Movement Basics: Achieving Range of Motion

Thus far in the Movement Basics Blog we have talked a bit about breathing, body organization, position, and the effectiveness of mastering these principles. These foundational components of movement are at the base of strength and conditioning and training. These topics are rarely the theme of a training session but they are always present. 

Today I am going to approach another seemingly mundane or out of date topic, but I want to put a different spin on how to apply it. Range of motion, flexibility, or mobility.   Range of motion describes the bounds (end ranges) of which your human body can achieve movement.  The ability to achieve certain ranges of motion are valuable to better movement. Better movement through appropriate ranges of motion can lead to less compensation, more power, and an increased ability to cover ground. 

To understand how we can benefit from more range of motion, we must understand that an increased range of motion, allows for more time to accelerate which in turn allows for more velocity and subsequently more power. The simplest way that I can picture this is a golf swing. Jack’s first swing will have a limited potential ability to produce power compared to Jack’s second swing. Individual differences will still impact a swing’s power (strength, coordination, technique) however, the potential for power is much higher in Jack’s second swing because of the increased range of motion. 

Jacks 1st Swing
Jacks 2nd Swing

So, imagine if your range of motion was limited to that of Jack’s first swing, on every movement. You are missing out on potential power everywhere. From swinging a club, to throwing a shotput, to each stride in a sprint, a proper range of motion is necessary. 

Notice I am being careful not to say that an athlete always needs more range of motion. There are similar problems with too much range of motion. Join laxity and low muscle tension can lead to injury, and ineffective force potential as well. There is an optimal range of motion, which should be just around the range necessary for your particular sporting movements.

So if Jack turned into Gumby on a third swing and just flopped the club around his neck,  that wouldn’t be powerful either. 

Optimal range of motion is not something you can stretch into, it’s not something that just happens. The problem with just long static stretching to increase range of motion is that range of motion is first and foremost a nervous system aspect. Stretching in a static and long duration method addresses the mechanical length of the muscle not the nervous tone. Addressing the nervous tone of the muscle requires different methods. (Look these up for methods: PNF , FRC

 Optimal range of motion is something you must condition your body to via repeated *consistent* exposure. This can happen through isometric control of range of motion (FRC) or a method I like more, correct strength training. Strength training through an appropriate range of motion, will condition soft tissue to build an appropriate nervous tone. (Video about this!)

I will say it again a bit differently “Proper strength training is corrective in nature.” 

This is one reason that correctly applied strength training is hugely viable and not a method that will make athletes “stiff” or “slow.” ( I would hope that the athletic community is passed that stigma.)  Again, mastering the basics of good positions and achieving good range of motions during strength training will add the aspect of mastering movement basics and furthering the positive effect of training! – Alex Friedman

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