Lifting, cardio fitness, yoga, and sports, are all great for keeping you fit and healthy. But, if you want to take your fitness and performance to the next level, it’s time to consider how you move.
Mobility training is nothing new, but many fitness enthusiasts, even pros, neglect it. Learn more about what it is, how to do it, and why you should be incorporating mobility into your own routine and your clients’.
The term is a bit of a trendy buzzword, but there is nothing new or fleeting about mobility training. Mobility is simply how you move. It describes the range of motion in everything you do, which requires both flexibility and strength.
Mobility training includes any exercises that will improve your mobility. Often mistaken for stretching, mobility training is much more than this. It could include dynamic stretching, yoga, agility exercises, myofascial releases, and anything else that helps you move better and improves your range of motion.
Flexibility and mobility go hand-in-hand, but they are not the same thing. Here’s a detailed rundown on flexibility vs mobility.
It can be difficult to fit more into your workout routine, but mobility is worth making time for. Everyone should be doing it, not just athletes who want to improve performance. In fact, the more you sit throughout the day, the more important it is to include mobility training. Here are the best reasons to incorporate mobility exercises more often:
Whatever your sport, even if it’s just working out at the gym, you need to be able to move well to do your best. Consider weightlifting. If you can’t position yourself or go through the movement optimally, you can’t lift as much. You might even risk injury if you have a limited range of motion.
This applies to any exercise or sport. You can move faster, jump higher, and push harder in any activity if you have a better range of motion. And, the chance of injuring yourself is lower.
With an inadequate range of motion, other muscles that you aren’t targeting with the exercise—often weaker—compensate. This can lead to injury and pain. For example, if your hips are tight going into a deadlift, your lower back will compensate, causing pain, and worse if you keep at it.
Even active people today are often sedentary for long stretches of time. Many work at a desk all day or relax on the couch in the evenings. Being sedentary puts people at risk of all kinds of health problems, like obesity and diabetes.
You can counteract many of the risks by being active at other times, but sitting a lot causes mobility issues, even if you work out often. Sitting for extended periods of time results in poor range of motion in joins and tight muscles.
Hip mobility is an issue for most people and is directly related to how much we sit. Try this list of hip mobility exercises to open hips, stretch and strengthen the hip flexor muscles, and improve range of motion.
Functional movements are the typical actions you go through every day: sitting in a chair, walking, carrying a bag of groceries. You don’t think about these movements most of the time, but they require mobility just like workouts and athletics do.
This is why mobility training is not just for athletes. Everyone can benefit from improved range of motion. It makes daily activities easier and less likely to cause injury. This is especially true for older adults because mobility naturally decreases with age.
There are so many things you can do to develop better mobility. For clients with specific issues, focus on those. For instance, you might have a lifting client who struggles to lift correctly due to shoulder tightness. The ideas for increasing range of motion are nearly endless, but here are some basic categories and examples for mobility work:
Static stretching, the old school way to warm up for a workout, turns out to have limited usefulness. In fact, it’s better for after a workout when your muscles are warm, and you want to work on flexibility.
In terms of mobility, dynamic stretching is much more beneficial. The difference is motion. During a dynamic stretch, you move the body and open up joints. Try these:
Hip swings. For all your many clients with tight hips, this hip mobility exercise stretches the hip muscles and improves joint range of motion. Swing the left leg back and forth and then side to side. Then switch to the right leg.
Lunge variations. A lunge is a strength training move, but you can also use it for a hip mobility exercise. Do side lunges for lateral movement. Lunge and twist to the side to stretch the trunk, or while stretching one arm over the head. Lunges also help with ankle mobility.
Shoulder circles and swing. Improve motion in the shoulder with small and large circles in both directions. You can also swing the arms up and down and side to side to stretch the joint.
Butt kicks. Stretch the quads dynamically with a stationary or walking butt kick.
Cat-cow. This is a great dynamic stretch for the spine. On your hands and knees move between arching and rounding the back upward.
When time is of the essence, combine mobility exercises with strength training. All it really takes is doing a variety of strength movements in all planes of motion and utilizing various joints. Burpees are great for strength and mobility as well as cardio. Add side burpees to change the plane of motion.
Squat and lunge variations make combining strength and mobility efficient. Do standard, reverse, side, and curtsy lunges to hit all planes of motion. Do standard squats and sumo squats with calf raises to improve motion in the hips, knees, and ankles. The important factor here is to change it up. The more you move in multiple directions while strength training, the better.
Foam rolling is an easy way to release tightness in the connective tissue beneath the skin. When the fascia is tight, it restricts mobility and hinders recovery. Use a foam roller on all the major muscle groups before a workout to loosen up the fascia and ensure you can move more fully.
In addition to specific mobility exercises and routines, you can do several things to gain range of motion. They can be a part of your workout routine while also developing good mobility:
Both of these types of workouts are great for mobility. Yoga and Pilates are all about precise movements and include poses and moves that you probably don’t engage in regularly. In other words, these workouts get you out of your movement comfort zone to increase flexibility and range of motion while also building strength.
Even if you have a sport you like to focus on for training, like running or powerlifting, you should also be cross training. Changing up your exercises mobilizes your body in different ways. Doing the same movements over and over cause mobility and strength imbalances and tight muscles.
If you do a lot of running, take a cycling class. If you love to lift, do some cardio or yoga. Even daily activities, like chores, can improve mobility and act like a type of cross training.
When you stick mostly with one workout type, you tend to move in just one plane of motion. An example is running. You move forward only, never side-to-side, or at an angle. If this sounds like your workout routine, think about how you can move in different directions during cross training. Do squats to move up and down and side lunges for lateral mobility, for instance.
Don’t neglect this important area of fitness. It’s easy to overlook, especially with a busy schedule, but if you make a point to include a mobility workout, your body will thank you.
ISSA’s Strength and Conditioning program is just what you need to level up your training. Learn how anatomy, body composition, and the way you move affect energy and performance. The best trainers use this to their benefit and you’ll learn exactly how to help your clients work with what they have to build unbelievable endurance, strength, power, and speed.
The ISSA's Corrective Exercise Course will help you learn how to identify and correct the most common movement dysfunctions that you are likely to see in a wide range of clients.
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