This morning I was doing an assessment with a rugby player. And is the case when I am coaching I tend to use analogies to convey the points I am trying to make. This assessment was no different.
In this case I was going over the results of the assessment and explaining how at particular joints we want to have stability and at other joints we want to have mobility. And typically we want to address mobility issues before stability. Once each of these has been addressed we can then worry about movement and building strength, power and all the other fun stuff athletes want.
But beyond there being a pattern to the mobility and stability needs of the various joints it almost extends further than this. And what would be better then an analogy to explain what I’m talking about then an analogy involving super-heros, right? So without keeping you in suspense any longer let me get to tot he point.
Limbs as Shock Absorbers
Imagine your body as being able to absorb, reduce and then transfer forces. These forces can come from the ground, from an object or an oponent. And then we can transfer the force back into the ground, into an object or the opponent.
In order to do this effectively we want our extremities to be good shock absorbers and highly mobile. We can think of this as the hips and shoulders being able to move in every direction. This energy then has a couple of options when it reaches the trunk. With a stable lumbar spine and lower torso this energy can then be released back to the lower body, i.e. for a kick or jump, or the upper body, i.e. for a punch or throw.
However with improper training this energy may be not reduced and released effectively. Imagine a gifted athlete and a sedentary person performing box jumps.
Strong or Weak Shocks?
When the gifted athlete lands a jump and takes off for the next jump we (coaches) notice certain things. The land is soft, controlled and there is minimal if any motion through the torso. All of the motion is through the extremities.
The sedentary person on the other hand lands with a lot of noise i.e. energy was not reduced effectively. The movement appears a lot more sloppy, the trunk flexes forward on each landing and extends back on take off. And there is much less involvement on the extremities. It is important to distinguish between wild arm swings and effective use of the arms of the arms.
So how does this relate to super-heros? Well most people that go to the gym focus on exercises which develop strong extremities to fill out their t-shirt and make sure everyone knows they workout. Further there is very little attention to developing hip and shoulder mobility as well as stability through the lower torso.
What a typical program produces is super-hero arms and legs but a Gumby torso.
Now don’t confuse this with meaning you should have weak arms but a rock hard stomach. You should be strong through the extremities but have full range of motion at the shoulders and hips. And while a six pack may look impressive it doesn’t help in sport if you can’t control external forces and then produce them effectively.