How Mobile Are You?

Amidst all the workouts leading up to the (gradual) arrival of summer, when was the last time you dedicated daily chunks of your training time to mobility work? We constantly find ourselves obsessing over new workout regimes, the latest athleisure line or the body-specific goals we’ve set for ourselves — but what about showing that same obsession to the way in which our body moves? Is it really responsible to keep loading added weight onto our sets, increasing the miles we run, or ramping up the number of spin classes we attend each week if our movement patterns are limited or compromised?

The answer is, quite frankly, no.

When it comes to your physical health and longevity, mobility is paramount. As human beings, our bodies were built to move and operate freely as a single, functional unit without pain. This translates to our quality of movement, which can be observed in something as simple as walking, to squatting with a barbell on our back or performing a sport.

Not to be confused with flexibility, mobility indicates the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. Feelings of tightness or soreness in joints while trying to accomplish a simple task or movement pattern, is likely due to a lack of mobility. Being flexible, however, relates directly to a person’s range of motion within specific movements. Basically, being able to drop down into the splits with ease, doesn’t necessarily mean that person can accurately complete more complex movements with strength and balance (this is where mobility comes into play).

Ideally, you should invest a period of time (even just 5-10 minutes) before and/or after training to focus on improving mobility. These can include lying hip rotations, piriformis stretching, kneeling lunge, hip circles, shoulder dislocations and more. Think of this as your time to get into your body and see where you’re at, and where you would like to move better. There is power in movement, after all, and putting in some dedicated daily work now could save you thousands in rehabilitation/corrective costs later. Here’s why:

1. Decreased Risk of Injury:

Being mobile is not only a crucial aspect of being fit or otherwise healthy, but directly contributes to the way in which our body thrives (or degenerates) over time. Not to mention, if you’re unable to move a specific joint freely through its entire range of motion, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of injury (even without adding weights into the mix).

How often do we find ourselves clenching our teeth through a movement that hurts our body in some way, chalking up to a ‘tweaked’ knee or joint, or lamenting “yeah my hip flexors are always tight”. We ask a lot from our bodies, which means we shouldn’t downplay the physical challenges we experience — rather, we should address and actively remedy them.

2. Joint Health

While working on mobility, you are effectively warming up the joint you are focusing on. This means that blood is being moved to the surrounding tissues and fluid is shuttled into the working joint. Basically, this helps to ‘lubricate’ movements. Blood is then transported to the muscles working to move that joint and helps prepare your body for exercise and functional movement.

3. Become Stronger

We all love feeling strong. The satisfaction of hitting a new PR, or achieving a new strength movement, can be unrivalled as far as training reward goes. However, if we are performing compound movements under load (such as a back squat or deadlift) with compromised form and range of motion, we are missing much of the benefit. What’s a new squat PR if we are never even getting to the bottom fourth of that movement (below parallel)? If our full range of motion is limited (with or without weights), we cannot strengthen all parts of the movement. Basically, we’re cheating ourselves. Take the time to address form and mobility first, and then work towards building strength knowing that you are cashing in on the full reward of that movement.

After all, the more time we dedicate to addressing and improving our mobility, the better we can expect our bodies to perform both in the gym, and outside of it.