The Relationship between Mobility, Stability, and Strength

Over three and a half years, I have had a number of clients, each with a variety of goals; everything from losing fat, to preparing for an athletic event, to simply building muscle. 

Though there are many differences in the preparation, diet, and results of each goal - there is a common thread among them all - efficient and pain-free movement,

"How do I lose weight (fat)?"
Well, once you move well, you move frequently - the faster the better - while focusing on decreasing calories.

"How do I gain weight (muscle)?"
Well, you move well, push heavier weights (because the body is moving efficiently) - while focusing on increasing calories.

"How do I get better on a bike?"
Well, make sure your body can move in every direction (that isn't what you normally use on a bike), and strengthen muscles used on a bike.

"How do I get rid of this low back pain?"
Well, make sure the muscles and joints around the low back are moving, then strengthen the ones that support the back so that it doesn't take the brunt of the work.

The list goes on...

So how do we move well?

I find the simplest way to break it down is to look at the relationship between Mobility, Stability, and Strength.

Mobility--precedes--Stability--precedes--Strength

Especially when I am working with clients initially, I run into an inability to lift heavier weights (weight loss clients, this still applies to you - heavy weights = more calorie burn). It has nothing to do with their lack of desire. Rather, an inability to get into a biomechanically favorable position to begin the lift, basically sets them up for failure. Oftentimes I even get an, "I've never been good at _______(insert lift here)."

Yeah, well no wonder, I wouldn't be good at ________ if all the work went right into my back or I was insanely uncomfortable at the bottom position!

So, it is important that you are mobile at the joints being used. Only once you are at a minimum level of mobility, can you then stabilize the joint at the level of mobility achieved. Finally, once you have stabilized the joint(s), you can strengthen the movements that require the joints, effectively. 

My favorite visual of how this works is with a simple overhead press (think military press or likewise). It is REALLY HARD to press heavy weights overhead if when you press "up" it is actually going forward a bit. The less mobile one is, the harder that lift becomes. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to make sure you are able to attain a minimum range of motion BEFORE building the stability and eventually the strength in a desired lift. 

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