For the sake of this article we are going to assume that both of our athletes have zero red flags, no pain, no previous injury history, and no reason to refer them to a medical practitioner.
Congratulations, Coach! You’ve made it to part three! In part one, we identified what mobility really is and introduced our athletes to CARs. Part two brought us the concepts of PAILs and RAILs and the use of isometrics in expanding our existing range of motion. It’s only fitting that part three teach us how to control our new ranges of motion!
Controlling range of motion can be challenging for many athletes. For simplicity, we are going to keep our two different types of athletes – our gumby-like individual who is all over the place and our athlete who is so toned up they are stiffer than a board.
Both have gone through PAILs and RAILs for some time now and Gumby has benefited greatly from all the isometric force inputs that he/she is starting to get a little stronger in our base positions. Our board-like athlete has spent some time passively holding stretches, and using PAILs and RAILs to open up some range of motion that he now needs to learn how to use it.
Where do we go from here?
We’ll start right at the top with the hardest control methods, hovers. Hovers are a task-oriented movement path that takes a joint (or multiple joints) through its outermost end rage of movement. Different than a CAR, hovers have a more intense concentric action, thus, have a greater neurological demand.
90/90 to Open 90 Hover
In the video above, you will see the athlete starting in a base 90/90 position and moving the lead leg through end-range external rotation and in to end range-hip flexion (from that position). Without going in to too many details about this athlete’s assessment measurements, she had a ton of external hip rotation but very suspect control of how to actively use this. In the most simple terms, as we have made her hip move like a hip, her weight room performance, and performance in her sport has improved as well.
End Range Lift-Offs
If hovers are the hardest, end-range lift offs are a tiny bit easier. Lift offs start a joint at ~15 degrees less than then end range. From there, the athlete ‘lifts off’ into their end-range motion. This has significantly less concentric action and less total movement than a hover, thus less neurological impact.
Collapsed Quadruped Shoulder Flexion Lift Off
In the video above, you will see the collapsed quadruped position forces me in to more shoulder flexion. As I lift up into my end-range shoulder flexion, I can then either HOLD the movement OR move into a hover. This will give you a couple of options that you can use in a group setting if you have athletes with different mobility restrictions.
What if your athlete can’t get in to a collapsed quadruped position? That, my friend, is a great question. Change the position, have them start a little elevated in a traditional quadruped position, and use an option to prop their arm up in a suitable range of shoulder flexion…like this:
Quadruped Shoulder Flexion Lift Off
Remember, the information in these articles are derived around scientific principles, NOT exercise movements. Be about the outcome for your athletes, not a specific movement, position, or exercise.
Eccentric Neural Grooving (ENG)
Isometrics played a huge role in expanding range of motion. Read the second part of this series to recap that information. Eccentrics now play a huge part in having our athletes control their range of motion. We know that individuals are stronger during the eccentric component of an exercise. We also know that eccentrics require greater neurological control to perform. Putting 2+2 together, we can use these movements to load the athlete, drive more neurological control, and teach our prized pupils how to control their joints in question.
Eccentric Neural Grooving of Wrist Extension
The video above is a baseball pitcher who was having elbow and forearm stiffness. Upon screening him we saw that he lacked wrist extension in his throwing side. As a pitcher, he needs that wrist to move pretty well to perform. We did refer out to rule out any sinister pathology that is way outside our scope of practice. This young buck came back with no flags from the doc’s.
We then started to work wrist extension PAILs and RAILs in every session and even had him do them on his own at various intensities as homework. Once he was routinely getting both wrists to clear 90 degrees of extension, it was very important that we teach him how to control the new ~15 degrees of wrist range he had acquired. ENG fit the bill perfectly. Lower joint stress, assistance through the concentric phase, and a lot of time under load, helped get this pitcher ready for the spring season.
Wrapping It All Up
Mobility training is strength training. Often times, coaches overthink what they need to do. It all starts with a thorough assessment and a refer out if any questions arise. From there, target the specific joints that aren’t working how they are supposed to. Once they start to move better, train them like you would any other movement pattern. Add load, periodize intensity, and measure improvement as training cycles go on.
I hope this three-part series answered some questions you may have had and offered clarity to mobility training in your sessions and facilities.
Stay mobile my friends!
About the Author: Casey Lee
Casey Lee, Parisi Speed School Program Director at The Edge in Williston, Vermont, has been with the Parisi Speed School since 2011. He has had one of the fastest tracks of any performance coach, becoming the youngest Master Coach in the Parisi network from 2014-2017. During this time he provided sports performance programming and educational content throughout the entire Parisi network. He also traveled to various Parisi locations through out the country to teach and certify new and existing Performance Coaches in the Parisi sports performance protocols. Casey’s mission is to help others better their physical, mental, and professional wellbeing through fitness and positive interaction.