Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mobility and Why it's important

Sometimes we shouldn't really be lifting weights at the gym. It's gotta be more functional, so here's to why putting mobility workouts in our exercise is important. And, it's easier than you think it is ;)

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So there I was…26 years old with knee problems, and while I could chalk it up to life in the Army I felt that there must be another cause for the pain. So I Google’d it, like any other citizen of the modern age.
I discovered that I spent too much time lifting weights, running, and eating whole cows to realize that I had neglected my body. The fact is that our bodies are designed to operate as a single unit. We are supposed to be able to move freely with ease and definitely without pain. Each muscle, tendon, and nerve, fire, stretch, and relax to allow for even the smallest movements. Our quality of movement is dependent on our body’s ability to perform action within its range of motion.
This brings us to mobility. According to Oxford Dictionaries, mobility is defined as the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. If you have ever had tightness in the muscles when trying to accomplish simple tasks or soreness in the joints for no reason at all, it could be from a lack of mobility. It is important to mention that mobility is not the same as flexibility. Mobility is the freedom with which a joint moves efficiently through its range of motion under specific conditions, for example in a squat. Flexibility speaks to the range of motion of a joint in general. While a flexible person may have enough range of motion to perform certain movements they may not possess the balance, coordination, or strength to do them. Just because a person is flexible enough to touch their toes doesn’t mean the can accurately complete more complex movements with strength and balance.
When your body lacks mobility it may compensate in other areas. For example, if you lack mobility in your ankles your knees and hips have to compensate when you squat or lunge. Tasks like picking something up off the floor or going up the stairs require mobility in the ankles. If you don’t have it, the task is more difficult and can be taxing on the body.
It is in our best interest to add mobility training to our daily regimen and weekly workouts. It assists the body in performing as one by strengthening it through a series of movements. A good mobility regimen consists of foam rolling, mobility drills, and potentially some stretching. Below I have listed some guidance and inspiration for developing your own mobility program.
The first task you should consider performing is foam rolling. It is a self massage activity which helps to loosen the muscle and relieve some of the tightness. Be advised, it may hurt but it feels awesome soon afterward. This is key to mobility as I’m pretty sure we can all attest to the fact that a stiff back does not move easily and freely. An example of a foam roll stretch would be the Foam Roller Gastrocnemius (Calf) Stretch. With this particular stretch you position you calf on the Foam Roller and place the opposite leg on top. Then starting from the back of the ankle you roll the foam roller up to the top of the calf (below the back of the knee). You want to keep both legs off the ground and ensure you stabilize your position with your hands. The goal here is to release tension in the muscle. There are plenty of other exercises for foam rolling in the Fitness Buddy app.
Mobility Drills are exercises that promote mobility by taking the muscles, tendons, and joints through the full range of motion with the intent to increase efficiency and quality of motion. Mobility exercises may also cause you to learn to adjust for balance or coordinate your movement with other muscle groups. One example of this would be wall slides. Wall slides improve the mobility of the shoulders. To perform wall slides you stand with your back against a wall. You place both of your hands and wrists on the wall behind you. You want your arms positioned as if you are about to perform a military press. Next, you slide your hands up the wall gently pressing into the wall with your forearms. Perform the movement slowly and with control. Only go as high as you can comfortably go, range of motion will increase the more you perform them. If you are looking for more mobility drills simply do a web search as there are many other examples including deep squats and yoga pushups.
Stretching is also key since flexibility is a contributing factor to mobility. Stretching prepares the muscles and loosens them up. A good time to stretch is after your body is warm. One stretch that is very beneficial after a workout is a Lunge Stretch or Kneeling Split Squat Stretch. This stretch is for the quadriceps (thighs) and is great after a run or leg workout.
You begin by kneeling on the ground and stepping forward with one foot until your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Your hind knee will remain on the ground and your back will be straight. Next, you will lean forward while keeping your back straight and your back knee should remain in contact with the ground. You will hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds.
Implement some mobility training in your daily routine. It is one of the best things you can do for your body.
Disclaimer: The medical information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any pain or injuries.
Anthony Fowler is a certified Army Master Fitness Trainer who has been a fitness and nutrition enthusiast since he was 19. He has tried everything from Kefir to Tribulus in his quest to gain muscle mass and maintain a healthy lifestyle. He is a husband and father of three, and aspiring chef who enjoys lifting heavy weights, cooking healthy meals, and sharing his knowledge and experiences with anyone who will listen.
Main Photo Credit: Dudarev Mikhail/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Syda Productions/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: GaudiLab/shutterstock.com

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