Mobility is King

Catching up

The last six weeks or so have been both calmer and yet… Weird. Weird because of the after effect(s) of the flood last month. In the large: the devastation to the front range of Colorado is immense, and almost beyond any words I could write. 17000 houses damaged or destroyed, untold property damage from several rivers breaking their banks. Several people died. Years of rebuilding. A humbling and daunting time.

Along with a handful of photos I posted on my FB page, there are also a bazillion more all over the Colorado based news channels, if you’re inclined to look…

Closer to home, we got our basement squared away, carpet cleaned where water came in through a window well from the rain. And we thank “the powers that be” that we got off lucky. So very, very lucky…

Crews of workers (I’m not sure if they’re from the city or county) have been working on the torn up river bed next to our house. Replacing cracked and broken sewer pipes, storm water pipes and the riverbed itself. Removing debris. They work six days a week from seven am to sometimes one am the next morning. They are making amazingly fast progress.

Beyond that, with the exception of some work stress (more for my wife than for me – though I have a bit as well) things are finally calming down. No more relatives in the hospital, no more friends passing away unexpectedly. Hopefully it will stay that way for a long, long time!

I am even, slowly, getting some writing done! Who hoo!

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Recently, I was in a conversation with a client I work with about my own training. With the exception of a few times over the years where I’ve posted my training online, I don’t talk about specifics much.

I have a methodology I use. One that involves assessment, correctives (if needed), and then specific tools and exercises – depending on goals – either mine or a client’s – to meet set goals (and play, lots and lots of play). A system that I’ve been learning and working on for a long, long time. Distilling forty-one years (this year) of education, athletics, and competition.

The “base” of the system I use is the idea of movement over muscles. Now, today, a lot of trainers use verbiage like this. I am not the first to think it, or use it, though I have been thinking it and using it for a long time. I am just not very vocal about it on the inter webs. Self promotion has never been my thing. Ask around…

Movement over Muscles

When most people were young (at least in the West), they had a relatively large movement palette. They rolled on the ground, ran, climbed trees, wrestled, rode bikes, swam, played chase games, threw balls (and objects), jumped off roofs, and more. Then somewhere around late grade school or early junior high (middle school) they get hooked into organized sports: soccer, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, track and field events, etc. And their movement palette shrinks to the confines of the sport they chose. If they are “lucky,” they’ll participate in that sport till the end of high school or college. After college, jobs, career (not always the same thing), starting a family start taking precedence. Maybe they go to the gym and lift some weights and do some form of “cardio.” Once in a while they go camping in the mountains and do some hiking or fishing. Run a marathon, do a triathalon. A few “adventurous” types might even do a little hunting. And that’s the bulk of their movement for the next forty-fifty years. And that’s if they stay at it. By the time they are in their sixties or seventies they are moving less and less, till one day they find they are sitting or lying down more than they are moving. And then it’s over.

I don’t want to be that person. I have never wanted to be that person – even when I couldn’t have put the idea into words. I want to stay mobile and strong till my last day on this beautiful spinning insane asylum. I want to challenge myself (safely of course) to new and more complex movements and patterns to keep my musculoskeletal system, neurological system, and brain plastic, sharp and strong.

Now for me, beyond nutrition, sleep and recovery – which are related overlapping domains – mobility is king. Strength is queen. Others like to reverse those attributes, and that’s fine, as long as they are addressed. I have mobility as my first place attribute because I feel that it is the most important of the attributes. As the saying goes: strength without mobility is like firing a cannon from a canoe. Mobility without strength is like trying to spear a lion with a rope.

You need both.

The question then becomes: how much strength and mobility do you need? And therein lies the rub.

The answer of course is: it depends.

It depends on what your goals as an athlete are. What are the “fitness requirements” of the things you like or want to do?

For example, I love no-gi submission grappling. To be good at it, you need a strong technical base, excellent “cardio” (heart and lungs), above average mobility and be as strong as you can be without dedicating your life to the iron (weights). Strong is relative. Strong in submission grappling would make a powerlifter giggle.

At 196lbs my training squat max is (right now) about 425lbs. My best ever was 560lbs. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t even qualify as “good” weights within powerlifting circles.

So definition of goals is a must. You also want to decide whether you want to specialize on an athletic endeavor or be more of a generalist. For me, I decided a long time ago to be more of a generalist.

Now a specialist, like a powerlifter, might say that because I am a generalist, and don’t spend the majority of my time building up my bench, squat and deadlift, that I am weak, and probably a pussy. And on the platform, they would be right. But outside of that one narrow place of performance I am going to take that powerlifter’s lunch money.

I have done it many times on the mat (with witnesses 😉 ).

Anyway…

A while back, movement coach Ido Portal said on FB, that fitness is a part of movement, not the other way around, and I agree. A person can increase their fitness on just about anything. Do a handstand, awesome! Cool party trick. Do two and you’ve increased your fitness – but only to do handstands. Do a hundred (within a specified time period), you rock at handstands! But can you squat? Deadlift? Olympic lift? Do a front lever? How is your locomotion, and so on… Fitness is “activity” specific.

After defining your goals, how do you go about setting up your training program? Start with basic movement patterns and then systematically build on and sophisticate them.

Set a new goal and repeat the process. Maintain what you don’t want to lose. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

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Because I’ve been asked about them many time before, here are my training maxes. Please note that these are my best ever, not necessarily where I am today.

Squat: 560lbs

Deadlift: 430lbs

Bench: 400lbs

Overhead Press: 210lbs

Power Clean: 285lbs

Jerk: 230lbs

Snatch: 200lbs

For balance I feel I should add that I can also do the splits in either direction, touch my forehead to my shins, relax in a flatfoot squat for 30+ minutes and outside of occasional training “owies” have full range of motion in all my joints. I love (and practice) martial arts (boxing, muay Thai, Judo, no-gi submission grappling, FMA, “gun-fu”), gymnastics, yoga, Olympic weightlifting, strength training, Ginastica Natural, Parkour, and more.

My goals involve the continuing exploration, refinement and development of my body and movement palette.

Onwards and Upwards!

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