Do you know what mobility is? It’s more than just stretching, and it’s super important to getting maximum strength and power in training. Justin and I take a look at the fundamentals of mobility and stability, how to measure them and the best way for you to start treating problem areas.
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Cyclist Mobility: How to Measure Your Mobility and Save Yourself with Justin Hays of SuperHumanPursuits.com
This week was going to be about starting strength training but I was diverted to working on my mobility before I even started getting into the nitty gritty. I haven’t done straight up strength training for a couple of years so I started hunting around for new ideas. It’s funny that I kind of went full circle very quickly and came back to something that was introduced to me during my time in doing Crossfit, mobility.
Mobility has its roots in functional movement, which is linked to biomechanics. This can lead us to bike fit methodology, but today I’m going to focus on the basics of functional movement for strength training and body balance including a self-assessment tool, where to start with mobility, and then get into two common mobility issues that cyclists face.
I was lead down this path by Justin Hays of superhumanpursuits.com. His take is based on his own personal journey into pain and back out again. He’s the first to admit that he knows very little about cycling, but I’m cool with that. Today it’s all about mobilising a full range of movement, not related to cycling directly but strength training, or movement in everyday life. It’s all linked! I asked Justin onto the show to run through it with me.
What Exactly Is Mobility?
Mobility, as defined by Gray Cook, involves the movement of the muscle and joint in a broader concept than say flexibility, which is the ability to elongate a muscle only. It’s focussed on mobilising the position, not muscles. You are aiming to stretch the position and anything that is a point of resistance, rather than just the muscles.
A simple way to think about mobility is stretching with a purpose. Where the purpose is to improve range of motion, positioning, power production, and recovery. Which gets you away from thinking you’re helping by doing what you’re doing, and makes you look more closely at what you’re doing. Including measuring your progress. Which at the most basic level can be working on one side, then comparing it to the other side.
For me that’s a head shift away from thinking about my body in terms of just trying to isolate single muscles. Instead, mobilising my body movements and position restriction by moving and stretching everything, including the hip capsule, skin, soft tissues muscles etc. etc.
Why Is Mobility So Important?
Mobility and stability are fundamental building blocks of strength, endurance, speed, power, and agility. Mobility is an excellent way to test your functional movement so as to direct a strength training program that suits your individual needs. Why is that? If you start a strength program without factoring in your weak links, your mobility issues may eventually catch up with you.
Your strength can outgrow your functional movement range, and you must go back to mobility enhancing exercises until your body catches up. It has a lot to do with being able to perform movements correctly with a full range of motion. If you are unable to do the movement without weights, like the deep squat, then adding weight will only lead to problems. You are not ready for all barbell lifts if your body does not have a full range of movement. Also, working on mobility weaknesses improves your biomechanics, and a 10% increase in range of motion can be translated into a substantial change in power.
How to Test Mobility and Stability?
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is Gray Cook’s assessment of mobility and stability.
It’s conducted by ‘qualified’ professionals, and it’s claimed on their website that it:
“ identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness.”
The FMS is not without its criticisms, before we get any further, I want to address some of the criticisms that are raised about this style of assessment. The two articles below point out the major criticisms.
The major criticisms are:
- the lack of research to support use of the FMS
- that a low score tells someone their chance of getting injured is extremely high (which might not be the case)
- that it markets itself as a diagnostic tool, like a “prostate exam” for example.
Have you had a Functional Movement Screen?
Gray Cook also has a Self-Movement Screen in his book, Athletic Body in Balance.
Can you explain what it is?
This could be used for cycling as it’s a screen for all movements, and thus in theory all sports, but the focus for today is screening for mobility issues relating to starting or continuing a strength program.
Without going through them in detail, the functional movement screen is made up of 5 movements:
- Deep Squat
- Hurdle Step
- In-line Lunge
- Active Straight Leg Raise
- Seated Rotation
This clip goes over the screen in detail.
My short amount of experience with the self-movement screen is that it uncovered the exact mobility issues I knew about already. Which just reinforces that I must get to work on them. It basically just gives me a kick up the arse.
What To Do After The Screen?
Example (myself): I failed the deep squat and active straight leg raises.
My plan is to start by working on the the active straight leg raise first. Then re-test until I can hold my legs straight at 90 degrees, and then, if I fail the deep squat, I’ll start working on that.
The big takeaways I have learnt about what to focus on are:
- Work on one movement at at time
- Work on left-right difference before limitations
I like this because it’s a realistic goal. Adding new exercises to my workload must be as low friction as possible. The most successful routine is the one I can stick to.
Two Weak Areas You Can Work on Right Now?
The cycling movement is described by KStar as having a fixed butt and really fast moving legs, but I actually want to talk about another area of concern for cyclists, that is often neglected, the upper body.
1. The Shoulder Region
I have the inflexion trifecta; cycling, running and working at a computer.
What mobility work can help here if you want to work on you shoulders?
- Rolling the thoracic spine hugging body and extending arms and dropping butt to the ground
- Working the Anterior deltoid and bicep with a barbell
- Working on the Pec minor with a ball will also help this
An interesting side note: In the deep squat screen, I thought my shoulders were an issue because the bar touched the door frame in front of me. So I did KStars quick shoulder test, and it actually demonstrated that my issue is most likely at the ankle, which blew me away.
Because of the demands of the bent over position and developing power from the glutes, cyclists are known for having tight and painful hips, and sitting on a chair all day doesn’t help either.
The Thomas test can help here, but yet again I’m talking out my arse cause, so check out the clip in the show notes for a better explanation.
What mobility work can help tight if you want to work on tight hips?
- Create space in the joint to unload the joint
- Improving mechanical advantage and improved leverage
- Glutes on table or bed.
- Hip capsule stretch with a band, move femur to the back of the socket. Better the hamstrings will function. Undoes anterior position from being on the bike.
- KStar’s couch stretch
How Long Do We Stretch For?
2359 Rule: If you stretch for 1 minute, it’s 23:59 each day that you did nothing else and your body is in default. So more is better.
No minimum therapeutic dose, but it takes 2 minutes for the viscoelastic properties of the tissues to do change.
Any parting words of advice?
My chat with Justin really reinforced the need for an individual approach. Even my line of questioning reflects my little understanding of this concept. Asking for specific exercises, and minimum dosage, when these things depend solely on the individual and their mobility, stability and strength concerns. So other than outsourcing to a professional as we spoke about, the DIYers like myself, need to educate themselves. Even though I feel like I have a grasp on the basics, I know at some point I’ll need to talk more to professionals like Justin that have extensive knowledge and experience in movement and regaining mobility and stability.
Where to start?
Just as Justin recommenced to me, start with Gray Cook’s book, Athletic body in Balance. Also check out Justin’s Website, superhumanpursuits.com, and take care of your own business.
Tech, Hacks & Products Section
It’s friction and mobility of another kind.
“Friction Facts is a third-party independent testing facility. Our goal is to provide cyclists and triathletes with the tools to maximize their top speed with proper component selection. The formula is simple. Using the most efficient components = a faster ride = a better finish time.”
It’s clever and a little geeky (in a good way). It’s surprising that it hasn’t been done before. I’m not sure whether it’s a cheap way to buy speed if Dura-Ace are the best components to use. Here’s what you can get from the site:
Drive chain test reports that test to find out which components will get you to the finish line fastest. (That’s there’s not mine).
Planned tests include:
- Old vs New
- Chain Off-set friction (which gear is produce power le=oses
- Ceramic Bearings
- Different Lubes: Example: Rock-n-Roll Gold and Finish Line Dry Teflon perform very well when applied over the base coat of the UltraFast wax as a re-lube.
Cleaned and re-lubed chain:
All this work on clunky metal, brings up an interesting question. What does the future hold for derailleurs? Some may have never thought disc brakes would make it onto a road bike, but look what’s happening there. Will the humble derailleur ever get bumped for an internal shifting system. What about the chain? They will be looking at belt drives in the next month. Will belt drives ever be on PRO bikes? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Photo Credit: Ty Domin