After the amazing day of twelve epic guests from the Podcast LIVE event last week, I’ve been reflecting and digesting all of the wonderful information and inspiration that the guests provided.
One of the topics that came up from three different guests was around the popular theme of mobility training. Ollie Frost (Movement + Mobility Masterclass), Richie Norton (yoga and breath work) and Glen Stewart (from the National Circus) all have very different backgrounds in training, seemingly different approaches to improving mobility but actually there was a lot more in common than you first might think.
I want to draw out the stand out message I took from each of them, explaining those individually before showing you how they are are beautifully tied together as I conclude things at the end. My hope is that by bringing these key things together from the lessons I’ve taken around mobility from each of these experts that it will help you with your own mobility training as you strive to improve your range of motion.
Ollie is the Mobility expert from our Movement + Mobility Masterclass in the Virtual Classroom so we know him very well. He said something at the end of the session that I’ve heard him say before but it hit me from a totally different angle this time round. Maybe he explained it or phrased it slightly different or maybe it was just that I was in a place to hear it properly – have you ever had that where you have to hear something a number of times before it actually hits home?
What he said was about providing variation into your mobility training to;
Nourish the joint with as much variation as possible to give it all the ‘nutrients’ it needs.
Maybe it was the nutritional style metaphor that made it hit home for me, I’m not sure, but I just loved the idea of ‘nourishing’ the joint with ‘nutrients’ and that just like our diet, we need variation to get all the nutrients we need to function fully so also our joints need variation of inputs and stimulation to function fully.
When we talk about improving mobility, we’re talking about trying to restore as close to full range of motion that the joint(s) have potential to move through.
The ideas that the fullness of this range of motion is going to be developed by variety of inputs rather than one style of stretch or mobility drill makes total sense to me. It was like a light bulb moment.
The fact then that we had other guests like Richie Norton and Glen Stewart on the line-up later in the day after Ollie Frost’s session where they were providing their own inputs on mobility, added in some variation straight away, which I put into practice on the day and noticed a difference immediately!
Richie has a background which resonates with me as he also used to play rugby. Seeing the changes he’s made in his mobility is unbelievable and one of the main tools he uses is breath-work.
Making connection with your breath to your muscles was one key component Richie explained right at the start. The effect breath can have on our central nervous system, down regulating to stimulate a parasympathetic response for rest and relaxation being key. Slowing down our exhalation promotes this rest and relaxation response, steering us away from the ‘fight or flight’ response and focusing more internally on the breath and heightening our awareness of self.
The other key element once we’ve dialed-in the breath was how we utilise our breath to help stabilise our spine. Stabilising the spine, as Richie says, gives the brain confidence that its central pillar is strong, stable and safe. At that point the brain is then more accepting of our pursuit of creating deeper ranges of motion throughout other joints in the body.
As the spine is quite literally central to the nervous system and our brain’s way of communicating to the rest of the body, it makes sense that if the spine feels strong, stable and protected then the brain is happy and won’t tighten up other areas to protect us.
Richie describes creating this ‘safe’ spinal effect by bracing the trunk in co-ordination with our breath. Breathing in from the diaphragm to fill the lungs from the bottom first, filling the lunges and then trapping that air and bracing the trunk. Relaxing on the out breath but maintaining that brace around the trunk to stabilising the spine as you access deeper range with control on that relaxing out breath.
I tried it straight away and noticed an immediate difference – did you?
When I combined it with what Ollie had explained about variation and then what Glen Stewart from the National Circus (below) describes about stimulating the brain, I had created range in a matter of minutes that I’d been working hard on for months (see image below)!
Glen has worked in the National Circus for over 20 years and every time I see him I feel like I learn something new. He’s got such a creative way of looking at everything, which working at the National Circus has harnessed, and particularly with mobility training.
Glen sees juggling as more than just hand-eye co-ordination. He sees it as a task that can be used to challenge any movement you want whilst stimulating the brain with a task-based outcome rather than a stretch, drill or mobility exercise.
Juggling and variations of different throwing and catching drills that Glen took us through during the practical part of his Podcast Live session are also really fun! Something we find enjoyable, we’re more likely to continue to do consistently. If you’re anything like me, having some fun in my warm up, I’m far more likely to do it and do it consistently.
What we understand from neuro-science, which Glen explained during the live session, is that often the brain is trying to reserve energy so ‘switches off’ parts of the brain to save energy. Some of the tasks like juggling require the brain to light up, activating hand-eye co-ordination and the vestibular system due to the balance challenges which means that it’s warming your brain up as part of your physical warm up. As he showed us in the practical, testing and re-testing ranges of motion (I did toe touch), my range improved after the juggling skills without any stretching of the hamstring at all – purely down to the awakening of the brain as he described it.
Finally, the juggling variations allow us to be creative. We can make the throw and catching elements specific to the joint range of motion that we want to improve towards a specific calisthenics goal. A great example of this is throwing the ball behind your back over the opposite shoulder. This requires shoulder extension and internal rotation, often tight for a lot of people and restricts the transition position in a muscle up. If you want to improve the range you have at the bottom of your dip in order to help your muscle up transition, this is a great fun drill that could be used in your warm up.
That was just one example, but you could match up the juggling task to fix any movement or mobility that you’re trying to improve and use it as part of your warm ups to activate your brain and help create new range of motion, that’s fun and allows you to be creative. Then use your new range as you train to build the stability and strength required for the movement pattern you’re trying to perform for it to be a long lasting change.
I personally know how hard and frustrating it can be to create lasting change in mobility and range of motion, particularly around stubborn areas like the shoulders and hamstrings. However, my personal experience and what I’ve learned from these experts is that variation in your mobility training and being consistent with providing variation day-to-day for your body is a key ingredient to making lasting change. Throw in some patience and I believe that if I can make these kind of changes and progress then you can too!
Remember, I pulled my hamstring more times than I can remember over a 13-year rugby career before this and couldn’t touch my toes!
I hope this blog has helped draw out some key mobility lessons and movement principles that will help you with your own mobility and training goals.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the Podcast Live event and any lessons or highlights you took away from the guests. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with your mobility training!
You can get 50% off your first-month membership – that’s just £5 for our standard monthly membership. Check it out with no risk as you get 7-days FREE when you sign up and there’s no minimum contract when you pay monthly. Offer available until the UK lockdown ends.
Join the School of Calisthenics WhatsApp to get notifications straight to your phone and never miss a live workout, new challenge or update.
Step 1: Send a WhatsApp message ‘I WANT TO JOIN’ to +447883161433.
Step 2: Save the number to your contacts.
That’s it. Simples.