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Talking About Hypermobility

The WG-Fit methods are based around the three tenets of Strength, Mobility and Endurance.

This is thinking is strongly influenced by our martial arts heritage, and out belief that a human being should be ready to go at any given moment, just like your family dog is.

This "always ready" mentality means we can't specialise too much in any one area. Too much of a strength focus and we may be crippled with DOMS, me may tighten up, we may become too tired for our other activites. Too much endurance work may sap us of strength, may tighten us up, may lead to imbalances.

Too much mobility may leave our joints vulnerable and us unable to move optimally.

Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, especially if that good thing is out of balance with our other attributes.

As is the case with a visitor to WG-Fit.

We are fortunate to have a lovely young gentleman from the US of A in Dublin on a student exchange program who is also a very skilled college wrestler.

Seb, being both a BJJ black belt as well as strength coach is delighted to be working with this kid.

But he was a little concerned about the kids extreme flexibility.

Check this out:


This is text book hypermobility.

Our basic test for this, although it's hardly needed in this case is the Beighton Hypermobility scale.

Which is the following series of tests:

*Little finger extends to 90 degrees

*Thumb to forearm

*Elbow beyond straight

*Knee beyond straight

*Palms to floor toe touch

Giving a potential score of 9.

Our wrestler here scored 32!!

The tests are a quick screen to guage a persons mobility. It is far from complete, but it can be useful to the coach.

Why is this useful?

It's information.

The more we know about our clients (physical, mental, psychological, nutritional etc) the more we can help them.

Hypermobility has the potential to bring other problems with it.

For example if we’re squatting heavy and the knees hyperextend at Lockout it could potentially be dangerous/ creating long term joint damage. (youtube has examples of this, in fact you'll see more examples of this on the Leg Press. I'm not going to post them here for obvious reasons)

People who score high on the Beighton scale (its a 9 point test, so 5 or more is high) should avoid static stretching like the plague, even though many of the people I have worked with over the years who scored high feel they need to stretch a lot.

This is likely either habit that is developed from showing off extreme flexibility. It's potentially that they feel tight as the muscles contract to create stability.

The simple reason we ask them to avoid static stretching is that while a muscle will stretch and recoil back to shape (elastic), tendons and ligaments that stretch often do not (plastic)

Holding a static stretch for an extended period of time will allow the muscels to relax into the stretch, either from a downregulation of the signal to contract or simply fatigue. This may put the stretch then onto the tendons and ligaments, and if they become stretched they may leave the joints unstable as a result.

But dynamic mobility (like AiM style movement and our 100 rep warm ups) is encouraged. Moving into and back out of a stretch keeps the pressure mostly on the muscle tissues. We are pretty confident that when we perform stretches and increase available range of motiuon, it is the Central Nervous System that grants this range. The soft tissues don't really change shape.

If we're dealing with the CNS (the Brain and Spinal Cord) then we're dealing with the Homunculus

This rather grotesque image of a man is a representation of how our CNS interprets our body. The size of various areas are representative of the space given over to them in cortex of the brain.

When we perform joint rotations and dynamic mobility drills, we talk about how this defining this image image in the brain. As we move a joint or load muscle fibres we are lighting up that area on the homunculus and keeping that territory in good shape.

Now imagine if you will, that areas of the above image were blurry, maybe smaller than shown, less clear.

That could suggest that there is a motor control issue there.

This could lead to excess tightness or maybe excess mobility.

The more clearly the CNSsee's this homunculus and knows the details, the safer it feels to move. It knows where the bones are in relation to each other (proprioception) knows the amount of length in the muscles, the amount of tension in the muscles and will act accordingly.

The important factor from a coaches perspective is to teach a client to load safely.

To learn to control their end ranges.

This is best done using slower Tempo lifts, with a strict end position, even pauses at points in the lift. We want to build strength and muscle mass without putting the joints at risk. Moving sslo allows the lifter time to feel the joint position, the way they load into their feet, the motion of the scapula, the knees and elbows reaching a mechanically favourable / unfavourable position. Bodybuilding and powerlifting type work is generally very good for these guys. Combine this with gymnastic / animal flow style work that helps them learn dynamic control outside of the saggital dominant strength work. So Crawling patterns, solo BJJ drills, pilates movement and the like all done slow and controlled are great. These are low load so relatively safe for the person to load joints at their perceived end ranges.

And that idea of "perceived" end range is important. Remember that homuculus. As crawling patterns and Original Strength (goole that term, they are a company doing great work) fall into funamental developmental stages, rocking, rolling, crawling, squatting, standing, walking, these developmental stages are so fundamental to the human animal they are amazing for "reminding" the body how to move well.

We would generally avoid the quick lifts sucha as Jerks, Snatches, Jumps etc. At least until strength and control is developed. Simply because safe execution of these lifts requires good awareness of end positions to catch the weight. A hypermobile person may take time to learn these positions and be able to control them.

That said, if we want fast movement, the circular / swinging type lifts seen with Bulgarian Bags, Kettlebell Swings, Indian Clubs and Clubbells may be the perfect choice.


Dave Hedges

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