What is Mobility and Why Should You Do It?
Maybe you’ve heard the term “Mobility” before in context to exercise, and maybe you haven’t. It seems to be gaining more popularity outside of the fitness world recently. So what is it? In relation to exercise the definition from Google is “the ability to move or be moved freely and easily”. Specifically, joint mobility is the range of uninhibited movement around a joint or body segment.
Mobility exercises are a wide range of common exercises, stretches, foam rolling, etc. The goal is to increase your range of motion and stabilization. Joint stabilization is the ability to maintain control joint movement or position. The goal being to have better control of the movements around your joints. It’s similar to the concept of flexibility but dives deeper than your typical yoga class.
Without proper mobility and stability, you will see issues like poor posture, improper technique and unnatural joint movements that may lead to overtaxing muscles and increase your chance of injury.
Why Mobility Work is So Important
I started being interested in mobility exercises while searching for an answer to a hip injury. Somewhere deep in the back of my mind I knew that working on my range of motion and flexibility was important but I didn’t realize just how crucial it was until after I was injured.
If you’ve never had a soft tissue injury that stops you from participating in your favorite sport, let me tell you right now just how much it sucks. From learning this the hard way, I don’t skip warm ups, cool downs, stretching or mobility. In fact, I tend to spend more time on mobility work then actual workouts on a typical day.
In order to prevent injury, and to improve your form and function in your outdoor activities, you definitely want to take a look at where you may have imbalances or weaknesses and use some mobility exercises to strengthen and correct imbalances.
For example, I have tight hip flexors because I sit at a desk way too much. This is what lead to my hip flexor injury in the first place. My pelvic tilt caused my hips flexors and quadriceps to shorten. That combined with hunching over at my desk all day caused my shoulders to round and put stress on my spine causing my core to weaken.
They say hindsight is 20/20 right? I didn’t understand all of this back when I was just getting up off the couch and running long distances. I thought that I was physically fit and of course I wouldn’t get injured because I was “in shape.”
Fast forward to learning about injury prevention through mobility. First, I learned from my physical therapist that I need to strengthen my glutes and my core to take on their share of the work while running or jumping.
Next, I started following this crossfit guru named Kelly Starrett who is the king of mobility work. I began using a foam roller and a supernova ball to work out the tender areas of my hips, quads, glutes and back. Then I began learning exercises and stretches specifically for hip issues. I bought Kelly’s book Deskbound: Standing Up in a Sitting World - full of these types of exercises for all of the common problems we have from sitting at a desk.
The combination of strength training and mobility/flexibility work fixed my hip injury. But that doesn’t mean I’m done, this injury can come back or another can pop up if I don’t stay consistent on preventing it. I also am grateful that my boss bought us all standing desks at the office. Now I do a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day which prevents the shortening of my hip flexors.
How to Get Started
If you’re new to this kind of work, you will want to figure out if you have any imbalances and where they are. There are a lot of resources online for this, or you can meet with a personal trainer at a local gym to perform an assessment for you.
Some of these you can do at home and I highly recommend recording yourself, rather than in front of a mirror. The top 5 assessments you may want to try are the Bend and Lift Screen, Shoulder Push Stabilization, Thoracic Spine Mobility Screen, Thomas Test for hip flexion/quad length, and McGill’s Torso Muscular Endurance Test.
Once you find out where you have issues, you can start to focus your mobility work in those areas. If you’re interested in starting a mobility routine and are looking for exercises to help with a certain problem area, don’t hesitate to reach out! Use the contact form above or find me on Facebook or Instagram and send me a message. I’d love to help you get a routine going!