Is Joel Seedman RIGHT About Range of Motion?

Let's Talk About Mobility & the Dangers of Excessive ROM

by Alec Enkiri | 12/8/23

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Is Joel Seedman Actually RIGHT???

Should we avoid extreme joint angles at all costs, or is it more of a matter of "use it or lose it?"

Dr. Joel Seedman, aka Joel the Troll, aka "you're a (gym) wizard, Harry," would have you believe that moving even one millimeter past what he calls a "90 degree joint angle" is deleterious to the health of your joints, builds less strength and less muscle, encourages dysfunctional movement patterns and muscle firing sequences, and ironically, DISCOURAGES joint mobility rather than encourages it.

But is any of this true?

Let's discuss these assertions as they pertain to mobility, as this is probably the takeaway I have most loudly heard from following Joel Seedman's content (Joel the Troll) for the past several years. Joel vehemently argues day in and day out that the best way to be able to achieve the task of range of motion is (essentially) to avoid it at all costs. He makes this claim over and over again, in post after post, day after day, and week after week. I'll paraphrase.

Going even 1mm deeper than my optimal Joel Seedman 90 Degree Anglesβ„’ creates a dysfunctional kinematic sequence cascade that causes the brain to misfire, leading to unparalleled degrees of inflammation accumulation inside every joint in the body, thereby decreasing your mobility.

The essence of Joel the Troll Seedman

I'll be the first to say it would be nice if life worked this way.

Unfortunately, however, that just doesn't seem to be the way that life works. When we want to gain or master a particular skill it is typically considered customary to practice that particular skill, and for good reason! Skill acquisition is a function of skill practice; physical qualities are obtained when they are practiced and trained in a progressive fashion; and things like flexibility and joint mobility are no different.

As with most other physical capacities working range of motion can be progressively trained over time, starting with smaller amounts and building your way into larger and larger amounts until you eventually achieve what would effectively be the maximal range of motion that you can move a joint through.

In fact, I find that pairing resistance training with mobility training modality is a more reliable way of increasing Mobility than mobility training itself. This is because the nervous system is more likely to open up greater degrees joint freedom if it is confident that you are able to stabilize the joints in those progressively deeper and deeper joint angles, and that cannot happen unless you are strong enough to do so as you approach, enter, and reside at end range.

This is a better and more reliable "mobility" tool

...than this

Side note: that doesn't mean that both aren't important in a comprehensive fitness program though! Being able to reach end range in both a loaded AND an unloaded fashion is important and they are slightly different. But the former more reliably enhances the latter than vice versa.

Therefore, building strength as you build length is a very reliable way to improve mobility, and you can do this by utilizing progressive motion training under the bar. Start with an easy load and slowly move towards a comfortable end range, and then over time as the body eases off the brakes you coax your way into deeper and deeper and ranges bit by bit.

Watch this quick short for an example of what I'm talking about here. This set is a microcosm of the concept. Each subsequent rep is (deliberately) slightly deeper than the one that came before it. As the nervous system eases off the brakes and grants me more degrees of freedom, I take it advantage of it by gradually moving into them under load. Strength, length, and permanent, non-transient improvements in functional mobility.

Obviously an individual's training goals are always going to play a role in how much range of motion they require in any particular motor pattern or through any particular joint. But, in a general sense, I find that possessing what would we considered above average mobility (but not quite Godlike), along with a commensurate amount of strength in those end ranges, makes you stronger overall, makes you more supple overall, reduces the sensations of stiffness that many of us battle with, and just makes you feel better in general.

And the way to achieve this is not to avoid range of motion, but rather it is to build your way into it gradually...

Just like with every other weight room skill.

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