Friday, September 05, 2008

Functional Tolerance

Too often we see good athletes with poor flexibility. This cohort of would be athletic monsters are truly capable, and yet limited in their expressions of physical capacity.
Poor mobility narrows ideal movement options and closes peak force production windows.
What do we mean? Decreased flexibility means decreased functional tolerance.

Let's use the seated press in the photo above as an example.
To properly perform this seated pressing movement (adored by Coach Bergener) the athlete must be able to safely stabilize their lumbar spines in a lordotic or slightly curved position. Under very few circumstances is it OK to generate force with a rounded low back.

To be able to perform the seated press with legs stretched out in front of the athlete in a long sitting position requires very good hamstring flexibility. The photo above is a good example of this.

Now take the athlete in the photo below. Note his excellent neutral back position and good overhead position. Note that he is only able to attain this correct positioning with his hamstrings in a crosslegged and unloaded position.

While there may be no real advantage to what your legs are doing when performing a low weight seated press, the metaphor should be clear. The athlete in the first photo has the capacity to press from either leg position, while the athlete below cannot long sit and press without compromise.

Now tighten the metaphor up and think about the effects of short hamstrings on lumbar positioning during a heavy clean. Tight hamstrings means compromised leg positioning in order to maintain a safe spine. Or, tight hamstrings means that the athlete is going to have less functional wiggle room to get the movement right, and make it forceful.

Note in the photo below, one male athlete in five is in the long sitting position.
Get on it.

Coach Kstar


Anonymous said...

Note: Freakishly flexible "one male athlete" is a professional ballet dancer. Aaaaaand, he is kind of a bad ass. :)

FilthyBrit said...

I've known for a while now that flexibility (i.e., lack thereof), particularly in the hamstrings, is really holding me back in certain movements. But I've often wondered, is "constantly varied" something to strive for in stretching, too, or is it possible to come up with a stretching routine we could follow for, say 15 minutes a day? If the latter, what would you prescribe, again, particularly for the hamstrings?


Anonymous said...

Adrian and I should host a gymnastics/ballet stretching class. You think Crossfit hurts the next day....

p.s. not so much badass as one bad fucking psoas which is weaker than my penis trying to do cock pushups. Damn psoas!



FilthyBrit said...

I think running a stretching class at SFCF would be awesome. That'll save me from signing up for a yoga class somewhere. I don't want to be any more like Sting than is absolutely necessary.

p.s. Cock push-ups. Wow.

Aaron said...

I don't know if I want to see the burning man video now.

Ross Naughton said...

Cock push-ups!! Outstanding. Anyone who is not on board w/ cock push-ups has a real attitude problem.

Olivia de Santis said...

I saw an amazing improvement in my workouts and general lower back issues when I started stretching at the Circus Center. When I started, I could barely deal with just sitting in that position, now I can rest my face on my knees. It's really amazing what hamstring flexibility can do for you.

FilthyBrit said...

So is stretching class a go? Maybe as part of open-gym on Saturday? Just an idea!

Eric said...

I second the vote for a stretching class.


FilthyBrit said...

A few thoughts if we do the class. Within the limits of a group class structure, it would be great if we could get some examples of diagnostic tests we can do to figure out what's causing our flexibility issues, and then also come up with specific stretches we can do on our own as part of a routine (if routine makes sense) to address those issues. (Even more helpful would stretches I can do at work!)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your post - because of it I just signed up for classes at the circus center!! :-)

And stretching at open gym sounds fantastic!