Ok, so this post has been brewing in my head for quite some time (read: TWO+ years) and I figured that now is as good a time as any to put it out there.
Do a google search for the definition of “range of motion” and you’ll find various forms of this: “the movement of a joint from full flexion to full extension or from full extension to full flexion.”
In the real world, we work within the confines of ideal range of motion. You know what that “ideal” is? FULL range of motion! Not partial…not almost…not “you were right there.” The goal is, and always will be, full range of motion.
Each movement that the human body can perform has a full, natural range of motion. When you were born and began to move about, you had it (barring any special medical conditions). When you got older and stopped moving around as much (think sat behind a desk at school or work all day), your range of motion capabilities became compromised.
Want some examples of full ROM? I thought you’d never ask! I’ll give the two movements where I see the most compromises with regards to ROM.
(I will give these in terms of good finishing position because that is the position that most everyone lacks when performing these movements.)
Pressing overhead – you should be able to hold something overhead, without discomfort, to a point where your arm is straight overhead, in-line with the midline of your body, elbow fully locked out and no break in the midline.
Squatting – you should be able to descend to where your butt is down near your ankles, hamstrings sitting on the backs of your calves. Feet should remain flat on the ground, toes turned out slightly, knees in line with your feet and chest is tall with your normal spine curvature maintained.
Notice that there were some very specific descriptors of common faults that we see. These are also known as movement compromises – things that we do in order to achieve what I deem a “false range of motion.”
In our Foundations class, I talk about ROM because I want everyone to know what they should expect out of themselves from the outset. I believe everyone should have a goal to achieve in that sense. They may not be able to express full ROM right away, but they should always be striving for it.
I also talk about the things that limit your ROM. I will briefly cover these things and offer a quick fix:
1. Loss of Midline Stability (MLS): simply put, this is where you lose the normal curvature of your spine and deviate to a position of excessive flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation, or some combination of these.
Fix: make sure your spine is braced for movement and remains stable throughout your range of motion. Once you feel a deviation from normal, stop, and return to the start, taking note of where you lost MLS.
2. Lack of Kinesthetic Awareness: kinesthetic awareness, or proprioception, is the ability for you to know your body’s position in space. If I tell you to squat below parallel and you tell me that you are already low enough, then you lack kinesthetic awareness.
Fix: practice. Learn what it feels like to express a full ROM. Be honest with yourself and leave no doubt that you are expressing full ROM without compromises. Then practice some more, and then practice again, and again, and again. Get it?
3. Lack of Strength: you don’t have the requisite strength to perform the movement as its intended. This is seen in deconditioned and/or elderly populations, very young athletes, or those that do not have an athletic background.
Fix: get stronger. Start with bodyweight movements to a ROM that you can handle with the goal to increase your ROM over time. When you are able, start to add on external load – barbell, dumbbell, kettle bell, etc.
4. Lack of Flexibility: you have a genuine restriction within your body to perform a particular movement to its full ROM. This can be soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) or joint capsule restriction. Previous injuries play a role here too.
Fix: work on your mobility before, during, and after class. Also work on it at home and at work. Bascially any chance you have to mobilize/stretch is an opportunity to improve your performance without much effort. But you have to actually do it.
So, how does your ROM stack up? Does your squat look like the picture above? How about your overhead position? If not, then stop adding more weight to your barbell and spend time fixing your position. You will perform better in the long run as your body will be able to fully recruit all the necessary help it needs to help you move large loads, long distances, quickly.
Lastly, these things take time to improve. Don’t think that one little 15-minute stretching session will cure a lifetime of poor position. You need to make this a daily occurrence. You’ve only got one body, might as well take the best care of it as humanly possible. After all, “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.” -Kelly Starrett
Ok gang, today is the day where we test for a true 20RM back squat. This is what we’ve been working towards for four weeks now!
Take 15min to establish a true 20RM back squat
Read the second to last paragraph above
3 RFT –
10 Hang Power Cleans (135/95)
50 Double Unders