Photo Credit: Bentley Studios
Author: Jenna Glenellen, MPH, BS Exercise Science, CPT
strength + flexibility = mobility
I'm Jenna, owner of PRIMAL Strength & Conditioning in Youngstown, Ohio. As a certified personal trainer, I see a lot of people thinking that lifting bigger weights = bigger, stronger muscles. While this is true, it's not the sole method to make gains in the gym. Methods like movement through full range of motion have a tremendous impact on our overall strength.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to increase functional flexibility:
1. Train with control, especially if you’re new to training.
✅ Slow and controlled is the way to go as you build strength through full range of motion.
❌ DON’T BE A MOMENTUM LIFTER!
2. Train through full range of motion.
Build a mind to muscle connection. Go lighter, create tension, develop better muscle patterns… and you will reap the benefits.
3. Move in all different planes of movement.
We see very little lateral or rotational training in lifting programs. When we get really strong in only one direction, that means our Central Nervous System (CNS) feels safest in this direction and is only going to keep us moving that way. Any movement outside of this is subject to stiffness and injury.
4. Make mobility work part of your training routine.
It only takes 5-10 minutes a day.
5. Avoid overtraining.
RECOVERY RECOVERY RECOVERY. Without it, you are killing your gains and wasting your efforts. When we overtrain, our body is in a constant mode of healing. We create lots of inflammation, and our CNS will limit range of motion on purpose causing stiffness and aching joints.
NOOMA Recovery Soda also helps here 😉
Why improve functional mobility?
We can be very strong but lack flexibility. Contrarily, we can be extremely flexible but lack strength through the motion.
Mobility results when we combine strength with increased range of motion. This is important for:
- Improving our movement and posture
- Providing us with protection from injury
- Addressing pain problems we may be experiencing
- Removing any training barriers that may come our way
Our Central Nervous System controls our range of motion and how far our muscles can extend or how tight they feel. This control center allows our muscles to know how tight or loose they should be through a specific motion.
There's a common myth that as we gain strength, we lose range of motion and flexibility. Too much tightness is not because we are too strong, but because we lack stability. The CNS will tighten muscles up to prevent too much movement to protect our joints and prevent injury.
When we lift improperly (i.e. not through full range of motion), our CNS is told not to move beyond where it has been trained. Outside of this range we have trained, we lack strength. In order to protect our joints, our muscles will shorten and stay in that range of motion. This limited range is what causes tightness and anything beyond will be subject to injury.
That is why it isessential to work at the proper load and intensity through full range of motion. Through proper training, you can dramatically improve your functional flexibility. And become more strong and mobile both in the gym and day to day!
As a coach, it is much more impressive to see strength adaptations through full range of motion than it is to see the amount of weight increase on a bar. 💪