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Blog_Gainstrength&mobilitythroughweighttraining

Can strength and mobility go hand in hand? Are you able to achieve both strength and mobility through weight training?

Read on as Personal Trainer, Gary, shares his thoughts on improving both strength and mobility of the body through weight training:

Strength

Strength is this generic term used for anything rehabilitative to performance. It's often given a number. If I can deadlift 120kg (1.5 times my body weight) then I’m considered strong. Or if I can deadlift 80kg (my body weight) for 15 reps, I’m also considered strong. Both these two ways of looking at strength are correct but what it fails at is not addressing how the body is moving in order to express the strength required for the deadlift.

If you have ever been to a physical therapist, I’m sure he/she must have told you that all of us have imbalances in our body and the stronger muscles always take over or compensate for what the weaker muscles cannot do. This is exactly what is happening in our bodies when we are pushing our deadlift numbers up.

When a large amount of force production is required, the body leverages on what is strong and stiffens the whole body up (turns it into a solid unit) so as to produce that large amount of force required.eg.your max deadlift. If you’re not convinced, just think about a scenario where you need to lift something heavy, I’m sure you take a deep breath first, brace yourself and then lift. Think about a traditional strength training programme where you are playing the numbers game, the stimulus we are providing the body each time is to stiffen up to produce force as the load increases so if I were to measure your hip rotational capabilities (think internal and external rotation) over the course of the strength programme, what you would likely see is a decrease of these measurements. So yes, you are getting stronger in terms of the numbers(load) but at what cost? I believe the great Mohammed Ali was on to something when he said “Champions are not made in the gym”.

Is training heavy lifts then wrong or not required? The answer is quite the contrary because traditional strength systems do have their benefits. So then how can we keep pushing the numbers and yet stay mobile at the same time?

Mobility

When we talk about mobility, the first thing that comes to mind is always some form of stretching. Stretching has its benefits but it is not the be-all-end-all solution. If you are someone in pain and you have tried all sorts of stretching, you might have improved your condition, but you are still not back to a hundred percent. Is upping the frequency and duration of your stretch really the answer?

Stretching is basically the lengthening of the muscle from both its insertion points. Let’s use the hamstrings here as an example because it’s the most blamed muscle for being “tight” to cause all sorts of issues in the lower back and knees.

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The hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles (Bicep Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus) and to make things simple, the hamstrings originate from the sit bones (ischial tuberosity) of the pelvis and attach to the lower leg (condyle of tibia and fibula), The primary functions of the hamstrings are Hip Extension (moving the thigh bone backwards) and Knee Flexion (bending of the knee).

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There are basically two scenarios where the hamstrings are “tight”. In this first example, where the pelvis is in an anteriorly tilted position. You can see that the attachment points of the hamstrings are brought further apart and therefore the hamstrings are lengthened or on stretch as a result, this can cause the sensation of being tight.

 In the second example where the pelvis is in the opposite orientation, posterior pelvic tilt. In this orientation, the attachments of the hamstrings are brought closer together and therefore the hamstrings are shortened which can also cause the sensation of being “tight”.

Joint Positions

After discussing the pelvic orientations, both orientations have the potential to give us the sensation of “tightness”. So then what is the real problem here? The answer is “variability”.

Our body needs to have this variability to move in and out of positions, so in our example of the pelvis orientation in relation to hamstring “tightness” the solution is to restore whatever orientation that was missing. Say if you are stuck in an anterior pelvic orientation, then you would need to restore the posterior orientation of the pelvis and activities like heel elevated goblet squats would be very beneficial in restoring that capability.

Banded Heel Elevated Goblet Squat

 As for individuals who are in more of a posterior pelvic orientation then selecting hinge type activities would be ideal. Something like a barbell deadlift would be great. 

Barbell Deadlift

From this example above, you can see how joint positions cause “tightness” and maybe even pain in some cases. Basically, joint positions dictate the length and function of the muscles attached to them. The next question would be what dictates the joint positions? Our body “self-organises” to change joint positions to manage gravity and our lifestyle and exercise selection plays a big role here because what you do daily is a stimulus for your body to adapt to. There is a lot to unfold if we are to go deep into this “self-organising” topic so that would be an article for another time.

 Final Takeaways

Heels elevated Squat type activities, in general, are great for people with an anterior pelvic tilt and Hinge type activities are good for people who present with posterior Pelvic tilts. But there is a caveat, proper form and possibly proper coaching are needed to achieve the desired outcome. If not, our body’s “self-organizing” mechanism kicks in and we will end up pushing our body in the same way it has taught itself to operate all these while.

So now that we understand that joint positions are what enslave our muscles to their “tight” positions, we shouldn’t be spending our time stretching away just to get temporary relief. We should be using strength exercises in different positions which creates a stimulus for the body to adapt. Our body is in a constant state of adaptation, just think about how you do resistance exercises to get your muscles stronger, it is the same for joint positions. You open ranges of motion in your joints and you put the work through these newly acquired ranges to solidify these new gains.

It is possible to drive fitness and mobility at the same time so that we can look good and feel good at the same time, but this can only be done through good exercise selection and sometimes that might mean doing different exercises for different sides of the body because humans are asymmetrical to begin with. 

 


Connect with Gary on his Instagram and Youtube.

Looking to work on both strength and mobility through the use of weight training with an experienced personal trainer? Contact Gary to schedule a PT trial and consultation to explore the possibility of working together and provide you with valuable takeaways that you will find beneficial to get started! 

 

Featured Contributor:

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Gary graduated with a Bachelor in Sports Science from the University of Western Australia. He has also worked in a professional football club (Hougang United) as a trainer where he trained and carried out rehabilitation, strength and conditioning exercises for professional footballers. Under his watchful eye, many footballers have managed to achieve peak fitness and remained strong to last the gruelling football season and they all credit it to Gary’s strength and mobility training. 

Furthermore, Gary is a Singapore Sports Council certified Personal Trainer who has more than 10 years of training experience, he has a wide range of trainees, they range from professional athletes to senior citizens who have gone through joint replacements. Gary has kept himself updated in the fitness industry by regularly attending courses to upgrade himself.