Often used in the same context as stretching, yoga, and warming up, mobility is the foundation of all gym workout.
We believe that mobility is notoriously underrated. Because everyone needs mobility. From toddlers, to athletes, to the older generation. Without it, we’ll struggle to move properly, let alone progress with fitness.
Better explore what it is and why we need it, then.
What is mobility?
In a sentence, mobility is the range of motion you have in a joint. Not to be confused with strength or flexibility, mobility allows you to perform movements in their full range without pain or discomfort.
Good mobility means the health and fluidity at a joint. It’s an essential requirement for movement, meaning it affects everyone regardless of age or exercise ability.
For those who exercise more often, it becomes even more essential to everyday routines.
Why do you need mobility in exercise?
Mobility describes the health of joints. Flexibility describes the length of muscles.
They go hand in hand, and one often affects the other, but being mobile means having an extensive range of motion within your joints and being flexible means being able to lengthen your muscles to a greater degree.
It’s as simple as it sounds. You need mobility to stay mobile. In your youth, this lets you perform all your workouts and sport exercises with the right form. In your old age, you will need your mobility to lift yourself out of your seat to make yourself a cup of tea. It’s basic body maintenance that we often neglect. Pretty important stuff.
When looking to develop fitness and train in the gym, especially for those who resistance train, mobility takes on greater importance. A full range of motion within a joint allows you to perform an exercise with the correct form and effectively engage the right muscles.
Think about your squat. Getting deeper in a squat requires mobility in the hip and knee joints. Maybe even the ankle joints too. The deeper your squat, the more effective it is for developing your muscle strength.
Reduced mobility can mean we take compensating movements or ‘short-cuts’, which puts us at risk of injury and structural imbalances. Mobility, as well as flexibility, is needed for healthy muscular and skeletal function.
Who should focus on mobility?
This is a slightly silly question because we all do. But specific populations are more at risk from mobility issues, so they should probably spend more attention on it.
As you get older, your joint health decreases. You struggle to maintain full mobility in the joints. This leads to, you guessed it, being less mobile. Training your mobility and keeping active in your youth is the best way to avoid complications in later life.
There are also some sports and exercises that require mobility training in the background. Endurance activities like running and cycling are repetitive movements, meaning your joints and muscles are moving through the same, often limited, range of motion over and over again.
It’s essential to spend time on top of your regular training to maintain your full range of motion that these types of activities don’t often allow.
How can you improve your mobility?
Practising and increasing mobility doesn’t require a lengthy and intense session. And it’s not like we’ve all got extra time to spare in the gym.
To test and focus on mobility, you need to practice using the full range of motion in each joint. Any exercise you do that uses joint motion is practising mobility. So, this includes all your gym exercises like deadlifts and shoulder presses. Sometimes, it’s important to slow it down and do some gentler movements that help you test and focus on your range of motion. Here are some examples to help get you started:
For the hips:
This is actually named ‘the world’s greatest stretch’ and with good reason. From a plank position, lunge forward with the right leg and step the foot between your hands. Lift the right hand from the floor and rotate to the right, turning your head and torso and extending your arm up towards the sky. Repeat on the left.
For the spine:
Starting on all fours, arch your back towards the sky and let your head and neck drop in-between your shoulders. Then, invert your arch, bringing your belly button towards the floor and lift your head up and back.
Start of all fours, with your palms flat on the floor underneath your shoulders. Your knees and shins should also be on the floor at hip-width apart. Place your right hand to your temple, bending at the elbow. Rotate your spine to the right so that your elbow moves to point towards the ceiling. Slowly lower back down and repeat. When you’re ready, do the same on the other side.
For the shoulders:
Rotate your shoulders in small circles from up near your ears around and back.
Rotate your shoulders by outstretching your arms and creating big circles by your side. Make sure to go both ways.
For the ankles:
Rise up on your tiptoes, straightening your foot. Bring your heels back down to the floor and let your toes rise towards your shins. Let the movements lift you up and down.
For the neck:
Half neck circles
Let your chin drop towards your head and roll your neck in a circular motion round.
When should you practice mobility?
Mobility practice can be done every day. Our five-minute mobility sequence is perfect for any time of day.
Mobility training is also is perfect for an active rest day activity. Spending 30 minutes doing some mobility work and developmental stretches are exactly what your body needs after a week of gym work.
Alternatively, your warm-up is a good time to practice your mobility. You’ll be getting your joints ready for the exercise you’re about to do and easing them into it slowly.
Make sure you’re testing your mobility in the joints you use often. The shoulders and hips will be high up on that list. But don’t neglect your knees, ankles, spine, and neck too.