Don’t Build Function On Top Of Dysfunction

So often, I see someone who does not have the basic mobility and stabilization necessary to perform a proper squat. And her trainer is working hard to add all kinds of props to help the person do a barbell squat. If you can’t do a proper body weight squat, you’re not ready to do a weighted squat.In the example above, the most common problem I see is a lack of hip and ankle flexibility, which prevents someone from going deep enough into the squat. People get around this by wearing shoes with a heel, or placing a weight plate under the heel. Weightlifting shoes have a heel for exactly this reason.

However, you would be much better served by addressing the underlying mobility issues before even thinking about making the exercise more complex. Everyone wants to focus on how much weight they’re lifting, rather than how well they’re lifting that weight. Remember we’re training here. The goal is to improve the quality of our movement. Getting stronger is a part of that, but not the only part. In Training Mindset vs. Competition Mindset, I explain the difference between conditioning and competing.

But why should you focus on moving better before getting stronger. It’s a matter of building motor patterns. Every time you perform a motion, it becomes more likely you will perform that motion the same way next time. If you spend hours in a gym doing an exercise a particular way, for example with poor movement quality, you will do it that way in your every day life.

While we can absorb this from time to time when we have to move this way out of necessity, over time we will eventually develop a chronic injury. Learn more about chronic injury by reading Understanding Injury So You Can Avoid It.

And if your goal is to get stronger, then you’re much, much, much, much better served by fixing your motor issues. While your strength may initially go down while you’re learning the new motor patterns, it will become much better when you learn to use your body more efficiently. The body is designed to be an integrated system. It doesn’t do that well when things are out of place.

When you have mobility issues, you’re actually fighting your own body much of the time. In order for some muscles to contract efficiently, others have to relax. If that muscle is restricted and at the end of it’s range of motion, then it can’t relax anymore and efficiency is destroyed. It also creates extra tension across the joint and as a consequence more wear and tear.

I’m just as guilty as anyone, loading up that bar and banging out an exercise without getting my body conditioned properly to do the exercise. But I’ve learned the hard way… Take your time and build up to exercises properly. You’ll be rewarded in your workouts. But more importantly, you’ll be reward all day every day. Mobility is the fountain of youth.


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