Why Your Mobility Isn’t Improving
Lack of mobility is a huge problem in today’s society due to our sedentary lifestyles, repetitive motions, and sustained postures in less than ideal movement patterns. However, many of us are putting a lot of hard work to improve our mobility and we are getting frustrated with our lack of progress or long-term success.
As a physical therapist, people ask me all the time, “why am I still stuck and not improving?” I have found there are three main reasons why they are hitting a plateau.
- Some Joints Take Longer to Change
- The best example is the ankle joint. People spend many years and countless steps walking like a duck with collapsed arches or wearing crappy, bolstered up shoes that limit range of motion. Not to mention, ankle sprains represent one of the highest incident rates when it comes to athletic and non-athletic injuries.
- There are many tiny joints, ligaments, and muscle tendons that make up the ankle joint and simply take a longer time to conform and work together as a unit to produce better movement and mobility.
- As an example, it took me three years to reclaim the arches in my feet. I went from a size 12.5 to 10.5 shoe and my ankles and feet are still a work in progress.
- The big picture: you need to commit and invest time into improving these structures.
- You Don’t Utilize the Range of Motion you are Trying to Improve
- Hooking a band up to your hip for two minutes means nothing if you immediately go sit in your car, sit at work, or lay down and watch Netflix for three hours. Any improvement you made will automatically revert back to the posture of which it was neurologically adapted.
- The key here is to get the central nervous system (CNS) involved. We want to wire the nerves together by forcing them to fire together in the new range of motion you just provided your body.
- Let’s look at the band around the hip example. One way to accomplish this is with the use of drills that force you to work at your end ranges. My favorite exercise for this is the kettle bell squat. We use the weight of the bell to counterbalance the body and influence stability and control at end ranges of ankle dorsiflexion and hip flexion in the bottom position of the squat. This allows us to connect the neurological dots that improve movement patterns.
- Breathing Patterns
- “The breath is the king of the mind and the mind controls the body.” – B.K.S Lyengar
- I see people holding their breath or only using their upper chest to breathe when performing self-myofascial release while using lacrosse balls or foam rollers. This is seen as a stressful input to the body, increasing the sympathetic state (fight or flight), and not allowing it to relax.
- Instead, we should use our breath to down regulate our body and enter a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). We can enter this state by utilizing the entire lung field and diaphragm while performing these techniques. A very useful breathing technique is a form of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) called contract-relax. One breath cycle includes a 4-second inhale, 4-second breath hold while contracting into your mobility tool of choice, and a 8-second exhale relaxation.
Lastly, Don’t Try to do Everything at Once! Pick your biggest limitations or lowest hanging fruit and focus your efforts. You will begin to see more positive change in no time!