A wonderful client of mine got in touch with me the other day to ask for my views on something:
"Can your clothing affect your movement capabilities?"
I thought I'd share my answer with you all.
Yes, your choice of clothing can affect your movement capabilities.
To illustrate my answer imagine the example of a fashion accessory that we don't tend to wear without necessity - a cast.
A cast over a broken bone is very useful in immobilising it to aid it healing in a healthy direction and also in protecting it from further harmful impacts during its regeneration. If you've ever had a cast on, you will know that one of the costs of immobility is a deterioration of the size and strength of the muscles in the surrounding area.
Now imagine a cast being put over a healthy joint. The muscles responsible for moving and stabilising that joint would atrophy making that joint weaker and more immobile or stiff so that on the removal of that cast, movement capabilities would have deteriorated.
Nobody would cast a healthy joint though...would they?
As I sit here writing this article, I'm wearing clothing that immobilises joints that aren't injured - my shoes.
I've been partially immobilising my feet for a significant proportion of the 29 years I've been alive. Do you think this may hinder the strength and mobility of my feet?
Muscles are only strong and controllable in ranges that they are regularly used to control as we are extremely efficient at ditching capacity that we never use (even though keeping it would be more beneficial to our health).
Any clothes, shoes or otherwise, that restrict your ability to move on a regular basis can impact your movement capabilities.
Wearing these garments while engaging in activities that subject you to high loads (think doing things very quickly or strongly) will accelerate this process as you will adapt more to higher loads but adaptation will take place around minimised ranges, possibly further minimised still to make movement even more safe given reduced joint articulation.
Wearing more mobile clothing will provide you with easier opportunities to move through greater ranges but if ranges have already diminished due to long-term adaptation facilitated by poor clothing choices, it may not be enough to guarantee retrieval of ranges lost. Opening up lost ranges wearing looser gear may require specific, progressive work that utilises this new space in a safe, controllable manner.
If you saw how I dress you would know that I'm by no means the fashion police but I thought I'd share my views with you so that you could stop yourself straight-jacketing your own athletic development if you want to.
Arton "Cast out" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1
P.S. details on how to book on my exciting London workshop on November 12th coming soon!