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Why you need to improve your mobility and how to get started

Dec 10, 2020 | Exercise Mechanics, Training and Performance

If you’re working out regularly, you may feel like you’re physically fit and healthy. But have you ever considered your body’s mobility? Overall fitness is about more than how many pounds you can deadlift or how fast you can run a mile. But full-body mobility is often overlooked in favour of the more exciting fitness pursuits like heavier lifts and more reps.

In this post, we’ll be giving you an overview of mobility. We’ll talk about what mobility is and how it affects your overall fitness. Plus, at the end of this post, we’re sharing a quick whole-body warm-up routine you can easily add to your workout routine.

 

What is mobility (and why is it so important)?

Mobility is defined in the medical dictionary as the ability to move through one’s environment with ease and without restriction. We’ve all heard of it, but what exactly is it? How is it different from flexibility? And why is it necessary?

To be mobile, you need to have varying degrees of flexibility. Flexibility is the ability to move through an unrestricted, pain-free range of motion.

World-renowned mobility specialist Kelly Starret describes mobility as a “tool to globally address movement and performance problems”.

I would further define mobility as our ability to move through the available ranges of motion our flexibility allows when forces are acting upon our body.

 

Mobility and Mechanotransduction

Gravity is a constant force acting on our body. In return, our body produces forces to constantly counteract gravity and allow us to move and be mobile. The muscles and connective tissues are placed under force through loading and movement, or more specifically, the mechanics of the movement.

These forces transfer through every element of the muscle and connective tissues right down to the cell itself to cause molecular responses that can either build up or breakdown the connective tissue such as bone, tendon, ligament or the fascia surrounding the muscle. This process is known as Mechanotransduction.

Mechanotransduction seems to be an ongoing process in the human body, just like respiratory and circulation. (Source: Khan, K et al 2009.)

 

Range of motion is crucial

Whilst it is widely regarded that the body’s range of motion is a critical element of health and performance, it is essential to remember that it has to be relative to the task required.

Let’s take the ankle, for example, and the necessary mobility for a powerlifter compared to a sprinter. Both activities require a full range of motion for optimal joint health. But the more strength and control a powerlifter has available to move through this full range of motion, the more likely it is they will be able to sit deep into a squat.

By contrast, a sprinter will require a different joint range of motion. They will need to have much more stiffness in the tissues surrounding the joint so, when the foot hits the ground, this tissue can tension like pulling on a rubber band to catapult them back off the ground as quickly as possible. Taking time to move through the full available range of motion to create tension will be too time-consuming and inevitably cost the athlete valuable time.

The mobility you need is relative to your exercise regimen and lifestyle. While flexibility is an integral part of mobility, it is only one component of the overall range of motion. It’s vital to include mobility work and exercises in your general workout routine or daily activities. Mobility exercises will keep your body moving and functioning healthily, no matter how much weight you can lift or how many miles you can run.

 

Full-body mobility warm-up

We’ve selected a range of mobility exercises you can easily add to your warm-up routine before any workout. You can pick and choose which exercises you use based on the type of training you’re doing.

 

Thoracic rotation (thread the needle) for spine and rib mobility

 

This kneeling thoracic rotation, better known as threading the needle, is a mobility exercise ideal for increasing movement in the upper back and ribs.

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS EXERCISE

Start on all fours with equal weight between all limbs. Stabilising at one shoulder, rotate at the waist, threading the arm through. Reverse the movement, and reach the arm towards the ceiling, following the middle finger with the eyes/ head as you move. Repeat with momentum, within a comfortable range.

 

Wall walks for neck and shoulder mobility

 

This simple wall walk exercise is helpful in finding relief from neck and shoulder pain. It teaches correct shoulder mechanics and movement by learning how to move the humorous and scapula independently.

 

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS EXERCISE

Stand tall with a straight spine and core engaged. Set the shoulder blade back and down. Walk the hand up the wall, keeping the shoulder blade set. Don’t allow your shoulder to hunch as you perform the movement. Reverse the motion to return to start position. Relax and repeat.

 

Scapula mobilisation exercise for shoulder, neck, and upper back

 

This exercise is ideal for relieving shoulder, neck, and upper back pain. An exercise band is recommended to complete the exercise. This exercise can be used to activate and strengthen the serrates anterior, lower trapezius, rotator cuff.

 

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS

Hold the band with your arms out in front, palms down. Lift your arms up over your head. With your arms above your head, roll your elbows in and bring your arms by your side with the band behind your back. Allow your shoulder blades to glide down with this movement. You should feel the muscles at the side of your ribs activate.

 

Ankle mobilisation exercise for foot, ankle, and knee

 

This exercise is used to increase the mobility of the foot and ankle. It stretches and mobilises the tibialis anterior, tibialis posterior, peroneal muscles, plantar fascia, and ankle ligaments.

 

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS EXERCISE

Stand on the affected leg, and use the opposing leg to swing with momentum from side to side. Rock the weight from the inside of the standing foot to the outside creating movement through the arch of the foot and rotation through the ankle. Use support nearby as needed to maintain balance.

 

Sacroiliac joint mobilisation exercise

 

Great for the mobility of the sacroiliac joints. It can help relieve low back pain, disc herniation, sciatica, trapped nerve, mechanical low back pain, sacroiliac joint or ligaments, hip pain, groin pain, knee pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis.

 

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS EXERCISE

Lay on the back with head supported and place a rolled-up face towel or small massage ball at the very base of the spine, just below the two bony points. Draw the affected leg in towards the chest and with pressure from the hands, gently rock the knee towards and away from you – aim to keep the movement small. Next, rotate the affected hip out, placing the ankle across the top of the unaffected thigh. With gentle pressure applied with the hand to the inside of the knee, gently rock away from you – aim to keep the movement small. Repeat.

 

Split squat exercise for runners

 

This is used to target the glutes, piriformis, hip external rotator muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, obliques, quadratus lumborum, abdominals.

 

HOW TO COMPLETE THIS EXERCISE

Stand with one foot in front of the other, elevated on the back tiptoes and turn the rear leg inwards at the hip. Keep the arms positioned out in front of you. Bend at the front knee and hip, allowing them both to flare outwards, and track the rear knee down towards the floor. Imagine drawing a straight line with the rear knee down towards the floor. Keep the back straight, core engaged and let the front knee glide over the outside of the toes as you do this. Breathe normally throughout the exercise. Reverse the movement to resume start position. Repeat.

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