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What Is Mobility, How Can We Improve It And Why Should We Care?


You Expect Your Joints To Function Well… But How Much Time Do You Actually Spend On Mobility?

A Lot Of Our Joint and Back Pain Is Our Own Fault

So many people complain about having dodgy knees, hips, elbows (insert joint), yet, very few people actually invest their time into strengthening and mobilising their joints.

Sure, you can stretch your hamstrings and quads all you like, but if your hip and ankle mobility is limited, you’re not going to be able to squat properly. Or worse yet, and I say this as a frustrated Personal Training, if you don’t start taking care of your joint mobility you’re going to end up with aches, pains, and that uncomfortable pulling sensation and tell yourself it’s the exercise that’s causing it.

But I’m telling you now, I’ve seen how most people warm-up before training, and I know how much time people spend on mobility drills outside of the gym (which is not to be confused with flexibility), and a lot of the time I can see that it’s not the exercise that’s causing a person grief… it’s their lack of mobility.

Why?

  • Flexibility refers to the ability of your soft tissue (muscles) to stretch.
     
  • Mobility is a term used to describe many elements that contribute to movement with full range of motion. This includes muscle tissue, joints, the joint capsules, motor control, and soft tissue.

So unlike a hamstring stretch (flexibility stretch) which will only give you a temporary lengthening of the hamstring muscle, a leg swing (mobility drill) will not only help lengthen the muscle, but lubricate the joint, draw blood to the muscles so they’re primed for movement, and get the joint and joint capsule ready for the movement patterns which are about to occur.

The Benefits Of Doing Mobility Drills

  • Decrease your chance of injury – Whilst most people believe stretching before exercising is critical to injury prevention, their is sufficient evidence to advocate that mobility exercises are infact the most significant contributing factor to injury prevention.
     
  • Keep your joints healthy- When doing mobility exercises, blood is being moved to the tissues surrounding the targeted joint whilst synovial fluid is shuttled into the working joint. This not only activates the surrounding muscles but lubricates the targeted joint.
     
  • Help you become stronger- If our movement is restricted due to limited mobility, we’re incapable of performing an exercise to it’s full range of motion. This means muscles within the movement pattern are not optimally strengthened during the movement, if at all.

This is why I advocate so strongly for mobility above cardio or stretching before weight training.

The Misguided Warm-Up

Stretching is old school, yet it can be an uphill battle to convince someone to throw in 1 or 2 stretches before picking up a weight.

So when those about to participate in resistance exercise discover that they really should be following the below warm-up process, I know the chances that they’ll give it their warm-up respect it deserves is nearly zero:

  • 5-10 mins light cardio
  • 5-10 mins foam rolling / soft tissue therapy
  • 5-15 mins of dynamic stretching / mobility drills

You can learn more about this warm-up process at The Right Warm-Up Process

Summary

I often wonder how so many of us can expect our bodies to function well, yet we know we’re not investing the necessary time into maintaining our bodies.

And I know time is a big factor. It’s 2019, and the list of demand on our time isn’t about to get any shorter. So here’s my proposal to you… if you only allow for 5 mins to warm-up before exercise, please prioritise your mobility drills. This way you will still increase your blood flow and the suppleness of your soft tissue, whist still getting the added benefits of increased mobility.

Here is an example of the 5 minute mobility routine I perform before any session where I know I’ll be doing leg exercises such as squats or deadlifts.

And if you have a limited range of movement in any of your joints, such as not being able to squat below parallel (hip mobility), or not being able to lift your arms straight over your head without arching your back (shoulder mobility), you really need to start putting time aside to work on your mobility at least every other day.

And if you’re not sure how to do that, or what 5 minute warm-up is best for your body and circumstance, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to organise a time for us to go through it together so you can avoid the aches, pains and limitations that come from inadequate mobility.

This article was originally published to the Konquer Fitness Community on February 1st, along with a recipe for Protein Toast With Avo-Veg Smash And A 3-1 Omelette and an article discussing Canada’s New Food Guide.

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How much time do you spend on mobility per week? Would you like to improve your mobility? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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1 thought on “What Is Mobility, How Can We Improve It And Why Should We Care?”

  1. Thanks for the encouragement to take my old joints through full ROM more often. I like your 5 minute mobility routine

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