Mobility is something we learn about from the time we’re in elementary school. Gym teachers would have us bend at the waist and reach for the floor, stretch our calves and triceps. We were told this would keep us flexible. Some of us were able to stay flexible, some of us weren’t.
More recently, stretching means foam rolling and stretching, following stuff we found on Youtube, then jumping into a workout. The next time we hit the gym, we follow the same routine.
What does mobility mean? Mobility is the ability to control the range of motion at a joint. CONTROL is the key word there. Sometimes a therapist can take your leg and raise it until your foot is facing the ceiling, but if we tried to do that MAYBE we can get half way up. The latter is mobility, how we're able to control or access the range of motion.
This seems geeky but it's important. Mobility is the first step to gaining physical independence or losing it. When we're able to pair mobility techniques with exercises geared towards teaching the body to control the new range of motion we've created, magical things happen.
Check out Coach Mike's tips on what mobility is and how it's created then bring these ideas to your training to live a long, healthy, mobile life!
1) Breath or Tension?
We use 2 different approaches here at RD to help our clients create mobility; breathing based strategies and tension based strategies.
Breathing based strategies would include exercises like crocodile breathing, supine breathing, 90/90 breathing and t-spine rotations. These exercises focus on putting the body in different positions and finding a nutritious diaphragmatic breath. This breath, that deep belly breath you hear about in yoga, relaxes the body and allows us to get deeper into the stretch. Movements like 90/90 breathing or Brettzel address the hips. Crocodile breathing and t-spine rotations generally address the shoulders and mid back.
The other option is a tension based strategy. These are the “not so fun” options, but they are effective in creating mobility as well. Some examples lately would be quad hip rotations with a tennis ball… Tactical frog scapular rotations… and a hip flexor stretch with a mini band. Here, we’re using an external object like the floor, ball or band to create more tension throughout the body and increase the range of motion.
Now, the process does not stop here. Traditionally, after their stretching, people would break into their general workout of treadmill, some light lifting and more cardio. At RD, we make sure we’re doing complementary exercises to teach the body how to control the new range of motion. This links back to our previous episode on the developmental sequence.
By working our way closer to the ground and doing exercises while laying on your back, on all fours, and half kneeling or tall kneeling, you’re taking some burden off of the nervous system and allowing it to acquire the new mobility you earned from stretching.
As long as the exercise you’re doing doesn’t violate your movement profile, over time you will start to feel more mobile and lose, and that 30 minute warm-up can turn into a 10 or 15 minute one.