The Dynamic Duo – Mobility and Stability

Although many people believe having pain for many days or weeks may signal that it is time to visit the doctor, that is not always the case. While personal trainers are not medical professionals and cannot diagnose a health condition, we do work alongside physical therapists and doctors to help athletes improve their fitness levels and maintain their body. 

Your body is a machine, and it’s the only one you’ve got. Routine and basic maintenance is needed to keep this machine running. For some athletes, simple stretching at the end of the workout is enough to keep them going. For others, nagging injuries or pain noise starts to develop as time goes on. The worst is when that pain begins to negatively affect your training or everyday life. That pain can be caused by many things. Most often we see imbalances in mobility and stability as the root causes.

The Mobility-Stability Continuum:

Mike Boyle and Gray Cook first noted the Mobility-Stability Continuum as a simple view of the joints having predictable functions and dysfunctions. Some joints are designed to be mobile, some are meant to be stable. If a joint is not performing its job correctly, this can lead to pain or mobility limitations. 

What is a movement assessment?

Instead of rushing straight to the doctor, setting up a 15-20 minute appointment and following the recommended exercises may keep you in the gym and away from pain meds. The CrossFit Hampton Roads staff works with Dr. Liz Brewer on using the Mobility-Stability Continuum to screen athletes for predictable dysfunctions, and how to remedy those dysfunctions through simple exercises. Our movement assessment breaks down compound movements and tests out the individual components. This is key to identifying the root cause of an athlete’s movement pattern dysfunction. By observing those movement patterns, the coach can develop a comprehensive program to specifically address deficiencies in the movements to decrease pain, increase strength and allow the body to move correctly.

A movement assessment using the mobility-stability continuum is a systematic evaluation of an individual’s movement patterns, considering both mobility and stability aspects. This assessment is commonly used in sports performance, physical therapy, and fitness training, including CrossFit. Its primary goal is to identify movement deficiencies, imbalances, and restrictions that may lead to poor performance or increase the risk of injury. Here’s how it typically works:

  • Observation: The assessment starts with a visual observation of the individual’s movements during various exercises or functional tasks. This can include activities relevant to their sport or fitness goals, such as squats, lunges, overhead presses, or dynamic movements like jumping and running.
  • Mobility Assessment: Your coach checks for mobility limitations by observing if the individual can move through the required range of motion for each exercise. They may look for restrictions in joints and muscles, such as limited ankle dorsiflexion during squats or insufficient shoulder mobility during overhead movements.
  • Stability Assessment: Concurrently, the coach assesses stability by examining how well the individual controls their movements and maintains proper form. They look for signs of instability, compensation patterns, and weaknesses in key stabilizing muscles or joints. For example, they might watch for excessive knee valgus (knee collapsing inward) during squats or a lack of core stability during overhead presses.
  • Identifying Imbalances: By considering both mobility and stability, the assessment aims to identify imbalances on the mobility-stability continuum. These imbalances can fall into several categories:
    • High Mobility, Low Stability: This indicates areas where the individual has excessive flexibility but struggles to control the movement properly. It may require stability exercises to address.
    • Low Mobility, High Stability: This suggests limited range of motion despite having good control. Mobility exercises might be necessary to improve this.
    • High Mobility, High Stability: In some cases, an individual may have both flexibility and control in a movement, indicating a balanced pattern.
    • Low Mobility, Low Stability: This is a problematic situation where an individual lacks both the necessary range of motion and control. It requires a combination of mobility and stability work.
  • Developing a Plan: Once imbalances and deficiencies are identified, a customized plan can be created to address these issues. This plan may involve mobility exercises to improve range of motion, stability exercises to enhance control, and a combination of both to achieve balance.
  • Progress Tracking: Regular reassessments are crucial to monitor progress and adjust the training plan as needed. As the individual’s movement patterns improve and imbalances are corrected, their performance and injury resistance should also improve.

Need a Movement Assessment?

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When to request a movement assessment?

Perhaps when you begin to have recurring pain or difficulty with range of motion you begin considering seeing a doctor. However, you aren’t interested in pain medication, so you examine your sleep, make sure you drink enough water, sit in the couch stretch a little more but nothing changes. You ask your coach what to do, and they may suggest some banded hamstring flossing. It works for a little while, but then it doesn’t. That’s where setting up a movement assessment comes in. 

What to expect during your movement assessment:

You will want to arrive at your appointment in comfortable clothes and be ready to take your shoes off. We start with a basic evaluation of 6 movement patterns. Don’t worry if you are doing them right, you’ll be guided through the movements. Once the general assessment is done, there are more specific tests performed to determine which stretches or simple strengthening exercises may help. At the close of your appointment, your trainer will demonstrate the movements or exercises needed to address the pain or limitations in mobility. 

What to expect after your movement assessment:

You will receive an email following your appointment that lists the concerns addressed, videos of stretches or strengthening exercises recommended and suggested rep and frequency ranges. There will also be a follow up to your appointment a month later. 

Movement Assessment Must Dos:

While we can lead a horse to water, we can’t always make them drink. When it comes to mobility or therapeutic exercises this is extremely true. It is extremely important that after the appointment you continue to move on a daily basis and work through the provided exercises. Just having them in your pocket isn’t going to solve the problem itself. We often recommend time ranges to see an improvement, however, continuing the exercises long after may help decrease the recurrence of pain or decreased mobility. Remember: your body is a machine and you have to take care of it – every day – not just when it is yelling at you! 

What if I’m still in pain or things get worse?

At CrossFit Hampton Roads, we like to view this movement assessment as the first line of defense in injury prevention. However, there are some injuries that do not resolve themselves quite so easily. It is then that we would suggest seeking the advice of a medical professional. This could either be a doctor in your healthcare network or a physical therapist in a private network. Many of our athletes have seen massage therapists and chiropractors with great success as well. 

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