for sports-specific movement, and so the more work large muscles devote to good structure, the less energy they can devote to work for sport-specific movement;
  5. larger muscles divided between working for good structure and working for sports-specific movement require attention from the mind, and so consume more mental energy from the athlete.
the implication is that by developing the finer muscles & connective tissue, the large muscles and the mind are freed to expend more energy on the main requirement of sports: motion. as a result, good structure is considered to be important in improving overall efficiency, and thereby improve performance.

you'll see this logic adopted by athletes engaged in programs like "chi running," the "pose method," "functional strength," or even pilates and ballet. a lot of these involve exercises that contrast markedly to most sports training, in that the exercises aren't particularly aerobically/anaerobically demanding or likely to induce total physical exhaustion. this, however, should not be taken to mean that they're easy--in fact, for those people with poor structure, they can be surprisingly difficult, and in some cases downright excruciating.

but in a good way.

to help give you an idea of what i'm talking about, i'll showcase a series of videos from one of the Youtube channels i subscribe to. the channel is SiHunt, and apparently is a coterie of coaches affiliated with Norway's national track & field program (you can check them out: ). they have a plethora of really interesting and really useful videos, and i'd recommend you peruse them if you get the chance.

they recently made a few videos devoted to developing finer muscles and connective tissue addressing the hips, the shoulders, and then posture. take a look:

hip mobility:

shoulder mobility:


i should add a little more regarding the theory behind these movements. the premise is that a runner needs to transmit force into the ground for forward motion, and so the more force is transmitted the greater the amount of energy output from the body is translated into forward motion. this means that the forces between the muscles and the ground have to minimize energy loss, or in other words, maximize efficiency.

physics dictates that energy loss in the body is minimized (efficiency maximized) when the body is stiff (it's the same idea behind having stiff springs in a car: the stiffer the springs, the more force is transmitted between the car and the ground).

the issue for humans, however, is to have a body that's stiff but not tight. because in sports, it's imperative that the athlete be able to move. for runners, the runner has to be able to generate turnover with the legs. as a result, the need is for a body that can act like a stiff spring (and hence maximize efficiency) while still being loose (and have the body move).

these exercises are trying to develop body parts crucial for these requirements. they're strengthening the finer muscles and connective tissue tied to joints important for forward motion, while also lengthening them throughout the range of motion in the joint. they make the joints loose, but with enough stability so as to help stiffen the posture to maximize efficiency.

i should note these exercises aren't new. anyone who's taken a ballet or gymnastics will recognize most of these movements--that's because that's where a lot of modern sports scientists have gotten ideas. which, of course, suggests that there's probably room for more ideas in other areas outside of sports.

i've tried these exercises out. i do some of them on a regular basis. they're not easy, especially at the start. but they get easier as the body develops. and they're actually fun, and i've found them to be a good break in the training routine from all the other workouts in the schedule.

i personally encourage everyone to give them a try...highly recommended.

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