The Art of Movement Week 14: The Mobility-Stability Relationship
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Week 14 - The Mobility-Stability Relationship
The mobility-stability relationship is a handy principle I refer to a lot when my clients present me with an injury or movement problem. This rule concerns the way that the joints around our body function, and what we generally need from them in order to give ourselves the best chance of staying injury free and moving efficiently.
The first step to learning about this principle is to categorise two key things that our joints provide us with:
Mobility: Increased movement/range of motion
Stability: Restriction of movement / increased stiffness
As you may see, these two qualities are opposites. So in a given joint you will either be mobile and therefore less stable, or stable and therefore less mobile.
And there is a rule for how we want this to look throughout our body:
What you see in the graphic above is the joint, and the corresponding quality we are looking for within it. Do we want it to provide us with mobility or stability?
When we have a mobile joint, there is a significant amount of movement available from the surrounding muscle groups. When we are mobile in the right places (ie. ankles, hips, upper back) this can allow us to move more efficiently during athletic activities.
When we have a stable joint, the muscles, tendons and ligaments around it hold a greater amount of tension, and restrict the joint from moving outside our range of control (and causing possible injury). An example of this is when we stand on one leg and our knee is wobbling a lot, it means we do not have good stability at this joint - and therefore, we may be at elevated risk of knee injury.
Think about your lumbar (lower) spine. A joint we need to work hard to ensure we protect. We do not want our lower spine to be too mobile, because the more movement our muscles allow at the vertebrae of the lower spine, the more vulnerable those vertebrae become. This is how slipped discs occur, when we have such reduced strength and muscle activity in the muscles that protect the spine, that we do not have the ability to sufficiently brace it during movements that produce shock forces.
This is why it is so common for people who are untrained or highly flexible (either because they may be hypermobile, or really into yoga for example), to suffer a lot of joint issues like lower back pain and knee pain. It is down to a fundamental lack of muscle activity/stiffness where it is needed most, with the same thing applying to the untrained/inflexible population with regards to a lack of joint mobility and flexibility.
So, as you know I love to always come back to the principle of BALANCE. And surprise, surprise, it’s the key message of today too. Don’t concern yourself with trying to be flexible *everywhere*. There is no point to endless stretching. There is a place for mobility, and that is specifically your ankles, hips and upper back.
However there are parts of your body you need to get stiff, strong and muscularly active - that is your knees, lower back and neck.
If you have injury problems at the moment, carry out a checklist on these joints, and see if each one is as stable or mobile as it should be.
As a rule of thumb, wherever you are experiencing pain - chances are that particular joint is not the issue, it will probably be stemming from poor function of the joint above or below it. So if for example you have a knee problem, check out your ankles and your hips, and whether they are sufficiently mobile.
‘Balance is not something that you find, it is something you create’ - Unknown
Movement of the Week: Trap Bar Deadlift
5 sets of 3-6 reps as heavy as possible
I posted this exercise onto instagram and twitter yesterday describing it as one of the easiest exercises for getting into heavy strength training. The reason for this is the nature of the hex bar we use for the lift, and the way it surrounds your centre of mass. This greatly reduces the biomechanical and technical demand required for us to shift the weight maintaining correct form. When you perform a deadlift with a barbell, the bar starts in front of your body level with your shins, and although you are trying to keep the bar as close to your body as possible when you lift, it will always be slightly in front of your centre of mass - this heavy load is pulling you forwards. Therefore there is extra work and emphasis for your upper back, shoulders and lower back to stay engaged and not become rounded. The trap bar makes this so much easier. You simply apply as much force as you can into the ground keeping a straight back and bracing everything, and up you will go!
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!