SS 146 – How to Get Real Results from Your Mobility with Shane Dowd of GotROM.com
Episode 146 Show Notes
Having mobility issues? Grant and Heavey talk with Shane Dowd of GotROM.com around the topic of mobility work. They tackle the difference between a shotgun approach and an application-specific program. Whether you’re a desk worker or an athletic buff, learn what types of exercises you can do to give you a better range of motion while building strength.
Shout out to State and Liberty, makers of athletic fit dress shirts for sponsoring this episode.
[01:24] Is Red Meat Bad?
Bob is one of The Biggest Loser trainers and he got a heart attack last February. He’s a young lad in good shape. He makes a point to train and eat well. But he had a heart attack and he said it runs in the family. Now that he’s healthy, this article came out where he said that due to the heart attack, he decided to go 100% vegan and cut out all meat-eating and meat products from his life.
Heavey explains that when you talk about heart concerns and meat, the few elements that people throw out there are dietary cholesterol and saturated fats. This past year, dietary cholesterol was stricken from the restricted list of items from the American Heart Association. They still recommend that you limit saturated fat content. But the research Heavey has seen would call that recommendation into question too.
[02:45] Heavey’s Take on Eating Meat
Interestingly, you have people that want to swing one side of the pendulum or the other. But as far as Heavey understands, it’s largely connected with processed meat. And if that’s not all the meat you’re consuming then you’re probably fine.
[04:04] Shane’s Take on Eating Meat
Shane thinks that the one thing that all these studies and general public opinion is often missing is the overall context of a person’s diet. But people eat at a certain pattern. For instance, they eat red meat but they also eat a lot of processed food, simple carbs, and too many calories overall. But the public seems to just focus on one specific food like red meat or one specific element of food like cholesterol, without looking at the person’s overall diet. Shane concludes that just because the person is eating meat doesn’t necessarily make him at risk of heart disease.
[05:20] The Healthy User Bias
Heavey mentions the concept of healthy user bias that pops up in a lot of research. It’s also why we see in these articles that show meat is bad for you. It’s because as a society, we’ve been projecting that meat is bad for you for so long. So people who take their health seriously tend to gravitate towards a more plant-based diet. On the contrary, the people who aren’t taking their health very seriously and still focused on meat are also the people that are drinking excessively, smoking, and not exercising. This greatly skews the research. You can’t just pick one thing and then try to connect it to a cause. It’s just not how any of the research works.
[07:15] Shane’s Story: Coming to Mobility Through Pain
Shane recalls working at a crossfit gym where he taught Olympic lifting classes as well as doing personal training and strength conditioning. He ended up injuring himself during one of his lifts and it wasn’t even heavy lifting. It led him down this rabbit hole of how can you lift with perfect form, it’s light, and you still get hurt really bad? It led him into alignment, posture, mobility. He found Kelly Starrett’s videos. He started doing yoga and looked for different therapists and teachers. Basically, it was pain that brought him to mobility and pain that brought him to doing something different.
[08:47] Too Much Content! Where Do I Start?
Heavey points out that most people try to address mobility and flexibility issues. They see Kelly Starrett’s videos and there’s a different thing and a different technique coming up every single day and people can get overwhelmed that they don’t end up taking it seriously. They never end up taking it to see progress within it.
So is it possible for an everyday person that works behind the desk and works out a few days a week to actually not spend four hours a day on mobility and see results from it in a relatively short time?
[09:45] Program Specificity with GetROM.com
One of Shane’s main frustrations is the amount of information out there. There’s so much information that you can’t even start. So he was looking who is teaching mobility and how they’re teaching it. Kelly Starrett is a legend but he puts out so much content. So what Shane did was pick a specific topic and put not as many things as he could find. For example, he has a program just about squat mobility or just about back pain. So it’s very specific to the thing you’re worried about.
You can actually do both full body or just a specific part. If you want to generally hit all of the important things and loosen your body up, go do some yoga classes or a ROMWOD. Other people, on the other hand, have a very specific issue they want fixed. They do a snatch and find their shoulder having a pinched feeling. They can fix that shoulder and get a program specifically about shoulder impingement.
Heavey likes this type of approach because it opens the door for you to see progress rather than the shotgun approach of doing something different and random everyday.
[12:15] Why Grant Stopped Doing ROMWOD?
Grant has done ROMWOD but hasn’t continued with it. Grant’s reason was that he had trouble staying motivated for it. It wasn’t that it was physically challenging. But it got to the point where he’d come home and he never felt it as important as running or lifting weights.
Heavey used to own a crossfit gym and he tried a bunch of different ways to get his members involved in taking their flexibility and mobility all seriously. And he largely struck out most of the time with it. One of the things he also tried to do was a mobility-specific class. People would come and do that instead of their workout. But he found it hard for people to buy in on that. They want to feel like they’ve done something. And they feel that after they lift weights but most people don’t really feel that after 30 minutes of stretching. He thinks this could be the reason people don’t take it seriously.
[14:26] Laser versus Shotgun: Which One Wins?
Shane explains there’s a 30-day program where you can just laser-focus on a specific part that needs fixing and you will see progress. And you’ll see progress on something you care about. This then kind of motivates you to keep going.
As compared to a shotgun approach where you do everything all day then you just make a little bit of progress on everything. You can’t be a champion powerlifter, a champion marathoner, and a champion gymnast all at the same time. You need to focus on one thing at a time. Shane adds that even in crossfit when you’re trying to develop all these capacities concurrently, you still have to go through the phases.
[16:35] How Long Can You See Progress?
As to how long it takes to see progress, Shane says it depends on the person’s starting point. Progress is quicker if you have an athletic background and worked in a crossfit gym and have experience with these movements. This is because you have more body awareness and you’re motivated. And you’re not as stiff and as tight as a 50-year-old desk worker.
If someone comes in and they have been literally working at a desk job for 20 years, they’re going to have to put in more work to get flexible and mobile. And this goes for anything – strength, endurance, etc.
So it depends on your starting point, how much time and energy you have to commit to it, and how much pain you’re in.
[18:05] Mobility Work for Desk Workers
Shane recommends having a daily practice even just for five or ten minutes and doing it wherever and whenever you’ll actually do it consistently – morning, midday, or broken in increments throughout the day. But having some form of stretching plus self-massage plus moving is pretty good for the average desk-workers.
[19:38] Is 15 Minutes Enough?
If you don’t have any major injuries and you just want to feel good, be able to move, and just go about the same life you’ve been living, Shane says 10-15 minutes is going to be fine. Do a couple of quick yoga poses or hang from a bar (if you have that option).
[20:55] ROM for Athletic People
Again, Shane says the time athletic people need to spend depends on the person and their goal. If you’re a big buff weightlifter and you want to get the middle splits, even if you have the motivation and interest, you’ve got a lot of built up tightness. And this may take some time to learn how to let your muscles go farther out into the middle splits.
Shane likes to put it this way. If you’re running to the top of the mountain… are you starting at the base of the mountain? …a mile backwards on the path because you’ve got all the accumulated injuries? …or are you already halfway up the mountain because you’re just genetically gifted or you’ve got some experience stretching and did gymnastics when you were a kid?
[21:53] Shane Recovering from Hip Impingement
Shane used to do mobility work on himself for hours a day. He had this really bad hip issue called femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). He got so fascinated by the subject that he started teaching it. Now, he does five to ten minutes a day and he could still get his splits. So once you’ve built it, it’s easier to maintain but it can vary so much.
Shane was investing hours in a day in the beginning. He was already out of pain within a couple of months. But he explains the prevailing wisdom of FAI is that it’s a bone problem. So there’s nothing you can do to outstretch it or out-massage it. But he kept getting better and better from doing his mobility work. This sparked his interest even more considering it’s a bone problem and he was working on his muscles so why was it getting better and better? So he wanted to see how far he could take it. So although he was out of pain within a couple of months, he was working to optimize it over the next several years. He got even more curious if he could do splits despite this problem and he just dove down into the rabbit hole, as he puts it. Shane adds that if you’re doing mobility work, you’re smashing parts of your body with a barbell or a foam roller where you’re stretching, it’s affecting all of it. It’s all connected.
[25:20] Recommended Stretches for Desk Workers
Shane recommends stretching your hip flexors. Since you’re stuck in a hip-flexed position, this means your hip flexors can never fully lengthen. This is one of the most important things to do for the body as a general rule.
Then for the upper body, your thoracic spine can get too rounded. So get some thoracic extension and get your pecs to open up because when the back rounds, the shoulder also slumps and the head juts forward. So it’s a combination of thoracic spine, pecs, and neck.
There are four quick stretches you can do in under two minutes for hip flexors, thoracic spine, pecs, and neck. This is something you can do everyday as you get up every thirty minutes or so.
For hip flexors, just drop down into a kneeling lunge position. Do a hard crunch and posterior pelvic tilt. It’s like a dog tucking its tail under. Then lunge forward and let your leg trail behind you.
For thoracic spine, just get on a foam roller. Arch your back if your back is slumping and rounded. Then put a leverage point in the middle of your back with a foam roller that goes across your spine. Move, breathe, and relax. Put your hand behind your head. Then you can graduate beyond that by putting two lacrosse balls on your upper back to get more targeted and you get work on each section of your spine. This gives you a better posture benefit.
[28:45] No Fitness Benefit? Get More Intense with Loaded Stretches
Shane says that often, a lot of these exercises come out of physical therapy intended for that 60-year old woman who hasn’t stretched a day in her life. She’s not ready for even turning the foam roller the other way. And draping over would be too intense for them. On the other hand, young, healthy guys doing it may not feel anything, like it’s beyond beginner level and you get no benefit from it. So Shane believes that just like your strength training and cardio, this also has to get more progressive and more intense to give you a fitness benefit. Therefore, your stretching exercises have to be more progressive and get more intense.
Heavey finds that he gets a great deal of benefit from loaded stretches. One example is a classic weightlifter ankle stretch. You go down the bottom of the squat. Put the barbell across your knees and then work the corners of your ankles as you shift your knees around. Heavey has got super tight ankles just from rolling them a lot from playing basketball for instance. And he finds the stretch to be super effective for him.
Shane illustrates two types of loaded stretches. One involves using a weight like you’re holding a barbell and you’re doing that ankle stretch. Or do the Jefferson curl where you hold a barbell and go into a forward fold like you do in yoga and let the barbell pull you deeper into the hamstring stretch. Basically, any stretch can become a loaded stretch if you just know how to add weight to it.
[31:00] Building Strength to Get Past the Body’s Emergency Mode
When you go into an extremely stretched position, your body starts freaking out. It doesn’t feel safe. But if you build strength at that end range and your body will not treat it as a threat that you’re going to tear muscles because you have strength there. So literally, any stretch – hip flexor, pigeon pose, hamstring stretches. There are ways of adding weight to them.
Heavey cites an example of the body going into emergency mode like when you butterfly your feet together and put plates on each of your legs to open up your hips. He usually does this for three minutes because your body’s initial response is to freak out and fight the stretch for about a minute. And then after a minute or so, you can feel things really start to open up.
Shane thinks loaded stretches are one of the reasons he’s still able to do the splits even if now only stretches five or ten minutes a day. He has built strength at these end ranges so he can very quickly drop into these positions without feeling any threat to the nervous system because he has built that strength over years of training to be strong in those positions.
[33:15] Breaking Up The Minutes of Your Day
As to which percentage of your time should be spent on massage, lacrosse ball or foam roller, Shane says it’s about 50/50 for most people. If you have more old injuries where you’ve got scar tissue that needs to be broken up, you can do the tissue work. If you pull or tear a muscle, it doesn’t actually reform perfectly symmetrical. And when you stretch that, it’s like stretching a rope with a knot in the middle so it doesn’t stretch as well as it could. So if you have old injuries like that, do a little more of tissue work. If they’re athletes and have an FAI issue or old injuries, Shane would typically put them in a category of needing more self-massage and more tissue work. Whereas for people who are more hyper mobile and hyper flexible and have the same hip issue, they don’t need to do any more stretching. Instead, they need more strengthening which can make them even way more mobile. If a joint becomes hyper and mobile and it’s unstable and painful, the body will reflexively lock it down and it can get spasm and it can immediately go immobile.
If you have access to a foam roller or lacrosse ball, just press on your body with that foam roller or lacrosse ball. And if you come across an area which hurts when you press on it (since not all body areas will hurt if you press on it), keep pressing until it no longer hurts.
[38:10] Shane’s Application-Specific Programs
Two of the most popular application-specific programs Shane has are his deep squats program and shoulder program. Shane also says that an overhead squat is one of those exercises that exposes where mobility can make you stronger. You can deadlift a lot of weight without being that mobile but you can’t do an overhead squat with a lot of weight without being fairly mobile.
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge Shane has with his clients is consistency. It’s not a problem for people with FAI because they’re in a lot of pain, which is a very powerful motivator. So they’re willing to put in some time.
[40:50] Shane Hits Southeast Asia!
Shane has been wanting to do some long term world travel for a long time and he also got into meditation in the past five years. And Asia being a meditative land, he wanted to visit a couple of meditation centers and just travel. He feels the culture has always spoken to him more than other parts of the world. So he will be spending months working and traveling abroad.
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