From visiting different clients and gyms, I know for a fact that many people wonder if they could be squatting deeper with more controlled and stabilized lifts. Or perhaps you’ve woken up in the morning stiff, kind of click-y and thought that surely your workout the day before couldn’t have possibly been THAT crazy?
Think back to your workouts: has the stiffness ever lasted longer than a week…or are you still experiencing stiffness? Unless you’re already dealing with an injury, these are all symptoms of a mobility deficit in the making,
Mobility training is nothing new – if anything, it should be the very first thing we’re taught in P.E. class once weights are introduced.
The difference between exercising with mobility in mind versus exercising with strength in mind can be likened to walking with – as opposed to without – a limp. That is to say, if we don’t pay attention to the signals our body is sending us, it could lead to experiencing prolonged muscle stiffness, decreased recovery time and even injury.
We often confuse mobility with flexibility, and although they are both required to increase strength, they are two completely different aspects of physical function.
Flexibility is a passive function; it is the ability that a muscle body has to increase in length, i.e. stretch. By this token, flexibility can be improved through mobility training; this is due to the muscle being able to reach its full potential because of the body’s ability to move freely and fully.
Mobility is the ability to express the potential of our flexibility; flexibility can be improved simply by effectively implementing a 10- to 15-minute stretching regimen before and/or after you train. Stability and strength are also sacrificed when you are experiencing mobility issues, which can lead to frequent injuries and potential joint and muscle damage.
When you begin to experience a mobility deficit, you will notice that you have reduced stability in your lifts, your range of motion is decreasing and your strength will begin to suffer, which is often followed by injury unless you’re able to catch the decline in physical performance and reverse its effects.
Mobility training is one method of rehabilitating the body; I also recommend taking extreme care of yourself with more rest days, hot & cold therapy, fascial release therapy, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care. All of these methods of personal health care are beneficial for the immediate repair and maintenance of muscle and joint health. Another complimentary tactic is to keep an account of the level of inflammation that your body is experiencing over the course of time, so that you can pinpoint exactly when to start paying extra attention.
I have personally experienced a severe reduction in range of motion and muscle activation in my hips and lower back over the last 2 years. This led me to do a lot of research and exploration with mobility training for myself, as well as for my clients. I’ve since explored several mobility & strength regimens and exercises that I have added to my routines, as well as a 15-minute stretching regimen (twice daily) that has produced significant results in mobility.
Basic mobility is essential for physical function and our overall health; because pain is directly linked to mental health, the improvement of mobility and reduction of pain will therefore positively affect almost every other aspect of your life. It’s this reason that I highly recommend introducing a 10- to 15-minute stretching regimen before and/or after an exercise routine.
This stretching ‘routine’ can include any of the following: dynamic stretching, yoga poses, myofascial release and eccentric activation. All of these tools will ensure that you are fully functional within your natural range of motion and will help ensure that you reduce your risk for injury.
Since I began monitoring my state of flexibility, mobility and strength more accurately I have noticed improvements in the following:
- Increases in strength and improvements in all of my lifts
- The ability to deadlift and squat after a 2-year hiatus (pain-free!)
- An improvement in my physique (symmetry and muscle density)
- Reduced pain
- Increased Mobility, flexibility and range of motion
My clients hear me talk about it constantly, but it’s because I have their best health at heart – I know from my own experiences, education and application that this is a huge factor in wellness, so get stretching!
Wes Van Hart is a personal trainer, nutritionist (and far more), located in Toronto. Wes is an advocate for constantly improving both physical and mental health, and as such, he is dedicated to advancing his knowledge base, certifications and ability to help his clients, no matter how that looks.
Wes was the very first FitIn affiliate, and is a regular contributor to the FitIn blog.