The Importance of Mobility
Athletes, bodybuilders, and casual fitness enthusiasts typically love training, or at least love certain parts of it, and have no problem getting in the gym or heading outdoors to put the work in to help them along their fitness journey. However, an often neglected, but crucial, part of the training often gets missed, or at least skimmed-over, and that is mobility training.
Mobility truly is the key that unlocks our physical potential, because being strong alone isn’t enough. In order to get the most out of our bodies, we need to incorporate mobility drills and stretching into our daily routine to avoid injury, to be able to get our bodies into the desired positions required during sports or everyday life, and to make the most of our strength training.
Mobility work and flexibility is something I have often put on the back-burner, and I have paid the price more than once for this mistake. It has become a more important part of my weekly fitness routine, and I can certainly benefit from incorporating even further.
As I am no expert in the field, I often seek out the help of qualified individuals to help steer me in the right direction. Below, you will read some great advice in an article written by Jenny Lee, Registered Physiotherapist, who owns and operates her own physiotherapist practice providing in-home care physiotherapy and rehabilitation services through In-home Therapeutics. Jenny highlights some basic mobility exercises you can start today to keep you healthy and mobile, whether you’re a casual or serious athlete, or you simply want to continue being able to do the things you do on a daily basis with less risk of injury. Make sure to check out her website here!
The Importance of Mobility
We have all heard the common advice from health professionals to “stay mobile”. But, why exactly is this important? The most obvious answer is that you must stay mobile in order to move appropriately to perform a desired task, whether for sport or for basic daily activity. But perhaps one of the more important questions is not “why do I need to be mobile”, but instead, “what will happen if I am not?”.
Mobility, or the ability to move a joint, often follows the “use it or lose it” policy. If you do not move your body into certain positions, it may lose the ability to move in that position when required. As a result, it is possible to physically lose the capability of performing certain actions, such as lifting a weight in a certain direction, or even squatting down to the floor. This lack of mobility can also lead to injuries and persistent pain. A joint or muscle must move through a certain range of motion to distribute force throughout the body segment. An inability to distribute this force can result in too much pressure on certain structures, leading to pain. Furthermore, if a movement cannot come from one plane of movement, it will be made up for in another. This can cause compensation issues and problematic movement patterns. Lastly, if a joint cannot move the required amount in order to adapt to trauma, it can become damaged. Imagine stretching a rubber band. The more elastic the band is, the more it can stretch. A taught band will only allow a small amount of stretch before it breaks. Loosen the band and it will stretch further before it becomes damaged.
Below are a few exercises that target some of the main muscles groups that are often involved in general immobility. It is ideal to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 3-4 times a day. Think of stretching as a spectrum. If a stretch is ever painful, ease off slightly.
This stretch focuses on hip rotation. All day, we sit and stand, working our hips through one plane of motion: back and forth. As a result, we often neglect the rotational component to our hips. The figure 4 stretch pictured above stretches the hips into external rotation.
On the opposite spectrum, the “knee to opposite shoulder” stretch is a gentle stretch that targets the lateral aspects of the hip, and stretches the hip into slight internal rotation. It also subtly helps with pelvic mobility by bringing the pelvis into a slight backwards rotation.
The Arm Roll
The Glenohumeral joint, or main join in your shoulder, is a multidirectional joint. As such, it is important to keep it mobile in all of its directions. The above pictures show one stretch that stretches the arm at end range. It can be performed several ways, each way targeting a different plane of motion.
Wrist Flexor and Extensor Stretch
Though this stretch targets much smaller muscles than the previous stretches, it is still a critical component of mobility. Whether you are constantly lifting weights, dangling a hockey stick, writing with a pencil, or typing on a keyboard, the muscles of the wrist and forearm pass multiple joints that can be negatively affected if they are tight.
There are many exercises that can make up a good mobility program. It is important to think about what movements are essential to your daily life and cater your exercises accordingly. We often do not realize the restraints present in our body until we test them. I encourage you to slowly experiment with your range of motion and take note of what feels restricted. Do not hesitate to reach out to a professional, such as a physiotherapist, for help.
For information on mobility or for a program that is specific to your needs, check out In-home Therapeutics today.
Written by Jenny Lee, Registered Physiotherapist