Training plan? Check.
Healthy nutrition (at least 80% of the time)? Check.
7-9 hours of sleep? (Most nights). Check.
A rest day or two built in? Check.
All the primary components to a solid training plan both inside and outside, right?
Almost. You’re forgetting one key component:
Mobility is a highly touted word in the gym today, but what is it exactly?
By definition, mobility is: (n.) the ability to move or be moved freely and easily.
In gym and training terms: the ability to move your body, your joints, your muscles and tissues more freely and easily; increased range of motion.
Mobility prepares your body (muscles and joints) to work during, as well as stay healthy after training. It is a crucial component to any well-rounded training and lifestyle program for:
- Injury prevention
- Lifting heavier weights
- Moving more efficiently
- Setting new PRs
- Enhanced performance
- And more
Ok, ok, you get it:
“So I need to stretch, right? I’ve heard that before-that’s not new advice.”
Perhaps you’ve even tried some yourself…
- Used a foam roller on your IT-band when it felt tight;
- Completed high knees and butt kicks to warm up your legs, or lunged with a band in your hip flexors, prior to a heavy squat day;
- Watched a MobilityWOD video on YouTube on decreasing calf-soreness post-double-under workout and tried some tips at home for yourself;
- Or, you’ve even endured the hurt-so-good pain of a lacrosse ball on your rear deltoid prior to lifting weights overhead.
A little roll here, a quick stretch there, mobility
Mobility goes far beyond addressing muscle soreness post-workout, stretching to lengthen a tight muscle, or even hitting one or two specific muscle groups prior to working them in a workout.
Mobility, or mobilization, on the other hand, is an integrated whole-body
approach that focuses on movement and
For example: You are performing 5x5 sets of back-squats at 80% today.
Your mobility session could include, not only mobility movements for your hip flexors (such as lunging with a band or leg swings), but should also include the other musculature and body components that will be recruited in your performance, such as:
- Rolling out your calves to increase your mobility to "stay in your heels";
- Banded hamstring stretch while flat on your back and pulling your nose towards your knee;
- And even opening up your shoulders and lats with a hanging band stretch to keep your chest upright).
In short: A mobility session should address all
the elements limiting or impacting your movement and performance, such as: Restricted soft tissue, restricted joint capsules, shortened muscles, decreased motor control, and poor (joint) range of motion.
So how often should I "mobilize"?
Mobility, like consuming quality nutrition, your sleep habits, and following a consistent strength or fitness program, is something that should be part of your daily
routine if you want to experience the full benefits of your training program, prevent
(or rehab) injuries, lift heavier weights, and, most importantly, move better in life
In the words of Kelly Starrett
, we as “humans beings should be able to perform maintenance on ourselves.”
As we age, train, sit hunched over in desks and in traffic…our bodies get tight. How do we keep from feeling this way?
Here are a few key points for improving your mobility:
- 5-10 Minutes. That’s all you need, Simply take 5-10 minutes every day to stretch, address areas of tightness (and areas around that tightness), and move your body. This can be completed really any time of day that works for you:
- While watching TV or on the phone
- Pre- and Post-workout
- The first thing when you wake up, or before you go to bed
- Heck, I even keep a lacrosse ball in my car and my backpack to roll out my upper back and shoulders when I am stuck in traffic or an airplane
- Variety. Variety is the spice of life. Just like you don’t eat a chicken breast for lunch and dinner, 14 times per week; or do the exact same workout every day; vary your mobility exercises to ensure a comprehensive, holistic mobility program.
- The boring stuff. The boring stuff can sometimes be the best exercise for you. Suck it up and just do it. Glute bridges, clam shells, bear walks, deadbugs, banded squats…the things many people often neglect are the little things that can make a big difference. And…anyone who says deadbugs, side plank clamshells and glute bridges are easy just isn’t doing them properly.
- Don’t sit still for too long. Your body was designed to move and thrives upon movement. If you work a desk job, force yourself to take 5-10 minute movement/stretch breaks every hour—even if it’s just getting up to go to the restroom or a co-worker’s desk. If you are prone to "rest" all day, outside the gym—consider doing the same-moving, stretching, being active in your daily life, going on walks. The sky is the limit.
- The Turkish Get-Up. Do it. The Turkish Get-Up is a highly underutilized exercise, yet it’s one of the BEST exercises for BOTH mobility and stability—addressing hip and shoulder stability, core and glute activation, postural control, and all around flexibility. Even simply preforming the first three-four steps is a great regime to add to your warm-up.
Get it? Got it. Good.
Lastly, one last word of caution to keep in mind (particularly when a lingering tightness, soreness or pain just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how much mobility you do):
Mobility issues are sometimes actually stability issues
, meaning, that the residual pain or side effects you are experiencing in your knees or hip flexors every time you squat, or in your right shoulder every time you snatch, could in actuality be a matter of joint instability
Lack of stability in a joint or body structure often promotes tightness in the body around that joint, thus causing poor range of motion, pain, or stiffness, often associated with mobility issues.
If all the mobility and flexibility in the world is not helping your mobility issue go away, consider digging deeper into a potential structural or stability issue present in your own body’s mechanics. Bounce this idea off of a trusted coach, fitness or therapy professional or bodywork specialist who can help address your individual concern.