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QA with Eric: Yoga and Flexibility

Written on October 24, 2007 at 8:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: Dancers and yoga practitioners are notoriously known for their extreme flexibility, which can be a problem if not balanced with strength. How so?

A: Hypermobility can definitely be a problem. All movements require a delicate balance between mobility and stability. Some joints demand more mobility at the expense of stability (e.g. shoulders), whereas others require more stability at the expense of mobility (hips). It’s one of the reasons that we’re always emphasizing stabilization work at the glenohumeral joint, scapula, and lumbar spine and mobility work at the hips, ankles, adn thoracic spine. When you push the balance between mobility and stability out of whack too far in one direction (e.g. hypermobility), ligaments aren’t as effective as joint stabilizers and muscle length-tension relationships can be negatively affected.

It’s something that a lot of us have been doing from an “isolationist” perspective for quite some time (I remember trying to make sense of it back in graduate school in one of my classes with Dr. David Tiberio), but it wasn’t until guys like Mike Boyle and Gray Cook put it out there that we realized this “alternating joints” approach explained a lot of dysfunction we see – and how to prevent it.

Now, we’re at the next frontier: optimizing training protocols to correct the problems. I’m always experimenting with new ways to mobilize the thoracic spine and ankles while trying to figure out the optimal combination of mobility, activation, joint mobilizations, and soft tissue work to get the job done. It’s not much different than fat loss; we know now that aerobic exercise is an inferior fat loss modality and that strength training and high-intensity interval training are superior, but we’re just looking to find the optimal blend to make things work perfectly. Compare Alwyn Cosgrove’s Real World Fat Loss and Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training and you’ll see a ton of similarities, but the subtle intricacies of the programs are different.

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