Improving Your Athletic Performance While in Quarantine and Beyond (Part 1)
I've enjoyed seeing how creative gyms have approached the last few weeks to serve their clients, get them access to equipment, and find ways to keep their members active and involved in the community. However, I know there are some people who in the back of their mind are thinking "What is my performance going to be like when I can get back into the gym?" "Will I still be able to lift the same weight?" "Will I be able to hit the same times?" "Will I still be able to do a pull-up or muscle-up?" All valid questions and concerns. You have worked hard to build up to your best lift or best time and you want to maintain our high level of performance.
Yes, the first time you are able to handle a barbell again that Clean, Deadlift, or Squat are going to feel a lot heavier than before. Yes, your split time on the rower or your "Fran" time may be a few seconds slower. However, let's take a look at 3 areas of physical performance (that require no to minimal equipment) that are critical to maintaining your overall performance in quarantine and beyond:
Single Limb Stability
These are 3 areas all athletes and active adults should focus on, but are often overlooked because they aren't the "sexy" exercises, they take additional time before or after your workout, and they often take more mental energy because they are outside of our comfort zones. However, it is outside of our comfort zones where we make real change and progress.
What is mobility? It's rolling out and stretching, right??? Wrong! Ok...partially wrong. Mobility is more complex than that. Mobility is the ability to actively move a joint through a full range of motion, which requires both components of flexibility (rolling out and stretching) and stability (muscle activation and strength). Yes, we need to have full range of motion, but that motion becomes useless if we are unable to control it, and our strength isn't as effective if we don't have full motion. For example, to do a shoulder press, you need full shoulder flexion (overhead) range of motion; however, if you don't have the muscular control and stability to perform that movement you will have difficulty lifting heavier weight overhead and also have a chance for shoulder instability injuries. Or in the reverse, if you have the strength to lift 100 lbs overhead, but you are missing full shoulder range of motion, you leave yourself very susceptible to a shoulder impingement injury.
In an ideal world, your workout to mobility ratio would be 1:1. However, we all know that time is money and we all live busy lives, so we need to efficient ways to make sure that we are getting our mobility in. To get a benefit out of your mobility work, I would dedicate at least 10-15 minutes/day to focusing on your mobility. Mobility is so important to maintain optimal performance and also prevent injury.
You may be thinking, "this is great and I totally agree, but I am not sure what mobility exercises to do?" At Enhance Performance Therapy, we have a Facebook group dedicated to mobility work called EPT's Movement Monday. Every Monday, we post mobility exercises to help you with your problem areas and maximize your movement. Click here to join our Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1087506178280389/.
2) Core Stability
Core stability is another key component to performance. When we think of our core, we often just think of our ab muscles, however, our core includes our whole torso from our hips to our shoulders. There is a Physical Therapy saying that goes "proximal stability allows for distal mobility." Proximal meaning closer to our core and distal meaning further away from our core. So what this means, is that we must have stability in our core to allow our extremities, arms and legs, to move and function properly. If there is a breakdown in our core stability, it leads to decreased efficiency, power, and movement of our arms and legs.
It is important to train all aspects of the core in order to improve your performance, and no, just doing sit-ups isn't going to do the trick. Yes, sit-ups will strengthen your rectus abdominis (6-pack muscle); however, as we just learned your core involves a lot more than just your ab muscles. Also, our entire core complex works together, not in isolation. Meaning that it is even important for runners to work on their upper back stability, not just their abs and hips, even though their upper back seems a long ways away from their legs. You may be thinking, "how does my upper back impact my running?" This is a complex question, but the short answer is, any breakdown in core stability, is going to lead to compensation somewhere in the system. If you start to lose stability in your upper back, then every other part in the system has to work harder to compensate for that lack of stability, which leads to decreased performance in the other areas.
The list of core stability exercises are endless, but check out the videos below to get you started with some functional exercises that can help you start improving your performance. To get the most out of these exercises, I would recommend incorporating a couple of them into your warm-up routine. The reason I recommend doing them before a workout is because these exercises are going to activate your nervous system and get your core primed for the workout. This will allow you to then recruit these muscles easier when you need them during the workout.
3) Single Limb Stability
What is the importance of single limb (upper body and lower body) training? To expose and fix your weaknesses. It is very easy to hide our weaknesses and compensate for them in double limb training. Single limb training forces us outside of our comfort zones to work on our differences side to side. It is very normal to have dominant arm or leg, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work them independently from one another. Just like in our core example, if one part of the system isn't working at its best, it leads to a break down and compensation elsewhere in the system, which leads to inefficiency and decreased performance. For peak performance, it is important to incorporate single limb training into your routine. Here are some great upper body and lower body single limb exercises.
Taking time to focus on your mobility, core stability, and single limb mobility now and making it a habit is going to help you sustain a high level for performance for a long time. Incorporating these activities into your workout routine as part of your warm-up or cool down is the easiest and most efficient way to make sure that you are working on these things daily.
If you are unsure where your strengths and weaknesses lie, what areas you should be focusing on, or which exercises are right for you, Enhance offers a full body movement assessment for this exact purpose. The movement assessment will look at both range of motion and stability components and based on the results, you will be given a custom exercise program to address your areas of need. Also, the great news for you, is that this assessment can be completed virtually! If you want to get a head start on improving your performance, take advantage of our full body movement assessment. Call 515-985-9038 or click the link below to schedule your assessment.
Stay tuned for next week's blog, we will be highlighting some very important non-physical components to improve your athletic performance.