If we were to simplify mobility practice and boil it down to the simplest possible elements, what would that look like? If you search just this website alone, you will find umpteen articles with exercises aimed at improving mobility, widen that search to the rest of the internet and you will drown in information overload. If you're only interested in training for training sake then that's fine, you can spend the time on working through many exercises. But if you train for sports and activities, then there's a fair chance you are looking to get as big a return from as few exercises as possible. With that in mind, what should we be prioritising? And quite simply it is: Scaps Feets And if we're smart we can include movement of these areas in our training without adding any time or taking away from the primary purpose of our training. Here's how the Scapula move:
Here's those movements listed out in words: Scap: Elevate Depress Protract Retract Upward Rotate Downward Rotate Posterior Tilt Anterior Tilt And the foot:
Each foot has 26 bones with 33 joints all moving in a beautiful concert to create two shapes: Pronate Supinate In natural, unrestricted human movement (ie, outside of the gym or sport) these joints, in fact, all joints move freely and reflexively unless restricted by injuries and/or habitual tension. So our job in the gym is to counteract those restrictions and where possible, dissolve them completely. If we can include the motions of the feet and the scaps into our exercises, then we are onto a good thing. Here then are a few suggestions to get the scaps into the game: Push Ups - make sure that the forearm remains vertical and the hands are directly under the shoulders. And keep the abs tight! This will offer the Scapula great opportunity to protract and retract in a push, giving the serratus anterior and it's brother the rhomboids something to think about.
Have a look at our Vinni doing some nice push ups:
Horizontal Rows such as inverted rows or any version of a bent over row is the opposite of the push up. Start protracted, then before you bend the elbow, fully retract the scapula before pulling with the arm. It should be one smooth, seamless motion finishing with the shoulder pull as far back as it goes.
Here's Jamie, he "loves" these...
Military Press, as opposed to just shoulder presses A genuine military press is gold for the scapula. You start by "putting the shoulders in your back pockets" that is to say, back and down. This requires you to extend the entire spine and get the chest up and open. As you press you should feel the back almost as if you're doing a pull up. But then as you push through let the scaps come with you. So you start in downward rotation but finish in upward rotation, giving the entire trapezius a full days work.
A pull up then is the exact opposite, it starts from a dead hang, shoulders right up. The first thing you do is put the shoulders in the back pocket, and do this before you bend the arms. The trick is to then keep those scaps pulled back and down as you pull up to the bar. Then of course you have the Indian Club and Mace swings which offer a lovely full range of motion. And band work, which if you're targeting scapula control should be done with straight elbows. Just pull, push and twist the bands in every possible way you can as long as it feels good. So what about the feet?
It's as simple as letting go of the idea that the knee must track over any particular toe.
As the knee bends, the foot should be squashed flat, and as it goes, you get the pronation movement which is reversed as we supinate back up to a straight leg.
Now, we're not going do this with our big heavy squats, but we certainly can work some single leg, which is what you see from the two girls either side of this video:
The key with the foot movements is to maintain the "tripod" which is formed from the heel, pinky toe knuckle and big toe knuckle. Those three points remain in solid contact with the ground, and it is essential the toes are relaxed. If this happens, especially in a single leg stance, as you lower your body will arrange itself into a pronation type position. If it doesn't then there are other exercises we can do to encourage that.
If you are deadlifting, the foot should definitely be supinating. A squat is a little more controversial, but I believe the knees should be allowed to track slightly in as the squat approaches parallel, they start and finish out which supinates the foot, but that middle space is a little bit in with a little bit of pronation.
A good eye will see exactly that happening here:
Now I'm pretty sure no one reading this blog is looking to specialise to the extend Mr Williams has, but we still squat. Don't we?
So there you go, a quick guide to getting in mobility work while doing your actual training. Any mobility work you in your warm ups, cool downs, conditioning circuits etc will then simply act as a bonus.
Remember, mobility = flexibility + strength. It's the strength that offers the control and the security to grant range of motion. That's why the scaps and feet rule the roost. They do much of the donkey work, and if they aren't secure, nothing in between will be.
As ever, if you have questions or comments, drop me a line/comment. And don't forget to share
Looking forward to hearing from you