Pete McCall by Pete McCall
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To borrow from the late efficiency expert Stephen Covey, no one ever plans to fail, they simply fail to plan. While originally offered as one of his legendary Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this concept also applies directly to exercise; specifically, how to design an exercise program. Without proper planning and preparation to enhance one’s quality of movement, injuries become more likely. Adding exercises to improve the relationship between stability and mobility in the body is one of the best ways to help your clients plan for success when exercising or participating in their favorite physical activities. Conversely, exercises that focus solely on isolated muscle actions could be setting them up for failure.

The ACE Integrated Fitness Training® (ACE IFT®) Model provides a systemic approach for designing a progressively challenging exercise program. The ACE IFT Model has two specific components: Cardiovascular Exercise and Functional Movement and Resistance Training. Each component features four levels of progression based on exercise intensity and the amount of stress placed on the body. The four phases for Functional Movement and Resistance training are: (1) Stability and Mobility, (2) Movement Training, (3) Load Training and (4) Performance Training.

While cardiovascular exercise is indeed important, doing exercises that can establish optimal mobility and stability relationships in the body is essential for staying injury-free and experiencing long-term success. Here are six things you should know about the stability and mobility relationships in the body, along with a few exercises that can help your clients improve their movement skills while also reducing their risk of experiencing an injury.

1. The human body is designed to move, and efficient movement involves numerous muscles and joints working together simultaneously.

Exercise should be a function of numerous muscles working together to produce efficient movement patterns, as opposed to performing separate, discrete muscle actions. Improving movement skill requires using exercise to integrate how the central nervous system (CNS) receives sensory input from the environment with how the muscular system works to produce the appropriate motor response for movement. Optimum movement performance in the body is based on the synergistic function of mobility and stability.

2. When one part of the body moves, it can influence motion at all other parts of the body.

The only tissues that can produce such responsiveness is the fascia and elastic connective tissue, which surrounds every muscle fiber. A well-designed exercise program can enhance the elasticity and structural integrity of fascia, restore the ability of muscle tissue to perform multiplanar movements and allow optimal joint range of motion.

3. It’s important to recognize that joints in the body do not function with one fixed axis of rotation.

Rather, joint mobility relies upon a constantly changing axis of rotation. The muscle, fascia and elastic connective tissue surrounding a joint function to create movement and provide the stability responsible for controlling joint position while it is in motion. Optimal mobility allows a joint to experience full, unrestricted motion while controlling the constantly moving axis of rotation. Regular exercise and physical activity can ensure the elasticity of the attached connective tissues to provide functional performance when needed. Lack of movement in a joint’s structural range of motion can actually lead to atrophy of the involved muscles, which could fail to provide necessary support or stabilization when needed.

4. Muscle, fascia and elastic connective tissue are organized in layers. 

If muscle and fascia experience constant mechanical stress or tension from repetitive movements or poor posture, inelastic collagen fibers can form between layers of muscle tissue as a protection against structural damage. When collagen binds between these layers, it can reduce their ability to slide against one other, which ultimately alters the function of involved joints. If your client wants to participate in activities that require moving in multiple directions at a variety of speeds, have them do exercises that promote tissue elasticity and optimal joint mobility. Remaining sedentary for extended periods of time and limiting the exercise program to predictable, repetitive movement patterns could result in a significant loss of elasticity, which can greatly change the function of a joint and reduce its ability to allow mobility or create stability.

5. The human body is structurally designed to be energy efficient; specifically, to maximize the use of mechanical energy from the noncontractile components of fascia and elastic connective tissue. 

Forces applied to the human body, whether external from the environment, such as gravity and ground reaction forces, or internal in response to an imbalance in muscle tension, can change the shape and function of tissues, specifically fascia, muscle and bone.

6. Injuries related to the loss of joint mobility are preventable.

The ability of fascia and elastic connective tissue to lengthen allows a joint to move through a complete range of motion, which supports optimal joint mobility. A lack of motion, especially in multiple planes and directions, can create adhesions between the various layers of muscle and fascia, which ultimately reduce joint motion and restrict mobility. Many common injuries restricting joint mobility can be related to fascia and connective tissue being loaded beyond its existing capacity. Mobile joints that maintain the ability to allow unrestricted freedom of movement can reduce stress across the entire system and reduce the risk of injury.

As it relates to exercise and physical activity, the three segments of the body that allow the greatest mobility are the foot and ankle complex, the hip and the intervertebral segments of the thoracic spine. The joints comprising these three segments of the body provide important mobility in all three planes of motion that is essential for optimal movement efficiency. The loss of mobility at one joint in these segments, even the loss of mobility in a single plane of motion, can affect the structure and function of the entire body. If a joint loses mobility, it could affect joints above or below it, greatly altering their ability to function.

Body Segments Allowing the Greatest Mobility

Body Segment

Primary Joints Allowing Greatest Mobility

Mobility Allowed

Impact of the Loss of Mobility

Foot and ankle complex

Talocrural

Subtalar

Transverse tarsal

Pronation (a triplanar combination of dorsiflexion, eversion and abduction)

Supination (a triplanar combination of plantarflexion, inversion and adduction)

During gait, if the foot is not able to efficiently pronate at heel strike to absorb ground reaction forces or supinate during the mid-stance and heel-off phases to create a stable lever for propulsion, it could create additional stresses at the knee or hip.

Hip

Iliofemoral

Flexion and extension in the sagittal plane

Abduction and adduction in the frontal plane

Internal and external rotation in the transverse plane

If the hip loses mobility in one plane of motion, it could restrict motion in the other two planes as well. If the hip loses mobility in all three planes, the lumbar spine or the knee could be affected. 

Thoracic spine

Intervertebral segments of the 12 thoracic vertebra

Flexion and extension in the sagittal plane

Lateral flexion in the frontal plane

Rotation in the transverse plane

If the thoracic spine experiences kyphosis (excessive curvature), it could restrict important motion in the sagittal and transverse planes as well as create an unstable position of the scapulae, which could ultimately restrict motion at the glenohumeral joints.

Glenohumeral joints

Where the ball created by the head of the humerus sits in the socket created by the glenoid fossa of the scapula

Flexion and extension in the sagittal plane

Abduction and adduction in the frontal plane

Internal and external rotation in the transverse plane

Abduction and adduction in the transverse plane

Mobility of the glenohumeral joint depends on stability of the scapula-thoracic joint. If the scapula is out of place, it will not create a foundation to allow for movement of the head of the humerus. Improving posture and enhancing strength of the muscles responsible for stabilizing the scapula can enhance mobility of the glenohumeral joint.

The following workout can be used as a dynamic warm-up before a hard workout, or as a low-intensity workout on an active rest or recovery day. Perform these exercises as a circuit with minimal rest between each individual exercise, and allow for up to two minutes after completing the entire circuit before starting another round. Start with two circuits and work up to completing four full circuits.

Exercise

Function

Repetitions

Rest Interval

Sets

Glute bridge

Improves hip mobility while enhancing stability of the lumbar spine

12-15

2-4

Bird-dog

Uses motion at the shoulders and hips to improve hip mobility while enhancing stability of core muscles

8-12

2-4

Stability ball Russian twist

Improves thoracic mobility

8-12

 

Push-ups

Enhances stability of the lumbar spine and scapula-thoracic joints while improving upper body strength

6-10

2-4

TRX golf swings

Improves mobility of thoracic spine and hips

8-12

90-120 seconds

2-4

The BioMechanics Method is the world's first and only step-by-step educational program designed specifically to teach health and fitness professionals how to successfully work with people who experience joint and muscle pain. Learn how to effectively increase your clients' mobility and stability with our Corrective Exercise Specialist program

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