If you’ve been on my email list for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about my mobility class and the mobility work that I’m encouraging everyone to do. Maybe you even remember the name Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). Buuuuut you probably still have some questions so that’s what this post is all about. We’re going to talk about what mobility work – in this case specifically FRC – is, why it’s NOT yoga, and why you SHOULD 100% be incorporating it into your life.
What is mobility work?
Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) is a movement practice that affects your joints specifically. In super sciencey words, it’s isometric strength training for your joints, and then making sure you’re using your joints in every direction they’re meant to be used in. Let’s talk about the last part of that first, because it’s the easiest to get:
I say this all the time
Use it or lose it is REAL
FRC makes sure you don’t lose your mobility. It does this by involving very specific joint circles. These joint circles should be done every day, and the key is to make sure you’re not compensating anywhere else. You want to access your true range of motion, and when you compensate you’re no longer doing this. For example, you should be able to lift your arms above your head without your head pushing forwards or your back backbending, or your ribs jutting out. Most people struggle with this example in particular.
But what is the isometric joint strength training part of FRC? Well, it’s what makes FRC so effective.
But what does Isometric even mean?
The term isometric refers to the type of muscular contraction your muscle is performing. There are 3 types.
Concentric, eccentric, and isometric.
We see these 3 muscle contractions all the time in yoga and weightlifting. In yoga in particular we often perform a ton of isometric contractions without realizing it. Here’s what each means, briefly:
Concentric: You’re moving a joint in order to short the muscle in order to contract it. Think of a bicep curl: the elbow bends so the bicep can shorten and curl the hand towards you. The bicep is concentrically contracting.
Eccentric: You’re moving a joint to elongate a muscle in order to contract it. For example, the hinge of a deadlift is an eccentric contraction of your hamstring muscles. If you’re not sure what a deadlift looks like, just think of a forward fold in yoga – if you were to add weight to this, it would be an eccentric contraction of your hamstring muscle. Eccentrics are typically the hardest contraction to perform because you’re often fighting against gravity.
Isometric: No joint is moving, but your muscle is engaging. For example, holding a plank pose, your core, arms and glutes are engaging but you haven’t moved any joints in order to find that muscular engagement. Another example would be holding a warrior 2. Or warrior 1. Any hold of a standing pose really is an isometric contraction of your muscles. The act of getting into that pose (ie. The act of starting to bend your knee for warrior 2) is NOT an isometric, but once you start to hold it, it’s isometrics that are holding you in it.
SO if mobility work is isometric joint strength training, it means we’re working on the engagement of the muscles around that particular joint, and holding them in a particular position.
These are SMALL movements that appear like nothing from the outside but holy hell you WILL feel your muscles in ways you’ve never felt them before. They’ll cramp and you’ll most likely be sore the next day. BUT you will feel amazing.
So why is this different from yoga?
It certainly pulls from yoga. We stretch, and then we engage. But again, we’re working at the joint level. Yoga tends to affect larger muscles. You can think of a quad stretch (front of the thigh), or a hamstring stretch (back of the thigh). Often times in FRC, we’d be working where your thigh bone plugs into your hip. It’s a deeper, more specific stretch. It’s a deeper, more specific stretch and then on top of that, you add an isometric contraction.
They both affect the nervous system, which is why they both work. To see change in movement, you need your brain and nervous system to be affected. But yoga tends to affect the nervous system from a flexibility standpoint, and FRC affects it from a mobility stand point.
If you’re not sure of the difference between mobility and flexibility, make sure you read my blog post all about this by clicking here
So why should you be incorporating this into your movement practice?
Other than the fact that myself and my students who have been doing it with me can 100% vouch for its effectiveness, it all goes back to use it or lose it and the nervous system.
In order for you to move your joints all over the place and everywhere they’re supposed to move, your body needs to feel safe doing so (cue the nervous system). Lots of things impact our body’s understanding of what safe means. If there’s a previous injury to an area, it will most likely be tighter than its counterpart on the other side. This is because your nervous system has kicked into gear to try to protect the area. It recognizes tissue damage, and to protect it, it locks down the muscles and tightens them to restrict movement.
Tightness can also come from a general lack of stability in a particular area. A joint that lacks stability will often present itself as tightness, as your body will try to tighten the muscles to try to stabilize the joint, rather than learning how to engage its muscles to find that stability instead. You have to teach your body how to do this.
So how do you unlock your joints and teach your nervous system that movement is ok? How do you teach your body stability?
Isometrics. And therefore FRC.
You work on strengthening those tiny muscles around your joints. If your body feels strong at a joint, it feels safe. And when your body feels safe, it allows movement to happen. THIS is why FRC works.
If you want to read more about the nervous system you can read my blog post here about why stretching isn’t always the answer for flexibility/mobility.
SO moral of the story: Do yoga. It’s good for you. But also add in FRC, because it will not only help your yoga practice, but it’s going to impact your life.
We need our joints to function and to be healthy, especially as we age. FRC will affect your joints and help with aches and pains, it will help with movement, it will help with any exercise routine you do, and just help you live a healthier and more enjoyable life.
I know this is a lot to take in so give it a few reads or drop me any questions you have in the comments below. I geek out about this stuff so I’m happy to discuss further!!