The Importance of Mobility and Flexibility
Stuck in a plateau and cannot increase the weight of your lifts? Suffering from poor posture or frequently experience injuries? If you have ruled out other possibilities, you may find that the most likely culprit is your mobility, or lack of it that is the problem.
An often overlooked and neglected aspect of a well-constructed training programme is mobility work. It is not particularly enjoyable, it does not offer ‘the pump’, nor will it provide any instant tangible results. But being more functional and flexible are imperative to progression and here is why.
The body always seeks the path of least resistance. In this way, it finds a way to re-align, and becomes fixed in undesired positions and unnatural movement patterns. In essence, the body knows it’s not strong enough to support itself in the desired position and tightens up to prevent extension. The ultimate aim of mobility work can therefore be defined: providing the body with the strength it needs to support itself at extension.
The essential goal to any fitness programme should always be on progression and development. To improve can take on many forms; whether this be on improving aesthetics, strength or posture, mobility plays an imperative role. Take the Deadlift as a perfect example. Hailed as one of the greatest exercises for overall development, this compound multi-movement exercise requires a synergistic balance between the bodies’ anatomy and bio-mechanics. The ability to recruit the spine, hips, knees and core effectively primes the bar in the correct position and enforces the correct muscles to lift the weight and do the work. Throw this off, even by a small margin, and the lift takes on an entire new dynamic. This will often be the difference between a weak and uninspiring lift with poor form that risks injury and a challenging progressive set that promotes anabolism. How often do you see the ‘rounded back deadlifter’ pulling heavier than his mobility can handle. But this is not just isolated to the deadlift; this can also be applied to the other ‘major’ lifts such as the Squat (squatting deep) and Overhead Press.
Whilst it is true that a person with tight hamstrings will require a different focus to a person with rounded shoulders; the same principles regarding mobility rehabilitation work applies. It is about opening up and loosening tight, weak and ‘lazy’ muscles. It is not about viewing parts of the body in isolation but about bringing the body back into its natural alignment. It is in the natural alignment that the body can thrive and optimal results can be achieved. Can results be obtained with poor form, technique and mobility – sure, but by shifting focus onto mobility as an essential part to your programme you adopt a long-term mindset where results will be sure to follow.
In an ideal world; mobility sessions would be selected following a review of individual alignment restrictions or tight ‘areas’. Unfortunately, unless one is of a medical background is an experienced trainee or is of an advanced understanding of their biofeedback this can be difficult to gauge and often requires a professional. For the most part, common mobility restrictions include:
Tight Hip Flexors,
Tight Upper Back and Traps
Tight ‘Rounded Shoulders’
One, several, or all areas can be affected from the above list simultaneously. These are all exacerbated by poor posture, excessive sitting and incorrect exercise technique. Whilst focus should be given on each area affected, there are commonalities amongst all of these mobility issues. It is also rare, if not impossible, with modern day living to not suffer in some way from poor mobility; unless that is, we practice in corrective measures…
One of the best resources on the subject, is the highly acclaimed True To Form, where Dr Eric Goodman (who has spent years studying human physiology and movement patterns), teaches us how to harness the bodies natural movement patterns into daily activities to make us fit, healthy and pain free
There are also host of videos on YouTube that can be followed that help to increase mobility across the body in a more generic sense; specific exercises and select positions that favor our natural alignment. These can benefit any in the above list, and more.
A great starting place can be found HERE
What we like at Shirt and Tie fitness in the above video, is that the routine requires no equipment, and provides a ‘circuit’ that can be completed promptly and effectively. The movements in the video have been appropriately selected and can form a foundation in which to spring.
In a nutshell, mobility sessions should only take 10-15 minutes, and should enable us to progress in depth and range over time and as the muscles begin to learn the movement pattern. It will be best to incorporate these exercises in the morning &/or evening, depending on schedule, (and preferably before a workout that includes the compound lifts – think squat &/or deadlift). Notice that form will begin to improve, and the execution of the movements will become easier and less demanding. The key is to make these changes last and this will only occur when mobility work is consistent and frequent; it is with more frequency that these mobility sessions can be shorter and ultimately less tiresome. What’s more these exercises are excellent for active recovery.