There are hundreds of exercises available to runners touted as ‘stability' exercises for running. Search google and you’ll find hundreds more and multiple variations of these exercises. Experienced runners and coaches will swear by certain exercises while others will give you another set to do.

"Experienced runners and coaches will swear by certain exercises..."

I’m sure they are all great exercises. I’m also sure that they will only work if you have the adequate mobility in your joints to benefit from them. If you don’t, you’ll only get better at the exercises your are performing. That is, it won’t transfer into running, which was the very point you decided to read this post in the first place.

Here is why: Our joints don’t just simply move around as muscles work around them. They provide constant input to the brain and spinal cord with rich feedback on joint position. This feedback allows the brain and spinal cord to regulate muscle output to provide efficient muscle activation and to protect the joint from going beyond end of range. Without full mobility the quality of this input is suboptimal and therefore the output (muscle activation) is also suboptimal. Consequently, movement becomes dysfunctional or inefficient. 

"Performing exercise on joints lacking range of motion reinforces the inefficiency"

Performing exercise on joints lacking range of motion reinforces the inefficiency. You’ll certainly get better at the exercise you were performing, you’ll probably want to make it even harder and practice the exercises with weight or with your race pack on but it won’t transfer into running efficiency, stability or injury prevention. It might not look like it but Running is far more complex and varied than any single rehearsed ‘stability’ exercise. No foot strike is the exactly the same as the previous, stride length changes, terrain changes, there are ascents and descents. True stability is reflex driven. It is reactive and relies on accurate feedback from sensation. A joint lacking range of motion that is held in place by strong tight muscles isn't stable - It's stiff.

"True stability is reflex driven. It is reactive and relies on accurate feedback from sensation"

If there is one thing you get from my little rant, let it be this: MOBILITY BEFORE STABILITY. 

If you haven’t got the range don’t load it. Do something to promote range of motion instead and make sure what your doing works. You’ll only know this if you check. See if it improves your  hamstring length, or knee to wall length, and i don’t mean after a couple months of beating yourself up on a foam roller. I mean appreciable changes after a single session of it. 

Better yet check yourself against a defined baseline of fundamental movement and know what you need to work on and what is acceptable. This enables a targeted approach to addressing the weak link in the chain rather than the time inefficient shotgun approach. The best baseline screen of human movement the Functional Movement Screen by Functional Movement Systems. We use it in the clinic everyday. 

The next few posts will be on strategies to improve mobility yourself. I’m a big believer in reinforcing what happens in the clinic with  home or gym strategies to bolster up or even self progress gains made within a Physio session - so stay tuned.

"Baseline doesn’t mean perfect or exceptional, it means acceptable."

Musculoskeletal Therapists have developed some great techniques to improve joint range of motion. I don’t care if you see a Chiro, Physio or Osteo just make sure you are making appreciable changes in range of motion and that  you are working towards restoring that baseline. Baseline doesn’t mean perfect or exceptional, it means acceptable. Once you are there stay there and check that you keep it no matter how much mileage you rack up during the week.

I say it in the clinic everyday almost as if its a mantra. Mobility before Stability.

At Focus Physio & Pilates we are passionate about allowing people to appreciate how they move. Call us to book in for an obligation free Functional Movement Screen and see how you score. 

Focus Physio & Pilates: enabling you to move well and move often. 

Written by:

Erik Pobre
M. Physiotherapy, Certified SFMA & FMS
BSc. Exercise & Sport Science
BSc. Nutrition – Dietetics