The ability to move your joints through a complete range of motion is essential to maintaining health as we age. A mobile body is less likely to suffer a fall or experience muscular pain when lifting the arms above the head. But increasing mobility isn’t just about age-proofing. The more mobile you are, the greater your ability will be to perform physically, whether it’s on the sports field or in everyday life.
- What is Mobility?
- Benefits of Being More Mobile
- Stretching Exercises
- Mobility Drill
- Strength Training Exercise
- Wrap up
What is Mobility?
Mobility is strength through the full range of motion of a joint. Unlike flexibility, it relies on the muscle alone to produce the range of movement. So, a flexible person may be able to raise his straightened leg quite high with the assistance of their arm. A mobile person, however, will be able to manipulate their leg or other muscles without any help at all. In other words, they will have neurological control of the movement.
Many people who focus exclusively on strength training are strong through a limited range of a muscle’s motion. Others are very mobile in parts of the body but not in others. We can think of cyclists with well-developed and mobile legs but poor development and mobility in the upper body.
Total fitness requires balanced mobility throughout the whole body. Exercising a muscle through its full range of motion is an important aspect of developing mobility. So, too, is the interconnecting web of tissue within the muscle fiber that is called fascia.
Improving your mobility doesn’t require a dedicated daily focused exercise routine. It is more beneficial to engage in small stimulus inputs over the day to enhance mobility. You should also build mobility drills into your existing workout program.
Benefits of Being More Mobile
When you establish a base of mobility, you can build strength and realize your potential in any exercise or sporting pursuit that you put your mind to. In fact, mobility underpins all of the benefits of strength training that were detailed previously. If you are lacking in mobility, you will struggle to perform very beneficial strength training exercises. It makes sense, then, to follow a mobility enhancement routine in tandem with your strength training.
Lack of mobility is a major contributor to falls in the elderly. Combine this with loss of muscular strength and flexibility and it’s not hard to understand why falls have become the leading cause of traumatic death over the age of 65 in the United States. Yet, the combination of mobility and strength training will dramatically offset the lack of mobility and subsequent balance problems that many people think are part and parcel of getting older. Using a foam roller can also enhance mobility and bring relief for muscle soreness.
Dynamic stretching involves moving your muscles through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretches often simulate the resistance moves that are part of the workout to come, such as doing bodyweight squats or lunges.
Here is a 4 move dynamic stretching routine that will enhance your mobility ahead of your workout.
Bodyweight Squats x 10
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended out in front of you. Maintain a neutral spine, then hinge from the hips to lower down into a parallel squat position. Push through the heels to return to the start position. You can also add alternate high knees or mini kicks as a good modification.
Overhead Twisting Reverse Lunge x 5 (each side)
From the same starting position, take a large step backward with your left leg and drop down into a lunge position. Now, keeping your arms straight overhead, twist to the right to bring your torso perpendicular to your lower body. Push back through the right thigh to return to the start position.
Superman x 10
Lie face down on an exercise mat with your body in an arched position so that your arms and feet are extended off the ground in a dish shape. Now arch up to full extension to bring your arms and feet up as high as possible. Lower and repeat.
Arm Circles x 20
Stand with your arms hanging at your sides. Now rotate from the shoulder joint to move your arms in wide circles at the sides of your body. Keep the elbows locked and concentrate on achieving a 360-degree range of motion.
Follow up your dynamic stretching with a simple mobility drill ahead of your workout. Perform 3 or 4 yoga stretch exercises such as the Cat-Cow, Lying Can Opener, and Dynamic Crucifix, holding each move for 10 reps.
Strength Training Exercise
When done properly, strength training will significantly improve your mobility. Doing strength training properly involves moving through the full range of motion of an exercise and selecting exercises that are biomechanically aligned with the working muscle group.
A full range of exercise motion involves moving slowly from full muscular extension to full contraction. Many people move too fast when performing their reps and move through a partial range of motion. Slowing down and aiming for a full stretch and contraction through the muscle will enhance your mobility.
The exercise that you select should have you moving in the same direction as the muscle fibers. For example, the latissimus dorsi muscles originate on the mid spine and move up at a 45-degree angle to attach to the top of the humerus (upper arm bone). The ideal exercises for both muscular development and mobility will replicate this direction but coming from up and out down toad the hip.
If you can do so, having an early morning workout will enhance your mobility throughout the day.
Improving your mobility will boost your functionality now and help you to be more agile and able as you age. Improving your mobility doesn’t take a lot of time. Simply precede your strength training workout with dynamic stretches and a mobility drill. Then, when you’re on the gym floor, choose exercises that follow the muscle fibers, and be sure to use a full range of motion on every rep you perform.