Keep it simple Part 3: What are you doing about mobility?

For those of us in the collegiate strength & conditioning setting, it’s not always easy to address each piece of the physical preparation puzzle in the time we’re given. More specifically, the challenge lies within giving as much attention as we’d like to each piece.

What are those different pieces? Gray Cook wraps it up pretty nicely with his performance pyramid. I’ve stolen his idea and done a few different “performance pyramids” of my own.


Pyramid 1: Optimal balance of performance constituents

The pyramid is as fitting an analogy as any. Without a wide and stable base, nothing – or only something smaller – can be built above it. In this case, when the most fundamental component: MOVEMENT & TISSUE QUALITY is maximized, there is a far greater capacity for improving PERFORMANCE above it. When these two are built upon each other and trained intelligently, then SKILL is given its greatest potential for development. Think about it, without adequate MOVEMENT & TISSUE QUALITY any attempts at PERFORMANCE improvement will be cut short by injury since the limitations in both MOVEMENT & TISSUE QUALITY will not be able to tolerate any increases in training volume, frequency, or intensity.

My second pyramid illustrates this second scenario.


pyramid 2

Pyramid 2: Performance training is emphasized above movement and tissue quality: it is likely that skill will be minimized as a result of reinforcing dysfunction, or impossible as a result of acute injury

As described above, when PERFORMANCE training is emphasized with an inadequate base of MOVEMENT & TISSUE QUALITY, poor patterns are strengthened. This can be likened to leaving the handbrake on your car. It will still run, the wheels will still roll, but slowly and with remarkable inefficiency (decreased performance.) Eventually, one of the vital components of its operation will cease to function and the system as a whole will be fatally compromised (acute injury such as serious strains, sprains, tears and fractures.) When you’re hurt you can’t practice, when you can’t practice, your skill will not improve. Simple as that.

Finally, pyramid 3 illustrates a flaw that is all too common in American sport.

pyramid 3

Pyramid 3: Nearly exclusive focus on skill development with little attention given to performance and near negligence relating to movement and tissue quality. This leads to skill being maximized prematurely with limited capacity for improvement, as well as the likelihood of compromised movement and tissue quality leading to common overuse injuries specific to the sport in question.

It’s not uncommon to hear professional all-star athletes say that they’ve been playing their sport as long as they can remember. Usually this suggests to hopeful parents of future superstars that the sooner they begin training in a certain sport, the greater their capacity for improvement and ultimately success. The part of the story that is sometimes left out of the conversation is the part about that football player also playing basketball and running track in high school. This often does little to stifle the convenience of calling them a “freak athlete” in which case, of course they’re at the top of their sport.

Oftentimes, when SKILL is put ahead of PERFORMANCE training, as well as attention to MOVEMENT & TISSUE QUALITY we run into two possible scenarios.

  1. Premature and incomplete achievement of “maximal” potential.
  2. Overuse and chronic injuries specific to the particular sport.

With all that said and in the theme of keeping it simple, here is a short video of some of the movements I use to gauge my progress or maintenance in mobility. 

Squat + Stand

Squat to stand basic

Basic Cues:

  1. Flat Feet
  2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt
  3. Elbows Straight and Inside the Knees
  4. Long & Tall Spine
  5. If posterior pelvic tilt is present, try a “higher” bottom position.

squat t extension

Squat w. Thoracic Extension

Basic Cues:

  1. Flat Feet
  2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt
  3. Hands Behind Head with Full Thoracic Extension
  4. Typically Higher “Bottom” Position
  5. Long & Tall Spine
  6. Knees Out

squat t rotation

Squat w. Thoracic Rotation

Basic Cues:

  1. Same as Squat w. T Extension
  2. Attempt to keep Anterior Pelvic Tilt
  3. Use Non-Rotating arm to Leverage some additional rotation for other arm to 90 deg.

squat w eversion

Squat w. Eversion

Basic Cues:

  1. Same as Previous two.
  2. Maintain anterior pelvic tilt (may require “higher” bottom position.)
  3. Keep static side knee over static side foot while everting opposite side.
  4. Pause at end range.

squat w shoulder flexion

Squat w. Closed-Chain Shoulder Flexion

Basic Cues:

  1. Same as Previous Squat patterns.
  2. Tuck chin and maintain tall flat neutral spine
  3. Move hands in closer to increase difficulty/demand
  4. Achieve flexion to the point of dowel aligned over base of support

Single Leg RDL

Single Leg RDL with Closed-Chain Shoulder Flexion

Basic Cues:

  1. Flat Foot with weight oriented toward back of the foot
  2. Long flat neutral spine with chin tucked
  3. Soft knee and anterior pelvic tilt
  4. Create tension in support leg hamstring
  5. Goal is to keep hips level to the floor and avoid excessive ER on stance leg

To Summarize

These are a few of the patterns I believe that can help to take subjective appraisal of your own mobility. Improvement in ability to achieve these positions with greater levels of competency and consistency suggests to me that there is improvement in functional length of critical muscle groups for athletic movement.

I use one or more variations of these in “specific” warmups for my student-athletes in order to evaluate whether or not the rest of our training is having transference to improving the most fundamental level of the pyramid: MOVEMENT AND TISSUE QUALITY.

Using a generalized physical warmup prior to “testing” these positions several days a week will help to keep your athletes functionally mobile. It can also serve as a regular opportunity for you as a coach to evaluate the efficacy of your training program when the objective is improving movement and tissue quality.



One thought on “Keep it simple Part 3: What are you doing about mobility?

  1. Pingback: Keep it Simple Part 4: Simplifying cues for agility and knee kinematics, what do you look for? | Alex Carnall: Physical Preparation

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