Two Big Reasons You Don’t Make (And Keep) Mobility Gains

Which of these sounds like you?

1) You do mobility work and feel like you make progress in your session. But the gains don’t seem to stick because each time you go to start your mobility work, it feels like you’re back on day one again.

2) You make quick ‘gains’ to your mobility by using a few mobility “hacks” or “tricks” you learned on Instagram, but there’s been very few gains since that initial one.

3) You make slow, steady, improvements in your mobility such that you don’t have to put as much time into that aspect of your fitness anymore, and it’s fairly easy to maintain and expand upon what you’ve built with some minor modifications to your program.

If you think the third one sounds like magical unicorn type stuff, keep reading because I’m going to teach you two big reasons you aren’t in camp three yet, and how to address them…

Why Are They Treated Differently?

The first place to begin is with this question – why are goals that are related to mobility or healing aches and pains treated differently than goals that are related to strength or cardiovascular improvement?

With mobility work and ‘stuff that helps you heal your aches’,  it’s fairly common for folks to feel like the gains never last (ie, “my hamstrings feel great after I stretch them but every morning they’re tight again”) and accept as ‘just part of the deal’ with mobility.

It’s also common for folks to get excited about what feels like a quick ‘gain’ to their mobility after doing a special trigger point thing with a lacrosse ball, or a pigeon pose while counting backwards from 10, or some other “mobility hack” they saw some slick person on Instagram teaching them in a sponsored post – only to have the needle not move much at all in the department of ‘mobility gains’ after that initial ‘success.’

But with cardio and strength goals, you know that you should see steady, consistent, progress over an extended period of time.

And you know that you should never feel like you’re starting on day one all over again each time you do the workout.

Not to mention, it’s agreed upon that any sort of “secret trick” for instant strength or endurance doesn’t actually work because real gains are made over the long haul with sustainable, reasonable, programming.

Whether it is a goal to improve strength, endurance, speed, mobility, or pain, the same constant holds true: in order to make progress, cells must adapt, and cellular adaptation happens when you send a specific signal consistently over a long period of time using force to tell the cells how you want them to respond.

So why would you view the path to your mobility and ‘heal your aches’ goals any differently than the path to your strength and cardiovascular goals?

How To Make Steady, Consistent, Progress

Here is why you might find yourself in either camp one, feeling like it’s Groundhog Day all over again each day, or camp two, making a quick initial gain but not much thereafter:

  1. You’re not building a solid foundation for lasting change.
  2. You’re putting time into things but not The Things your body needs most at this time for this goal.

So how do you build a solid foundation for lasting change? While you could walk through every single aspect of human anatomy, biology, physical training, and life, that influences how you change your body- the point of this article is to give you a starting point and it’s this…

Develop your Six Pillars

Several years into my coaching career, I developed the Six Pillars Framework to help people build their foundations strong and solid. When folks addressed each of the Six Pillars, lots of good things happened –

They moved better, they felt better, and they performed better. They also stopped having stutters in their training because random aches or tweaks were no longer cropping up to sideline or sidetrack them.

This was especially true for my athletes but it held true for non-athletes as well. Before building their Six Pillars, the person be training for some goal and aches or injuries seemed to be almost an inevitability.

After building their Six Pillars, these aches and tweaks disappeared and didn’t return. And it wasn’t because the Six Pillars are some magic potion (remember, we don’t do ‘magic’ or ‘secret tricks’ here). It was because of what the Six Pillars teaches the individual to do – they become able to “catch something before it catches them”, that is, they are able to key in to the things their body needs through each season of training and life and provide them in a timely manner.

They were building the mobility, control, and strength, in six key areas of the body and they were learning how to assess their body regularly and apply whatever slight shifts in focus were needed. The result was consistent, sustainable, results – no more stuttering starts and stops to their progress.

So what are the Six Pillars? Mobile Feet, Strong Glutes, Mobile Hips, Strong Torso, Mobile Shoulders, Strong Posture.

To learn much more about each of the Six Pillars, check out this video series on my youtube channel.

The Six Pillars starts you on the path to building a solid foundation for lasting change.

Now, how do you make sure you’re putting time into The Things your body needs most at this time for this goal?

The Six Pillars Framework also helps tremendously on that front by showing you the map for where and what to focus on to support your current endeavors in conjunction with the following concept: Assess & Apply

Assess & Apply

Assess & Apply is a simple way for you to organize yourself and your focus in your training because it gives you a hierarchy to work through. This helps you determine if you’re working on the right things for right now.

Teachers have used this sort of concept with students for a long time. If the teacher wants the student to know how to do long division, they must first be sure the student can multiply and subtract (two skills that will be put to use when doing long division). If the student can’t multiply or subtract, no one should be surprised when learning long division doesn’t go so well.

Your fitness correlation to the long division might be “do a pull-up”, “run my first 5K”, or “compete in a powerlifting meet”. In order to do all those things, you must have joints that are functional. In the case of the pull-up goal, if your shoulder joint does not allow your arm to raise fully over your head without compensating anywhere else, you’re going to be trying to do long division without knowing how to multiply and subtract.

You’ll learn long division (and pull-ups) more efficiently if you have ticked the boxes for things that preclude the more advanced skill. Joint function is the clear place to start but is so often overlooked as you decide to jump into a pull-ups or push-ups or running program without actually checking that your joint has enough capsular health and passive and active range of motion to do so.

When you build your Six Pillars, and learn to Assess & Apply, you start to live in a world where you make slow, steady, improvements in your mobility and ‘heal your aches’ goals. You maintain those achievements more easily and you can expand upon what you’ve built with some minor modifications to your program. Almost as if by magic. Except not magic. Because it’s real work that works.

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