Over the years I have helped numerous people transform their bodies, relationships, and zest for life by adopting and sticking with a daily movement practice. When you move you increase blood flow throughout the body carrying nutrients to tissues and organs. You increase oxygen supply to the brain and may experience clarity, creativity, and a fresh perspective. Movement is a form of self-expression, a means to release built up tension, and exercise your will and determination. The benefits you gain in as few as five minutes of movement can create a ripple effect of positive actions throughout the day.
Charles Duhigg writes, in his best selling book The Power of Habit that "exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change."
A movement practice is different from the stereotypical sweat dripping workout. An old school belief is that a workout must be jaw clenching, grueling, rigid, and intense to be effective. (Recall scenes from the movie Rocky.) It's no wonder that many people feel intimidated by gyms and boutique studios.
The beauty of a movement practice is that movement is not limited to a gym or boutique studio. It moves with you.
YOU are the greatest machine ever invented. There’s a variety of exercises and forms of movement you can do that require nothing but the motivation to get started.
We are all unique. We have different past experiences, injuries, health history, and overuse injuries. The ego may urge you to try the cool tricks you see on Instagram or run a circuit of trying every boutique fitness studio in the city, but it takes a dose of maturity to see yourself, sense where you may be out of balance, and then move towards alignment.
Below are 3 elements to incorporate into your movement practice for a solid foundation.
1. Mobilize your spine
Your spinal column houses the nerves that innervate your organs and muscles in your body. A healthy spine is literally the backbone of high quality movement and quality of life.
Move to try:
Segmental Cat Cow
2. Human First
Repetitive use injuries, poor posture, and lack of movement impair the health of the joints and limit range of motion. Each and every joint- all 360 of them need your attention. Movement is what keeps the joints healthy. Lack of movement around a joint leads to dysfunction.
Movements to try:
1. Mindful walking
Aim to walk more throughout the day. Sure, you've been walking since you were a toddler, but do you walk in a way that is sustainable for your joints and engages the proper muscles?
In the video Chuck Tillotson discusses key steps to walking correctly:
1. Push with your toes
2. Proper stride length
3. Legs close together
4. Move your shoulders opposite your legs
5. Focus with your eyes on the distant horizon.
2. Joint Mobility- Controlled Articular Rotations
Motion is the key to keeping joints healthy as joints do not receive nutrients from the blood like our connective tissue does. We want to have control through the full range of motion at each joint, ideally.
3. Core Strength
Your core is your power center, literally. The muscles of the core support your spine and keep you stable, transfer movement from upper extremities to the lower extremities and vice versa, and initiate movement. Keeping the muscles of the core- the abdominals, hip musculature, glutes, and shoulder girdle strong and resilient first with isometric movements leads to dynamic movement and hopefully a dynamic life too.
Once you have the prerequisites complete find what moves you and let it flow. You can use your movement practice as a way to exercise your entire being, not just your physical body. One day a movement practice may be a structured resistance training routine when you need to feel your inner strength before giving a presentation or moving forward with that business idea you've been ruminating over for weeks. Another day you may move to the beat of the music in improv dance in a group setting, and another day may be a soulful yoga flow in solitude when you need time for yourself.
When everything is constantly changing a movement practice can be like an anchor to keep you grounded. The key to starting a movement practice and making it stick is to designate a time, move with intention, have a plan of action, and work towards a goal. Keep moving; it's medicine!
Isometrics are an excellent way to kickoff your core strength journey. Isometrics are safe and highly effective.
Isometrics help wake up dormant motor units and activate your stabilzer muscles to protect and support your spine; helping to prevent low back pain.
Try out these 3 moves:
1. Forearm Plank
2. Stretch Pose
3. Hip Bridge
Hold each exercise for 1-2 minutes. Perform daily.
This is a core workout you can do just about anywhere and work into your schedule whether you're at home, the gym, traveling, or hanging at the beach!
1. Bird dog
2. Forearm plank get-ups
3. Side plank hip lifts
4. Downdog to plank with knee drive to tricep
5. Single leg hip bridge
6. Oblique V-up
7. Single leg V-up
Perform each move for 10 reps/side. Perform 1-3 rounds with 1 minute rest in between rounds.
How to regain lost ranges of motion and fight tension with tension by combining stretching with isometric contractions with a technique called progressive and regressive angular isometric loading (PAILS + RAILS).
Remember, flexibility is passive, whereas mobility is active. Mobility speaks the language of cells (force) to communicate with both the connective tissue and the nervous system. This means you not only gain new ranges of motions, but also have the ability to utilize and control them.
By utilizing the power of isometrics in tandem with stretching you:
1. Override or bypass the stretch reflex to go deeper into a stretch.
2. Efficiently and effectively activate motor units
3. Build strength through the full range of motion and create resilient connective tissue
4. Engage in a safe way to gain strength and flexibility
For the exercises below follow this procedure:
Assume stretch position
Passively maintain position (approximately 2 min) Play with angles to maximize tension
Inhale, gradually build tension in the stretched tissues as you trap your air in the lower abdominal region
Gradually, ramp up neurological drive. Hold contraction for as long as possible
As you relax, ACTIVELY increase stretch depth/intensity.
Hold newly acquired position for as long as possible.
90/90 Hip Opener for External Rotation
1. Set up the stretch as pictured above aiming to pull your belly button towards the knee to find a deep stretch within the hip.
2. Follow the procedure above as you press your knee down into the ground.
3. When you reduce tension, do not come up. Stay in the pose and go deeper. Then, repeat.
90/90 Hip Opener for Internal Rotation
Press both knees into the ground while keeping your hips rooted.
Focus on driving the trail leg down toward the ground as you follow the procedure listed above.
Hip Flexor Stretch and Hamstring Activation
1. Assume a low lunge keeping the pelvis aligned. Hold for 2 minutes as you bring awareness to the top of your back thigh and open the hip flexors.
2. Bend the back knee. Draw your heel in towards your glutes. Hold and begin to ramp up neurological drive in the hamstrings and glutes.
3. Hold the contraction as you remove your hand.
BEWARE: You will most likely feel cramping in the hamstrings! This is the nervous system reorganizing itself! It's a good thing and will fade as that tissue becomes more active.
4. Repeat step 3 twice more then try on the opposite side.
Shoulder Sleeper Stretch for External Rotation
1. Set-up: Legs stacked, upper arm and legs parallel. Your arm should form a "V" position. Fingers come in towards the belly button. You can support your head with a pillow or block.
2. Keep your shoulder on the ground as you press down to your end range of motion. Hold for 2 minutes.
3. Increase neurological drive. Isometrically contract your body and press your forearm into your top hand as you simultaneously press the forearm down towards the ground. Gain 15-20 degrees more range of motion.
4. Remove your top hand while trying to maintain the new range of motion- pressing forearm to the ground.
1. Press the ball of your foot into stable device/wall and hold the passive stretch for 2 minutes at your end range of motion.
2. Build tension and ramp up neurological drive as you deepen the stretch.
3. Keep the new range of motion as you attempt to pull your toes away from the device/wall.
Human beings are multi-dimensional beings. We are designed to move dynamically in various ranges of motion.
As a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) I help people restore lost ranges of motion, maintain joint health, and improve mobility so you can DO ANYTHING.
Mobility is the foundation for strength, speed, and power. It's essential in everything from power lifting, playing a competitive sport, to getting out of bed or walking the dog.
MOVEMENT = HEALTH
Our health depends on movement. Movement is nature's anti-inflammatory pill. It pumps oxygen and nutrient rich blood to our cells. But, cartilage on the other hand has no blood supply. It receives oxygen and nutrition from the surrounding joint fluid by diffusion.
During movement pressure expresses fluid and waste products out of cartilage cells, when it is relieved, fluid diffuses back along with oxygen and nutrients.
Joint mobility literally bathes your joints in synovial fluid and washes away calcium deposits and toxins; helping you move with more ease.
In life, we usually go about the same repetitive motions rarely taking each joint through it's full range of motion. As Dr. Spina, creator of Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) protocol says, "you will always regret not training the range of motion you got injured in."
The bottom line is, if you don't use it you lose it.
We must move and train every angle and have control over our movements so the nervous system understands how to access and make use of the range of motion. This builds mobile joints and resilient connective tissue to bulletproof your body.
HOW AND WHEN TO PERFORM THE MOBILITY ROUTINE
Performing the daily joint mobility routine consisting of controlled articular rotations (CARs) EVERYDAY as a morning ritual and as a warmup before exercise or play.
1. Inhale, trap air in lower abdominal region while breathing shallow
2. Stabilize all articulations and perform an isometric contraction throughout your body in order to ensure strict rotation in the desired joint.
Tension Guidelines for Isometric Contraction of Body Besides the Joint in Focus:
10-30% (morning routine)
20-50% (warmup before exercise)
3. Begin articular rotation slowly ensuring that it is occurring in the outer limit of movement
4. Attempt to "expand the circle" with each repetition
5. If you feel a painful "pinch" on the closed angle of a joint skip over that area as it may indicate that there's a problem with the joint.
6. Most people will feel "sticky spots," clicks, and cracks, and stutters in the movement or may couple or compensate by moving other parts of the body rather than isolating the joint. This is an indication that the joint and surrounding connective tissue requires more motion and neurological drive and input to restore lost ranges of motion and maintain the health of the joint.
Keep moving and living life DYNAMICALLY!
When I was a kid, I remember a time driving with my Dad about a mile down a dusty old road. We stood on a semi-level square of patchy grass surrounded by 18 acres of trees and rolling hills.
That year I watched my Dad build our family home from the ground up; everything from surveying the land, digging the foundation, laying down the roof and wood floors to painting the crown molding.
This experience shaped my idea of what it takes to build a strong and resilient body as it’s very similar to building a home.
The first lesson is patience as it takes time to build a welcoming and comfortable home so give yourself at least 6 months to truly make a significant upgrade.
The second lesson is you’re always going to be be doing maintenance.
Our bodies are constantly in a state of remodeling as we generate new cells and tissues. How you code those cells is up to you.
Cells speak the language of force so you have to talk to them in a way they can understand. The means to do that is through movement. Your cells adapt to the information you give them. This is the principle of progressive adaptation. “Incremental loads imparted on tissue results in adaptation of said tissue such that the load absorption capacity improves.”
When the load absorption capacity within your tissues is greater than an external force say a fall while snowboarding or stubbing your toe on the corner table then you say “ouch, that was a close one,” rather than, “shoot!, now I’m out of commission for a few weeks!”
Mobility training, unlike pure flexibility, is not passive, it’s active.
It’s being able to bend, but strong enough to not break. Mobility training sends information from your body to your brain and vice versa to get your nervous system onboard so you make lasting changes in your ranges of motion and movement abilities.
Here are 5 Ways Being More Mobile Can Radically Improve Your Life:
- You don’t feel stiff and achy all the time; old sports injuries and repetitive use injuries begin to fade away. Mobility training is like nature’s anti-inflammatory pill.
- Mobility improves your ability to DO ANYTHING- playing with your kids, walking up the stairs, surfing/snowboarding/training, reaching into the cabinets and cleaning underneath the sofa.
- Bulletproof your body from injury. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but stronger connective tissue and greater ranges of motion don’t get battered nearly as badly as weak fibrotic (scar) tissue and arthritic joints.
- You remodel and re-pattern your body as you lay down new tissues that are responsive and active.
- Improved body control and kinesthetic awareness. You get to know yourself and how you operate.
How to Get Started:
A fantastic starting point is to perform a joint mobility routine every morning. It’s wise to start with the joints, because we rarely take each join though it’s full range of motion on a regular basis, plus, our cartilage has no direct blood supply. Cartilage relies on movement to receive oxygen and nutrition via the process of fluid diffusion from the surrounding joint.