I get a lot of questions about the best practices for improving overall fitness and athleticism. Most revolve around crazy intense intervals, plyometrics or some new fitness fad I've never heard about. I love progression, new and exciting training tools are great. That said, I very rarely meet an athlete that couldn't use a little refresh on their foundation.
Foundation, beginning, base, footing. This is where it all starts! If your foundation is suspect, stacking on intensity, complexity or volume (or even worse all three) you are going to find out where your limitations are quickly.
When you think of foundation in terms of athleticism you should be thinking, range of motion and motor control. As a native Pennsylvanian I always envision a keystone when talking about ROM and motor control. Without these pieces, nothing works. Your body is an amazing machine and for better or worse it can adapt to shit positions and movements, until it can't.
Sure you can squat or run with your knees well in front of your toes for a while. Then you are going to burn up all the cartilage goodness protecting your joint and it will hurt. Yes you can do muscle ups without full shoulder ROM until your labrum says no and tears. This isn't meant to be a scare tactic, this is real life. This is what we see at RevoPT over and over again.
You body is going to take the path of least resistance. Every time. If you don't have FULL hip extension ROM when you run you are going to over extend your lumbar spine to fake it. If you don't have FULL ankle dorsiflexion ROM you are going to medially collapse at the foot to fake it. Hammering super high intensity intervals isn't going to make this any better. Mobility work makes this better. It's not sexy, its not ground breaking. This is athleticism 101.
Limited ankle ROM at the bottom of your squat? A lot of us experience this. Try this mobilization to help your ankle joint regain some of its natural mobility.
Tight hip at the bottom of your squat? Mobilize!
Now you have some ROM, you have to control it! Motor control gets thrown around a lot in fitness and training videos. It's not complicated, it's HOW you move. Your default patterning. Shoot 10,000 free throws and basketball and you've got an idea of how motor control works. You do the same movement over and over, next thing you know you aren't thinking about shooting technique anymore, your just do it.
It's the same for running, squatting, climbing, running, cycling, throwing and living. Create a movement habit, right or wrong, you'll go to that habit when the going gets tough. Are you really thinking about using your glutes while running up a steep climb? I'm not! I'm holding on for dear life. Motor control is that hard wired pattern that takes over when you are busy playing your sport.
You need ROM. You need to control it. If you can't navigate a squat do you really need to be adding complexity to your fitness routine? I say absolutely not! Squat light until you master it!
If you are out there winning races and crushing it in the gym, great! Get self aware and check in on your foundation. ROM and motor control are the solid footing of elite athletic performance. Don't wait until you are broken to check in on these areas, do it today!