When you get a piece of furniture from IKEA you open the package, spread everything out, and you inventory it all. You make sure that all the parts that the instructions say should be there are, in fact, there. If the instructions tell you that you need a certain piece, but that piece is missing, then you are not going to be able to build the furniture. I think the previous sentence is something that just about everyone can agree with, and they can also agree that it is not a reflection on YOU as a furniture assembler (regardless of how much pride you take in your furniture assembly skills), it is simply an issue of you not having the required parts. Working out is actually quite similar to this process – read on to see why.
When you come in for your first session with us at Industrial Strength one of the initial things we do is to “take inventory” of how well you move. We analyze various joints for their individual mobility and we also look at how you move in larger movement patterns. So, just like when you have the goal of building furniture the first thing you do is take inventory of all the parts, when you come to us with the goal of getting stronger and more fit the first thing we do is take inventory of how well you move.
You might wonder why we do that? We can all agree that it is inevitably going to be frustrating and unsuccessful to try and build that IKEA furniture knowing that you are missing parts to the kit (I mean, do you really expect that to work?). Similarly, experience shows us that it is also going to be frustrating and unsuccessful to try and do exercises for which you do not have the “movement inventory” to perform.
As instructors we understand that every exercise in the gym requires certain capacity from every joint in the body to perform CORRECTLY, and if even one joint does not have that minimum then there is really no way to do the exercise correctly. If you try to do the exercise anyway, then you’ll wind up with what we call “compensations.” A compensation is when one joint or muscle group has to work overtime (and probably put itself into a compromised position) to pick up the slack for the joint that is not pulling its own weight. As one example, if someone has restrictions in their hips and they try to do a lot of squatting, it is common that they will compensate by moving too much from their back, and in some cases will even end up injuring their back. Needless to say, these compensations are something we try to keep to a minimum, and ideally avoid altogether.
A prime example of this is the sport of weightlifting (or what many people call “Olympic lifting”). The sport of weightlifting requires impressive amounts of mobility from every major joint: ankles, knees, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders. If someone has restricted mobility one or more of those joints, then they are all but guaranteed to be forced into a compensation when trying snatches, cleans, jerks, and so on. This does not make those lifts bad exercises, nor does it make the person with the restriction a bad person, it just means they do not have the movement inventory to do those exercises without compensation yet. If they are highly motivated to do those specific movements, then it will typically require diligent work on whatever area(s) they are deficient to build the necessary improvements.
When you come in for your first session with us at Industrial Strength, which we call a “Strategy Session,” the first thing we do is take inventory of your joints and determine what exercises you are ready for today, and which ones we should hold off on (at least until you acquire that inventory). By doing this you are able to SAFELY start building strength immediately, and are able to avoid exercises that might not be a good fit for you. If you are training with us in person, we will also guide you through some exercises to help improve the specific areas you are restricted in, which will help improve your movement inventory and eventually make more exercises accessible to you. If you are not in the Portland area, we have over 100 mobility workouts available for FREE. Each session is only about 15 minutes long, and they are organized by area of focus (shoulders, hips, etc.) so you can pick exactly what you want to work on. All you need to do is log in and follow along with either Mira or myself for a quick, effective mobility workout.