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Mobility Improvement ..... WHAT, WHY, HOW?


This seems to be a new buzz word in the fitness industry. Everywhere I go on social media I am seeing posts about doing more mobility work. The funny thing is that since the start of Pilates and Yoga, mobility training has been a big part of the practice. Having said that, it is awesome that this topic is getting more air and that more people are starting to understand how important mobility is. So, what is it? Why do I need to do it? And how do I do it? Well, these three questions are going to be answered right now.


WHAT IS MOBILITY TRAINING?

These are the exercises that we incorporate into our workouts to ensure we get improved mobility. Meaning, better range of movement, flexibility and strength around joints. This includes stretching, but also strengthening exercises. Think of it this way. You might have knees that can bend the full range, but if you don't have the strength around your knees, you won't be able to bend down as low as you would like to. The same is true if you have the strength but not the flexibility, you still won't be able to bend down comfortably.


WHY SHOULD I DO IT?

Here are the main reasons why mobility exercises should be included in your routines.

'If you Don't Use It, You Will Lose It'

The fact is that if you don't move in a way that uses your full range of motion, your brain thinks that you don't need as much movement through your joints and muscles, resulting in your body getting tight in those areas. This limits your freedom and comfort of movement. Think about when you were in kindergarten, how easily you could get down onto the floor to sit, how you could sit there crossed legged and then get up off the floor easily. Now days it might not feel as easy. Now you can say it is because of your age, but the reality is that there are people older than you who can still do these things. It is because they continued to practice full range of motion. Now don't be discouraged, you can still get your range of motion back, so keep reading.


Pain Reduction

Tight bodies are more often than not, sore bodies. Interestingly enough, the pain that is felt isn't always where the problem is. As an example, you might have a pain in your lower back without realizing that the cause of that pain is a tight hip flexor from too much sitting. I use this example because it is such a common one. Modern day living means that we drive everywhere, work behind desks, go to restaurants and sit for hours, sit on the sofa watching TV and on vacation sit on the beach to soak up the sun. Our bodies are not moving as much as they were designed to and with that comes pain. Regular mobility training is a way to counterbalance all that sitting and ensure that your body is in the best situation to combat tightness.


Protection & Recovery

If you are somebody who is active, but not somebody who works on mobility, your joints actually are at higher risk of injury because in that moment of injury the joint feels pain sooner than if you have great range of motion. Think of rolling your ankle, if you have low range of movement, the ankle doesn't need to roll far to feel pain. Yet if you have a big range of motion, there is a longer way to roll the ankle before the injury occurs. You may even be able to stop the roll before your ankle goes over too far, preventing the injury. In addition to this, when we have good mobility, our recovery from injury is much faster.

'Quality of Life'

To explain this, I would like to share with you what my number one life goal is. My most important life goal is to be a great grandmother one day, still able to communicate and play with my expanding family. I want to be strong in my mind and body, so that I can move freely and without fear of a bad fall (the most common fear in the older generations). My dream goes on but for this blog, this explains enough. Now this may sound like an impossible fairytale to some of you, but I have seen it be true for many people. One lady in particular springs to mind. I only met her a few times when I was a child, but even at the young age of 10 I could see she was different. She wasn't like the other older ladies I had met in my short life. She worked the farm and went hiking regularly; she was very able bodied and sharp minded which I found so inspiring. I remember thinking that I was going to grow up to be like her one day. She must have passed in her late 80s and it was only a few years before her passing that she stopped hiking. Now for this dream to come true, mobility isn't the only answer, but it is one of the answers. You see when we work on our mobility, our bodies don't tighten up and create pain. It means we can move more freely. It also means that we learn to improve our posture which in turn is one of the reasons our balance improves. Quality of life to me means freedom of movement and pain, so mobility plays a big part of my dream. Do you have a similar dream for yourself?

Improvements in Your Fitness Journey

If you are lifting weights with a small range of motion, you don't get the best out of each rep. Therefore, just by increasing your range of motion, you are actually progressing your workout without adding more reps or picking up a heavier weight. You will also find that by improving your range of motion, it helps you overcome a plateau in your fitness goals.


HOW DO I DO IT?

Start by testing out your current mobility.

In all these 'tests' you are just looking to see what your range of motion is. Is the range less than what you could do as a child? I know you are saying 'well obviously!' but my range of motion is better now than it was when I was a child, so it isn't an age thing. Have an open mind, do these tests and just note where you are feeling the tightness.


Shoulders:

Stand with your back against the wall and keep your spine glued to it. Now lift your straight arms directly over your head to try and touch the wall. Don't let your back arch.


Chest:

Hold your hands behind your back and reach your hands down and away from your body. Lift your eyeline to the sky. You will feel a lovely stretch in your chest but if you struggle to reach your hands, your chest muscles have shortened normally due to bad posture (rounded shoulders).


Lower Back:

Sitting in a chair, sit tall and use your Right hand on your Left knee to help rotate your shoulders and take your eyeline behind you.


Knees:

Hold onto a chair / wall / table and grab your foot behind you, pulling it up towards your bottom. You might find that if you cannot get your foot to connect to your bottom that it might be a tight quad (thigh muscle) but another reason could be that your knees don't bend as much. We are testing the knees here.


Hips:

Sit on the floor with the souls of your feet together and your knees open (butterfly or cobblers pose). If your shoulders are directly over your hips and your knees can relax open without pain, then your hips have good range of motion.


WHAT NOW?

If you found the exercises above really difficult, then these exercises are your starting point. Working on each of these areas as described. It is always best to stretch with a warm body, so have a warm shower or bath then do each of those exercises. Another wonderful option for improving range of motion is getting into a pool and either doing an aqua aerobics class or swimming (with big, long strokes). Lastly, you can also follow this free video for a few more stretches to do at home. FREE Stretches for Office Workers


If the tests were a little challenging but not too difficult that you can't try something harder, then try out this 30 Mins Mat Pilates class with an optional resistance band. Pilates teaches good posture and working to full range of motion. Using the resistance band help in strengthening the body to support your joints more effectively.

Mat Pilates with OPTIONAL Resistance Band


If those tests were super easy, then - CLICK HERE - to access my latest post on Instagram with some challenging mobility exercises. These exercises were all from the Tabata class last week where one out of the 5 rounds of exercises, is dedicated to mobility.


Did you learn anything interesting in this blog? If you did, please help share the knowledge by sending it to a friend who will find it interesting.


I look forward to seeing you in class. Much love always, Amanda xoxo