Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Tag: mobility

Filling in the Gaps: How to Incorporate Joint Mobility Drills

By now, I hope the importance of joint mobility is clear, and the benefits myriad. It isn’t the sexiest topic around to be sure. “The Importance of Shoulder Mobility” certainly isn’t as attention-grabbing as “How to Lose 10 lbs in 10 days!,” but it’s one of those often overlooked aspects of fitness that with just a little attention could save you years of pain, frustration, rehab and maybe even surgery – not to mention a boatload of cash in doctor bills. Incorporating just a few minutes of mobility drills a few times each week is a great way to round out an otherwise complete routine. If you’ve missed any of the articles I’ve written over the last few weeks you can catch up here:

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How to Maintain Shoulder Mobility and Scapular Stability

More than perhaps any other joint in our bodies, the shoulders demand close and careful attention. We use them on a daily basis and they travel a wide-ranging path; it’s in our best interest to assure that the path is the one of least resistance.

The tricky thing about maintaining good shoulder function is that it doesn’t just require strong deltoids or big traps. Those are important for moving big weight and being strong enough to handle anything life throws at you, but real shoulder function – pain-free, unimpeded shoulder function – depends on certain supporting muscles and joints of which most people are simply unaware. I mean, did you realize just how integral the scapular are? And because the shoulders’ function seems relatively straightforward and because we can work out for years without lending serious thought to how our joints move and work, now’s the time to start thinking about proper joint function before it’s too late.

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The Importance of Shoulder Mobility and Scapular Stability

If you’ve been following my series on joint mobility you’ll know that I’ve already covered how to improve and maintain joint mobility for the hips, thoracic spine, and ankles and wrists. Today and tomorrow I’ll be going over the shoulder. The shoulder is a tricky joint because it has to provide adequate stability while maintaining full mobility to prevent injury and maximize function and performance. If you look at yourself in the mirror and wave your arms around, you’ll see what I mean. If that doesn’t work, watch a swimmer, preferably one doing the IM, and watch the incredible range of motion in those shoulders. That’s what the human body is capable of.

Know what you’re looking for and you should be able to count ten different types of shoulder articulations. Ten! Contrast that with the hips (eight), the ankles (two), the wrists (four), or the spine (five), and the shoulder is clearly the most complicated joint with the greatest range of motion. Because “with great power comes great responsibility,” the shoulder is also perhaps the joint most vulnerable to injury. You can do a whole lot with a well-functioning shoulder joint, but you can also really mess yourself up and curtail your activity level for a long time if you get haphazard with its maintenance. Take it from a guy who messed his shoulder up more than once: shoulder health is absolutely required for an active, enriched life. And if you plan on attaining any sort of athletic competency on any level, you need good shoulders.

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How to Improve Wrist and Ankle Mobility

Most people have enough wrist and ankle mobility to get around life all aright, but most people think they’re doing just fine with grains, sweets, and seed oils comprising the bulk of their diets. We can always improve our abilities to rotate, extend, and flex our various joints. We must, if we’re interested in retaining maximum mobility through old age and beyond.

How does one go about obtaining that much-vaunted wrist and ankle mobility?

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The Importance of Wrist and Ankle Mobility

How mobile are your wrists and ankles? They’re the primary hinges for our two major sets of extremities – hands and feet – and yet they often go neglected. They’re two of the most common sites of debilitating pain and acute injury, and yet people do little else to correct the problem than tightening the high tops, strapping on some constrictive sleeves, or avoiding activity altogether. All those “solutions” miss the point entirely, in my opinion. Rather than fix the root issue, they skirt it and apply expensive band aids. If you know anything about how I approach other issues of health and wellness, you can guess that I’m not satisfied with the band aid approach to wrist and ankle mobility. We can do a whole lot better than that.

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How to Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

By now, you should be convinced that attaining and maintaining mobility in your thoracic spine is a good idea for many reasons. Kyphosis of the thoracic spine is a virtual epidemic (just take a look around at everyone the next time you’re in a coffee shop or classroom – rounded backs abound) and everyone at some time or another has felt a little twinge of shoulder pain when doing a particularly adamant set of pull-ups.

Before you start with the exercises, let’s first figure out the extent of your thoracic immobility. The industry standardized way of determination is a simple one:

Lie down on the floor, back flat against it.
Your knees should be up with your feet and glutes flat on the floor.
Lock your elbows and bring your arms directly overhead, attempting to touch your wrists to the ground above your head.
Make sure to maintain contact between your lower back and the floor; don’t arch your back to get your hands in place.

If you can’t get into this position and touch your wrists to the ground, you have poor thoracic mobility. If you really had to struggle through discomfort or even pain (don’t fight through pain!), you have less than ideal thoracic mobility. And if you were able to breeze through this drill, you should probably still work on more mobility, just to shore up what you already possess.

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The Importance of Thoracic Spine Mobility

Do your shoulders slump and round when you walk, sit, or stand?

Do you have trouble keeping your chest up when squatting under a bar or lifting heavy things off the ground?

Do you get lower back or neck pain when doing twisting or rotational movements?

Have you resigned yourself to living with that nagging rotator cuff pain that flares up during workouts and in bed?

If you answered “yes” to any of those (and most people will answer yes to at least one), you may have poor thoracic spine mobility. Even if you don’t notice any of the symptoms leaping out at you, it never hurts to get more mobility, especially in the thoracic spine. And establishing good habits by actively maintaining and training mobility, as opposed to being content with what you have (even if it’s not optimum), is always a good move. Scoff at the prospect of thoracic spine mobility all you want; you still gotta have it.

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How to Regain and Maintain Hip Mobility

Yesterday, I made a case for the necessity of good hip mobility in, well, everyone. Athletes will get faster, stronger, and more powerful. Lifters will be able to lift more weight and squat heavier without rounding the lower back. Regular folks will spare their lower back from the stress of chronic sitting and bending over to pick things up. Extensive hip mobility will improve your love life (seriously, think about it – hip thrust, range of motion!), your deadlift, your Grok squat, and your posture. If you own a set of hips, the ability to traverse their full range of motion will improve your life in many ways. They are the fulcrum upon which most activity depends. Treat them well, keep them well lubed and tuned up, and you will reap the benefits and reduce your chance of injury. That much is pretty clear by now.

So, how do you do it? How do you get hip mobility, and how do you maintain it?

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The Importance of Mobility: The Hips

People are exceedingly mobile these days. We can jet halfway across the world at a moment’s notice, check email on our phones, hop in the car and be in another state in five hours, conduct business from anywhere, transfer schools, and shave while reading the paper on the morning commute. Social mobility, financial mobility, spatial mobility, information mobility. Mobile workforce, mobile phone, Google Mobile. Yeah, clearly, mobility is highly prized.

What about joint mobility?

Too many people discount, or even outright ignore, this crucial aspect of physical fitness. Raw strength, speed, and stamina are all important, especially to athletes or weekend warriors, but everyone of any age or fitness level needs the ability to move their limbs and joints through their full range of motion as ordained by nature. That goes for grandmothers, teens, and couch potatoes alike. Though not everyone will be picking up barbells or running sprints or long jumping, we all have to function in a three-dimensional world. We all have space and gravity with which to contend if we’re planning on enjoying and experiencing all life offers, and that’s accomplished by moving through spatiality and against gravity. To thrive in this environment, we require the full, unfettered use of our limbs, joints, and muscles. Losing the shoes is a big step; so is getting strong and fit. One of the biggest, in my opinion, is regaining and maintaining maximum joint mobility.

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How-to Guide: Standing at Work

Besides stuff like tribal warfare, cannibalism, and high infant mortality, it seems like most any divergence from our ancestral norms is ultimately detrimental, or at least problematic. Nutrition is an obvious one, along with sunlight, sleep, and exercise. The mainstream media is even beginning to question the superiority of modern footwear. And then there’s the seemingly simple act of sitting down in a chair. It seems harmless, but as I discussed last year and a recent NY Times piece mentioned last month, sitting for extended periods of time is strongly linked with increased mortality and metabolic syndrome, regardless of how much exercise a sitter gets.

The chair is a bit like wheat, actually: a relative novelty to which we aren’t physiologically adapted that has become a cultural staple nonetheless. For at least eight hours each day, we twist our bodies into weird Tetris blocks with poor posture and sit, for the most part unmoving, on chairs. When you stop and think about it, sitting down in a chair for extended periods of time seems a little silly. I mean, it’s not even all that comfortable (isn’t that why we distort our bodies with terrible posture – to make sitting more comfortable?). We aren’t “designed” to sit in chairs. We’re certainly meant to stand, but we sit in chairs because we designed them to fit our anatomy, and I somehow doubt that whoever came up with the chair was thinking about long-term effects on our physiology.

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