Do your hips or lower back feel tight as you perform movements like a squat? Perhaps your shoulders feel stiff when trying to bring your arms overhead, or your ankles feel restricted. All of these are common reports in sports physical therapy field.
Regardless of where your mobility problems lie, it is your body, more specifically your nervous system that is intentionally causing this. The stiff muscle that you feel is the body protecting itself or adapting to the demands placed upon it.
I often think back to my previous experiences as a physical therapist and the players that I worked with in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Most of them had ankle mobility restrictions, which were an adaptation to constantly being on the balls of the feet. These athletes were constantly sprinting, jumping, and cutting with their heels rarely touching the ground.
As a result, their body adapted to make them better at these movements. The tissues around their ankles turned into tight springs that allowed them to remain explosive without expending too much energy.
Adaptations like this are beneficial for performance however occur at the expense of mobility. As these adaptations go too far the risk of injury increases.
How do we know that adaptations have gone too far?
When the body no longer has the prerequisite abilities necessary to perform the activities required of it. In this case the joints of the body have less mobility than life or their activities require. As a result, uncomfortable feelings of stiffness or injury occur.
For this reason, I encourage athletes and patients to perform daily exercises that practice movements outside of their preferred movement strategies. This way the body cannot excessively adapt to only one way of doing things.
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