Welcome to part 3 of this piece that feels to me as I write it that it can go in an infinite number of directions. This is fitting, given the nature of what I'm writing about - creating ultimately mobile and strong athletes that can do what they want and in this case look how they want.
To refresh you briefly, I left off speaking about making a link between a new choice/pattern and the stimuli that would encourage the old habitual choice/pattern.
In my days as a more accomplished football player than I am now, I found it curious that any time I was dressed in clothing that was anything other than my football gear, my skills evaded me. If somebody threw me a ball whilst wearing formal clothes, I touched in more like a foreign object that something I had spent countless hours learning to dexterously manipulate.
I thought I was weird but it turns out it isn't just me. Students remember information better in the classroom they learned it in than elsewhere. Deep-sea divers recall what they saw on their dives in water than out of it.
This phenomenon is known as context-dependent memory.
When you think back to much of the mobility work you have done in your past, how much of it was done with a context or environment that closely matched your performance environment?
The effect of making such work an isolated act tucked away in a corner on some stretching mats probably hasn't done you a favour. Make as much of the work you do to create new movement choices in context - where the sights, sounds, feels and smells are the same as your sporting environment - as possible.
I also said in the last piece that load/resistance acts as a compelling contextual trigger to habitual choices. If we work intelligently, we can use load to our advantage to help us make our newly found choices more habitual.
Let's say we develop some new range through minimally loaded work, for example - greater hip flexion. Your ability to control this new range, namely to move in to, out of and around it will be embryonic and fragile. Load can progressively be used to aid adaptation to this. The hip flexors must learn to contract in a shorter position than usual, the extensors must learn to contract from a more lengthened position and the adductors, abductors and rotators must learn to play their respective roles from new angles, taking the joints through new paths.
Gradually, you can learn to produce greater forces under smoother control making new ranges into the new habitual ones. Eventually, more standard gym lifts will change as a result of this work and will also act as reinforcement of new patterns, an example being squats becoming deeper as a result of greater hip mobility and the new ranges eliciting the conditioning of the hip extensors contracting at new lengths to control the bottom of the squat.
Gym work can get you ripped for sure and there is lots of solid info around on helping you do this. It is great at reinforcing your current patterns, making them more durable which is of great use in most sports. If you're wanting to change yourself into a better athlete rather than just a fitter one, done in the standard way, getting ripped will rip you off a little in this respect.
Removing yourself from loaded situations can help you discover new ways to move. Using the power of context paired with progressive loading to enhance control of new ranges will make you a more mobile, better athlete more able to quickly move in a greater number of directions.
Aesthetics, fitness and athleticism can go hand in hand.
Take these principles forward. If you want my help, let me know.
Arton "Rip yourself and your sport" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1