Roark Gym: Balls and Bands

Men's Health |

I’m not the most flexible human being at the best of times, and so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I arrived at Crossfit Thames for a Mobility Certification Course.

The king of mobility, Kelly Starrett, states on the head of his website that every human being should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves. And so with this in mind I came to realise that mobility has nothing to do with your organic flexibility, but rather with getting yourself into better positions while sitting, standing or exercising.

Mobility basically makes stretching cool.

The above is achieved through the use of lacrosse balls and thick oversized elastic bands. Mobility improvement occurs only at ones ‘end range’, this being the place where a specific joint or muscle is restricted from further flexion (ie: reduction of the angle of the joint) or extension which, if healthy and mobile, should come naturally.

An example of the negative effects of a restriction of range would be if a person, through bad posture (rounded shoulders, bent thoracic spine) isn’t able to move their arms, while fully extended overhead, past their ears. The same would apply to an olympic lifter who isn’t able to fully open their hips as they pull a bar upward during a clean or snatch.

I have poor shoulder mobility, which means I often battle to get my shoulders in the perfect position when lifting bars overhead, doing pull ups, or bench pressing. Like an over eager student I volunteered this information during the certification and as such was called up to the front of the class to demonstrate said dysfunctional shoulders.

Head coach, Jami Tikkanen, (whose name means ‘inducer of instant sweating’ in Finnish) promptly grabbed a lacrosse ball and started to go to work on my shoulder. I can only describe the feeling as if a hungry raccoon had been unleashed into my shoulder joint, and my shoulder tasted good.

Grinning, but now sweating an awkward amount, I was put into a position that could best be described as compromising. Looping the large elastic band around a pull up bar and taking me to the end of my shoulder range, the Inducer used the band to pull my shoulder beyond this restrictive point, and I felt the joint begin to loosen up immediately.

The change was remarkable.

Instantly the shoulder I had worked on had 20 degrees more range of movement then the other. Throughout the day we worked our way through the back, glutes, hamstrings and ankles. Each joint’s mobility improved dramatically, with the practical benefits while deadlifting and doing push ups being unanimously agreed upon by the participants.

What does the term ‘biomechanics’ mean to you? Nothing? Yeah, me too. And that was the beauty of the course. Everything was made simple, and easy to understand. There were no complex medical terms, no muscle groups in Latin, just an emphasis on the fundamentals of better movement.

Roark Gym will be recording videos with our members daily, and providing simple solutions to what were previously thought of as movement problems only a select few could solve.

San Francisco’s next. I’m loosened up and excited.

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