Getting Primal with Matt Philion

Apr 23, 2019

I've had the pleasure to connect (and subsequently reconnect) with Matt Philion from Primal Mobility Centre because a mutual client of ours mentioned we should probably chat.  


He is a super smart guy who genuinely cares about his clients and their progress.  He's a constant motivation and inspiration to myself and his tribe.


Matt came from a fitness background as a personal trainer and got into FST (Fascial Stretch Technique) to help his clients prevent injuries and work more optimally.  He currently coaches mobility remotely through an online platform and offers support and accountability to his athletes in his program. He has countless success stories and an instagram filled with great exercises and tips to help athletes of all levels.


So we're going to jump into three awesome tips that we agree are so important in athletic success.


Tip #1



We had a great conversation on some of the biggest mistakes people make while working on their mobility.  We both work with a lot of very intense, hard working athletes that push their bodies to the limits on a daily or weekly basis; CrossFit athletes, bodybuilders, skiers, hockey players, football and soccer players, to name a few.


These athletes are proficient in their movements when it comes to their sport but one of the biggest pieces we agreed on being an issue, is body awareness.  It takes a great degree of concentration to target only what is necessary without any compensatory movements. For example, you don’t need to shrug your upper traps to do a front squat! It sounds like a bad example but I’ve seen this more often than I’d like to!


More often than not, if you’re using extraneous movements or muscles, you’re working out of compensation for an imbalance or weakness coming from another area.  


You need to develop the ability to listen to your body and pick up on the cues that your body is giving you.


As yourself:


-Where are my restrictions?

-What’s not moving as well today?

-What’s working really well today?


When you’re feeling pain or discomfort, this gives you a window into what might be a deeper issue that could be addressed to really amp up your training.  It may help you see where you might be compensating. Perhaps it’s a pattern you have been using for quite some time and has created recurring issues for you.


Matt says: “The more you’re able to realize and discover during these (mobility) sessions, the more potential you truly have.  Build these connections with your joints and the results from your mobility will skyrocket!!!”


If you don’t know whether or not you’re doing that or if you can’t seem to pinpoint what your compensations are, hire a coach for a private session to scrutinize your every move.  You’ll be a better athlete for it and you’ll avoid a ton of extra strain…strain that may lead to injury.


Tip #2



Some people lack ROM and others have the proper range but lack strength in that range.  It’s incredibly important to be strong within the required ROM with a certain amount of surplus; otherwise, your mobility may lead to injury.  


Matt noticed in his athletes that hypermobility is just as detrimental as lack of mobility.  It too may lead to injury if you don’t learn to find stability and body awareness.


Imagine that you are holding a loaded bar overhead with enough mobility to be stacked up correctly but you don’t have the stability in your joint to make all the micro adjustments necessary to stabilize that bar overhead.  That’s a recipe for disaster.


Realistically, the strongest athlete is not the one who can perform the movements identically each time; it’s the athlete that can control all the micro adjustments.  Why is that? Because you’re going to find yourself in a different gym, on a different field, with the adrenalin of a competition that aren’t typical of your controlled environment and this will make your movement slightly different.  If the floor is slightly slanted, you won’t stand the same way before doing your lift; if the field is wet from rain, you won’t run in the same way.


The ability for you to be in control and adapt to those micro changes are what makes you BANG ON no matter what the conditions.  


That’s why it’s so important to foster strength and stability in the end range of your mobility and to continue to build that range.  You don’t want to be so perfect in your movement that you’re no longer adaptable. Think of that person who needs every element to be “just so” so that they can perform at their best.


In my days as a professional dancer, particularly when we were breakdancing (b-boying, to be correct on the lingo!) I remember training with my friends and laughing at ourselves about how we thought we needed all our gear to be on point in order to get our moves right.  If your beanie was not on correctly you could bomb your headspin or maybe your shoes were messing with your mojo. Obviously there are details that help you perform at your best and you want to be consistent in your training but don’t get stuck on the details of perfection at the cost of being adaptable.  You’ll be fine if you don’t have your knee sleeves or your favourite shoes!


That being said, the more ranges you have to work with, the more adaptable you become.

Something Matt suggests is using PAILs/RAILs to increase mobility.  These are progressive and regressive isometric contractions of the stretched and shortened tissues, respectively.  If that went completely over your head, don't worry, read on!


What you really need to know is that they're an amazing tool to increase range of motion and they're easier to perform than they are to understand! 


What's really great is that they increase your active range of motion so it's much more useful than simply accessing them in a passive way but not being able to actually use them in your athletic activity.


Click here for an example of PAILs/RAILs.


Tip #3



Both Matt and I love to use CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) within our mobility programs because they’re a great way to access your available range, maintaining joint health and using it as a way to see our clients’ areas of compensation.  Not to mention, it’s a great way to develop your own body awareness.


CARS looks really easy to do and you can rush through it and get absolutely nothing out of it but if you go through the ranges carefully and consciously, I bet you’ll notice the places where you struggle.  


You might notice that you don’t have as much range in a particular area or that you’re asymmetrical on your right and left side.  Another element you can pay attention to is whether or not you’re compensating anywhere else to be able to complete the movement. Now this is a bit harder to feel yourself and sometimes it takes an outside eye to observe you.  In an ideal situation, get an experienced outside eye to observe your movements to make sure you’re maximizing every part of the motion and that you’re eliminating any extra movements that are unnecessary and will eventually lead to bad movement patterns.


Click here to try a hip CARS


Try incorporating a CARs and a PAILs/RAILs in your mobility routine this week.



In the meantime....


You can find Matt on Instagram @PrimalMobilityCentre,  where he posts daily mobility videos.


We should also hang out more often so you can find @MobilityJunkie on Facebook, Instagram and right here for weekly posts all about mobility and recovery.


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