You know that every good workout routine requires a healthy combination of cardio, strength training and, when you’re feeling extra, some high-intensity interval training.
But if you perform exercises from any of these workouts using faulty movement patterns and improper form, injuries are going to happen.
What is mobility?
“Mobility is the ability of a joint to move freely through its full range of motion without pain or compensation,” says Cody Brown, CSCS.
He explains that mobility is something you probably had a lot of as a child — but gradually loses because of things like a 9-to-5 job, muscle compensation and faulty movement patterns — and it’s an indicator of how well and independently you move.
To understand why mobility is so important, think about your shoulder joint.
Shaped like a ball and socket, the shoulder is designed so you can move your arm backwards, forwards, sideways and in circles.
If it moves as it should, the joint enjoys healthy mobility.
However, if certain movements such as transferring your laundry from the washer to the dryer, throwing a ball to your dog, or bringing your upper arm next to your ear are impossible or painful, you may have a lack of shoulder mobility. .
“If you try to raise your arms or press a weight overhead but can’t bring your arms into position, your body will try to compensate by arching your back and shrugging your shoulders, which can cause other problems and injuries,” Brown says. said
A lack of mobility in the shoulder joint may contribute to this fact, according to a published review Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Shoulder injuries account for 36 percent of strength-training injuries.
Another common problem when it comes to mobility (or lack thereof) is the hip.
The muscles that connect the pelvis can become tight for any number of reasons, from cycling to excessive binge watching.
The problem is, when the hip muscles tighten, a chain reaction occurs and surrounding structures can be adversely affected.
A study, published International Journal of Sports Physical TherapyIt has been found that when athletes with tight hamstrings squat, they have decreased muscle activation in their hamstring extensors (like the glutes).
As a result, compensation may occur. “Compensatory movements are inefficient, and often lead to problems or injuries in other parts of the body,” says Brown.
That’s why he says mobility is essential to our overall quality of life, especially as we age.
Because our ability to move without restriction or pain means we can do everyday activities comfortably.
Mobility vs Flexibility: What’s the Difference?
Although, colloquially, “mobility” and “flexibility” may seem similar, they are not actually synonymous.
Simply put, mobility refers to the mobility of a joint, while flexibility refers to the elasticity of a muscle.
“There is some overlap, because they both influence each other,” Brown says. “For example, if the muscles are tight (rigidity), you won’t be able to take the joint through a full range of motion (immobility). On the other hand, if your body recognizes that you don’t have the ability or strength to stabilize a joint at its end range of motion, then your body will flex. Reducing will limit that movement.”
To be clear, you can be flexible but not have overall mobility, and you can be mobile without being particularly flexible.
In general, flexibility falls under the larger umbrella of mobility, and you should emphasize both for optimal health and performance.
How can you improve joint mobility?
Stretching and foam rolling form part of the mobility equation, but they don’t solve everything.
Interestingly, research shows that strength training — especially the eccentric, or lengthening, phase of a movement under load — is actually a great way to improve flexibility and mobility.
Actually, one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy In a study of young athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises increased their flexibility twice as much as those who did static (bend-and-hold) stretches.
The key to improving mobility through strength training is to go through your full range of motion with control during each rep, Brown says.
With practice, that range of motion will expand.
He explains that strength-training exercises can help correct muscle imbalances and strengthen the muscles needed to help move their associated joints properly.
Strength training can include yoga, bodyweight moves like push-ups, and home exercises with dumbbells and resistance bands.
Benefits of mobility training
Mobility is often an overlooked component of fitness, but with all these benefits it’s hard to understand why.
1. Reduced risk of injury
When each joint can go through a healthy range of motion you are able to exercise safely and with proper form.
2. Improved performance
When your body works as designed, it’s not only safer, it works more efficiently. It eliminates “leaks” of wasted energy, allowing you to do more, better.
3. Better fitness results
Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, or increased endurance, improved performance yields better results.
4. Less pain
Whether you’re working out or doing everyday tasks, healthy mobility reduces wear and tear on joints, as well as any muscle compensation that can lead to overuse pain and injury.
5. Improved quality of life
Mobility is paramount for carrying out daily tasks such as carrying groceries, playing with your children, and climbing stairs.
By improving daily performance as well as reducing any pain associated with it, mobility helps you live your life to the fullest.