Dr. Kelly Starrett is a renowned coach, physical therapist, speaker and author, with his book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, ranking among the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
Becoming a Supple Leopard is loaded with insight, information, and practices to implement to not only improve mobility for exercise but to enhance movement quality throughout your entire life. There are fundamental patterns we do on a daily basis – push, pull, squat, hinge, walk, stand, sit, hold, carry – that resemble the components of a complete strength and conditioning program should be executed.
This excerpt I chose to share you brings awareness to the signals your body is sending you, notifying there is something off. There is a disconnect between that sign and having a scalable way to assess them…until now
“What we need is a model that not only teaches us how to move correctly in all situations, but also tells us when we are doing something wrong…before the onset of pain or injury.
But how do you know that you have some sort of musculoskeletal problem? More specifically, how do you know when your body is not operating at its full potential? The average athlete typically uses cues like pain, swelling, loss of range of motion, decreased force or numbness and tingling/ The conversation with yourself begins something like this: “When I run lately, my knee hurts. I wonder what’s wrong with my knee?” Though typical, there are many errors in this line of thought.
The first is that pain and other symptoms of injury are lagging indicators. For example, swelling might indicate tissue overuse or strain from poor mechanics. But swelling is an after-the-fact sign. The tissue damage has already occurred. It’s helpful to have a diagnostic that can highlight dysfunction and let you know that something is wrong, but only if it is applicable before the fact.
Imagine if you had to wait for your car’s engine to blow up to know when you should add oil, or if a soldier had to wait for his weapon to jam in the middle of a firefight to know when to perform some preventative maintenance. That would be ridiculous, right? But in general terms, this is how modern sports medicine operates. We wait until something is broken, sometimes horribly so, before we expect a physician or physiotherapist to fix it. THis paradigm keeps orthopedic surgeons very busy…
Like a light switch that’s designed to last for tens of thousands of on-and-off cycles, our bodies are set up for millions of movement cycles. Millions! But every time you squat, bend over, or walk in a compromised position, you burn through those cycles at an accelerated rate. So by the time you’ve worn a hole in your kneecap, herniated a disc, or torn your labrum, chances are good that you’ve gone through millions of poor movement cycles. In other words, your tissues and joints didn’t just wear out; your body put up with your bad positions and movement for millions of cycles. Everyone is different – genetics, training volume, and other lifestyle factors have a profound impact – but if you learn to move in the way the body is designed to move, you will put less stress on your system, reducing the number of cycles you burn through…
Humans are designed to be able to take the hit, keep fighting, and deal with the consequences later.
Exercise presents a similar scenario. When you start to lose position and compromise your tissues – like rounding your back during a deadlift – you may not feel it at the time, especially if you’re under competition stress. However, just as a firefighter feels the abuse from combat after the adrenaline has worn off, your back will scream in pain when you cool down from a workout in which you did 20 improperly executed deadlifts. Just as you could say that the more skilled fighter usually suffers less damage and as a result doesn’t feel much – if any – pain after the battle, the better you are at deadlifting, the less likely you are to tweak your back.
The third and most notable problem with our current thinking is that it continues to be based on a model that prioritizes task completion above everything else. It’s sort of one-or-zero, task-done-or-not, weight-lifted-or-not, distance-swum-or-not mentality. This is like saying, “I deadlifted 500 pounds, but I herniated a sic,” or, “I finished a marathon, but I wore a hole in my knee.” Imagine this sort of ethic spilling over into the other aspects of your life: “Hey, I made you some toast! But I burned down the house.”
You can lift with a rounded back and sit in a chair in a slouched position – until one day you can’t. So how do you keep from harming yourself? You need a set of leading indicators – observable, measurable, and repeatable diagnostic tools that enable you to predict potential problems before they manifest as recognizable disorders. The good news is that we already possess this information. It’s called training.”
This book is not drenched in just science, so it isn’t designed just for the fitness professionals library. If you want the best go-to resource for understanding, implementing, and assessing mobility, this is a must-have. A copy to the Mobility WOD webpage to find more information about the book, Kelly, and explore how this is different than just stretching here.