“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
Over the last 17 years I have become a student and observer of human movement. Over those years, things have changed considerably when it comes to how we move. When I first started in this business, people typically trained like a body builder – single joint movements, often in a machine that did not allow for much dynamic movement. Much of the time the movements were done in a seated position or lying position. For the most part the exercises did not require athleticism. CrossFit made athletic movement attractive, and you can see its influence everywhere. However, poor postures, repetitive sports movement, muscle imbalances, etc are your carry-on baggage that comes with you to the box.
What is in your carry-on?
Whether we want to admit it or not, the postures that we practice and the exercise or sports we have performed in the past come with us when we venture into functional athletic movement. The postures that you display leave clues and past sports can leave clues. You can bet that those postures will be present when you are trying to back squat, press, deadlift, clean, snatch or swing a kettlebell. Unfortunately that could spell disaster for the lift and potential injury. See the pictures below to see how those postures can translate into dangerous positions when lifting weights.
Why does it carry over?
In strength and conditioning there is a principle called the SAID Principle. The SAID principle stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. Basically, if you introduce a stimulus, the body will get better at that thing, as the human body is really good at adaptation. This principle is a positive thing. We use it in CrossFit West Houston Programming in order to get stronger. We will impose the demand of consistently increasing load to arrive at the specific adaptation of gaining strength and being stronger, for example.
It can also work negatively. If you impose the demand of terrible posture, for instance the computer picture above, your body will accept the challenge and say, “Ok cool, we’re going to be in this posture so I am going to be good at this. Let’s tighten up the hip flexors, psoas, and pectorals so that this posture is easier!” So guess what – you get really good at that posture so much so that it carries over to your posture in deadlifts, cleans, snatches, squats, swings, etc. You may be able to fix it temporarily for lifts as necessary, however, it will feel uncomfortable and you are likely weaker in the good position as muscle imbalances have been created. Over time, as fatigue sets in, you will likely fall back into the bad posture position as it is easier for your body to be in those positions. This is where the potential for injury becomes much higher. This is where the coaches typically cue you to lift your chest, flatten your back, stand tall, etc.
So what should you do?
First you need to really take an accounting of your postures and how much time you are spending in the bad posture. Second, you need to fix the postures. The new better posture will likely be challenging and difficult at first, however, it will get easier. Third, you need to perform mobility. Lots of it based on the number of hours you sit in crappy positions or even sit period.
Unfortunately, we fool ourselves into thinking that the 2 to 6 hours of exercise we perform each week will account for the 40 to 80 hours we find ourselves in the a sitting position. We address it as much as we can in our programming, however, it’s not enough. Kelly Starrett, Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of CrossFit San Francisco and Mobility WOD, recommends that you perform about 2 minutes of mobility for every half hour you sit in his new book Deskbound! IT IS THAT IMPORTANT! In addition to the mobility prescription he recommends a standing desk if possible.
What is Mobility?
Usually when you hear the word mobility, most people associate that with being flexible – which typically translates to stretching. It is that and more, really good mobility requires stretching, mashing tight muscles or myo-fascial release with lacrosse balls and foam rollers, joint mobility, and consistent good movement.
Understand that you have lots of really good tools right now. We incorporate lots of mobility within our daily programming – this is intentional to help you learn what to do. Do these things on a daily basis OUTSIDE of your workouts. Additionally, practice good posture when you sit, stand, text, use the computer, watch TV, pick something off the ground, etc. The more you practice good posture, you will re-shape the tissues. As a former teacher of Kelly Starrett’s told him “tissue is like an obedient dog, if you spend enough time training, they will respond.”
Shoot for 5 to 15 minutes a day in addition to the work we do in classes. A really good start is to add 5 minutes first thing in the morning. One of my really good trainer friends, Max Shank, touts #5minuteflow which is to basically start your day with 5 minutes of mobility flow, plus two 20 oz glasses of water. Do this as soon as you get up. You may find that you really feel good throughout the day and it will make a big difference in how you move. Here is a link for more on the challenge: http://maxshank.com/5-minute-movement-challenge/
In fact, I challenge you to do this for 30 days straight. We will set up the board in the small room for people to put their names on as accepting the challenge. Each week you will come in and check off the days that you did it. The challenge will begin October 1st! Try it, and you just might find several more minutes a day to add in mobility because you will feel awesome! And you just might find joints, muscles and positions may hurt a heck of a lot less!