Mobility Exercises: The Fitness Weapon You Need
For someone who wants to build strength and muscle, resistance training is where it’s at. For fitness and endurance, cardio and HIIT workouts can make a difference. If you just want to find the fun in fitness and feel more confident (aka all of us), choosing a training style that makes YOU feel good is essential.
But something we often overlook that can make a world of difference to your progress towards ALL fitness goals is your mobility. Without good mobility, you run the risk of recruiting the wrong muscles, feeling stiff during workouts, seeing slow strength gains (or strength gains in the wrong areas), and increasing your chance of pain or injury. No, thank you!
What is mobility? How is it different from flexibility?
While mobility and flexibility are related, they’re not the same thing. Flexibility is one component of mobility and refers to the ability of a muscle to be lengthened.
Many people liken the flexibility of a muscle to a rubber band. When stretched, it will lengthen. A more flexible rubber band will stretch more, just like a more flexible muscle. But having good flexibility in your muscles doesn’t necessarily mean you have good mobility.
When we talk about mobility, we’re talking about the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion with ease and control. You could have flexible muscles, but if your joints are stiff and won’t allow you to move, it’s not going to mean much!
Good mobility is a combination of flexibility, control, strength and range of motion. Testing squat depth is a great example. Someone with good mobility will be able to squat with control and get into a deep position, breaking parallel with their thighs while still maintaining upright posture and an engaged core. With poor mobility, you might only be able to get into a quarter squat position before you feel stiffness or start to compromise your form.
Why is mobility important?
Improved mobility can lead to better form and range of motion during your workouts, and engaging and strengthening the correct muscles will help you avoid any compensation or muscle imbalance, reducing your risk of pain and injury. Better mobility can also help with improving your technique, performance and results.
If we continue with the squat example, good mobility isn’t just about better depth and posture, it’s also about long-term results. Without good mobility, your body may start to compensate by recruiting smaller muscles or compromising your form. Your heels might lift, your knees might turn inwards, or you might push through your knees and rely on your quads rather than your glutes.
Suddenly, you’re wondering why your knees or back are hurting and you’re not seeing any strength or muscle gains. Unfortunately, most people don’t realise they have poor mobility (or think working on mobility isn’t necessary) until it’s too late and they’re in pain or injured.
Want to keep progressing, seeing results and avoiding injury (not to mention being able to move freely as you age)? Start prioritising your mobility today!
How can you make mobility exercises part of your routine?
Luckily, working on your mobility doesn’t need a heap of time or any fancy equipment. A good mobility routine will include three things:
- Self myo-fascial techniques (like foam rolling) to release muscle tension.
- Dynamic mobility drills as part of your warm up to practice moving joints through a full range of motion.
- Static stretching to increase flexibility.
Dynamic drills and stretching should be performed after you’ve warmed up and increased your blood flow. This will ensure the muscle tissues are more supple and allow better movement, during your drills AND your workout. In the Sweat app, you can select the in-app warm up which includes mobility drills to match your workout.
“It’s important that you’re including some mobility work into your training schedule,” says Sweat Trainer Cass Olholm, especially if you’re doing a program with heavy lifting or high-intensity workouts.
“An easy way to do this is by adding mobility exercises and movements into your warm-up routine. Alternatively, at least one dedicated mobility session a week where you can perform these movements for longer would be optimal.”
Working on your mobility is especially important if you spend a lot of time sitting during the day, which can lead to inactive muscles, the rounding of your shoulders and back, stiff joints, and shortened or tight hip flexors. If you’re feeling stiff during any movements, pay attention to the areas of tightness and focus on those.
Mobility focus areas
- Hips and glutes: If your hip flexors are tight, they will put the brakes on primary movements like squats and lunges. This will prevent you from getting the most out of your workouts and building your strength.
- Feet and ankles: For most movements, your feet are the primary point of contact with the floor and carry the weight, too. Poor mobility in your feet and ankles can mean compromising your form or cause issues in your knees and hips. Along with warming up your feet and ankles, using a golf ball as a foam roller for your feet can help!
- Thoracic mobility (spine): This is essential for good form and upper body movement. A lot of back and shoulder issues are a result of limited spine mobility.
- Shoulder mobility: This is key for several reaching movements, such as shoulder press, supermans, lat pull-downs and pull-ups.
- Wrist mobility: Key for lifting, gripping and pushing movements where your wrists flex, including push-ups, holding a barbell, front squats and mountain climbers.
Here are some of Cass Olholm’s favourite mobility exercise routines to get you moving!
Do you make time for mobility exercises? Perhaps you’re going to start now you know more about it! Let us know in the comments.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.