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WHY MOBILITY IS IMPORTANT

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Today we are going to gain some further understanding around the word ‘MOBILITY’ in relation to strength training and why it is important to do our mobility work.

First let’s look at what mobility means and what it represents in the context of strength training.


MOBILITY:

Mobility legend Kelly Starrett defines mobility as: “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilisation is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems”.

The ability to move or be moved freely and easily.

In this modern world having the ability to move ‘freely’ is a privilege and one you have to work for. Just like all the other aspects of training, becoming mobile doesn’t happen over night. Over the last few decades humans have become complacent and comfortable with being immobile.

We are currently living in a world where many people have forgotten what its like to move. We are spending more and more time at our desk, in the office, on the sofa, or travelling in the car and we suffer the mobility consequences.

We are forgetting HOW TO MOVE.

Due to these poor posture habits we come across some common issues:

-We can create tightness and pain in the hip as they become constantly in flexion, creating tension.

-Our back loses the ability to go into a healthy amount of thoracic extension. Because we are always in flexion, rounded and hunched over at a desk etc

- We develop some type of lumbar or lower back pain due to the tight hips, poor movement patterns and over all immobility.

- Our Glute muscles become weak and under utilised.

You cannot undo 8 hours of poor posture habits with 10 mins of foam rolling – this is not an appropriate approach.

Firstly - FIND AND STOP THE CAUSE

We want to reduce whatever we are doing that is flaring up the specific muscle group. Leading specialist in spine biomechanics, Dr Stuart Mcgill uses this technique to relieve chronic lower back pain. He explains that by pinpointing poor movement patterns and removing accumulative sensitisation you can often prevent the pain rather than having to react and treat pain or inflammation. I think this method is extremely useful for all things ‘mobility’ and not just lower back issues.

Play the prevention game.

For example, a few ways you can very generally implement better movement into your day:

1. More walking as your chosen way to transport.

2. Reduce the time you spend sitting in front of the TV.

3. Going for a 2 min walk every 30 mins when sitting at a desk.

4. Walk over 7,000 steps a day.

5. Take the stairs.


Simple? This all seems incredible basic but trust me, movement is key and there is no quick fix!

FOAM ROLLING + DEEP TISSUE RELEASE

Foam rolling and deep tissue release techniques most definitely have a place in the world of mobility and help you find some relief! They are often used to relieve muscular tension and enhance flexibility when paired with different stretching modalities.

I myself as a personal trainer, powerlifter and pole fitness teacher do in fact believe in the benefits of Foam Rolling and Deep Tissue Release and utilise these modalities regularly as well as prescribing them to my clients.

So, let’s take a look at why this method could be helpful on a physiological level. Any type of massage or external pressure applied to the muscle or group of musculature creates friction. This friction and movement then creates heat promoting blood flow and increasing circulation, this helps the muscles and surrounding tissues become more moveable.

Using a roller or a hard massage ball can also aid in stretching and smoothing scar tissue formed by muscle trauma and research has shown this to drastically increase ones flexibility when done in conjunction with dynamic and/or static stretching.

We can also experience a large amount of tension from the myofascial complex. The fascia is a type of thin, strong connective tissue that covers your entire body offering protection to your muscles and bones. They are constructed of collagen and fibers that are arranged in a web-like structure and this can cause tension and tightness also. By using a massage ball or foam roller you are performing a self-manual massage therapy which aims to reduce localised myofascial tightness. This tightness is believed to inhibit joint range of motion and blood flow. Furthermore, the increased blood flow generated as a result of deep tissue work/foam rolling can benefit you post training (muscle trauma) as it allows for waste products and acidity in the muscle (such as hydrogen ions) to be flushed away, helping with post workout pain and recover. In conjunction with the removal of these waste products, the muscle is flooded with oxygen and nutrients that allow for a reduction in inflammation and promotion of recovery.

GENERAL DEEP TISSUE RELEASE EXAMPLE:

Lower Body Tension:

– Foam Roll into the hip (short rolls into the hip, stop and sit on tight areas then roll through them) 3X60secs each side

– Massage Ball (roll it in the hip and the hold it on a tender part) 3X60secs each side

Note: Expect it to hurt!

– IT and Quad Release (long rolls across the IT band/through to the quad, stop and applying extra pressure to areas of tightness) 3X60secs each side

– Massage Ball (Roll into the quad, hold and sit when tender) 3X60secs each side

Shoulder tightness:

– Foam roll across the front chest and front shoulder (long slow even rolls) 3X60secs

– Massage Ball (find the tension in the upper back/traps and increase the pressure of the ball on it, hold it) 3X60secs

The Ready State on YouTube also has some great clips on Foam Rolling and Lacrosse ball use.

STRETCHING

Dynamic stretching is a series of active movements that contract and stretch an area of muscle to bring forth a stretch which then returns to the starting position without holding that stretch. The opposite of this would be Static stretching.

I have always been a fan of stretching through a range of motion. I think physiologically, it’s absolutely necessary to take your joints through some extended range of motion on a daily basis. Your body has many mechanisms that require activating and stimulation before they can contract efficiently. Yet static stretching does have its place in the mobility world especially by making it an Active stretch not a Passive.

Passive stretching for example - is just sitting on the floor legs straight and reaching for toes. Your back will round and it will not feel good or do any good for you.

Instead actively stretching- so reaching as low as you can whilst maintaining a flat lower back, thinking about the tailbone being pulled backwards and the sternum being pulled forwards will actively engage the hamstrings creating that Active stretch which is safe for your muscles.

Use your mobility to enhance your training and use your training to reinforce your mobility.


Squat Deep.

Press Big.

Lockout Strong.