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Increase Mobility Through The 3 Pillars

Posted by Natalie Dunn on

We all know that to get the most out of our workouts and to preserve our bodies we have to incorporate some less-exciting range of motion and mobility exercises into our workout routines. What many of don’t know is that there is a big difference between the buzzwords we throw around. Warming up and cooling down doesn’t cut it anymore if you want to lift your heaviest, perform your best and recover your fastest. Active and dynamic stretching are still incredibly important but putting a bigger emphasis on improving mobility can do wonders for you in the gym.
Flexibility vs Mobility
First, for some clarification. Often confused and used interchangeably, flexibility and mobility aren’t one in the same. According to Joe Vega, a NYC-based physical therapist and trainer interviewed by Men’s Fitness, “a person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions on ROM of those movements. A flexible person may or may not have the core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility.”
Simply put, mobility is an umbrella that covers many factors that affect range of motion around a joint. Mobility is how a joint moves and flexibility is the length of a muscle.


Our personal favorite, soft tissue work is vital to muscle recovery and mobility. Using techniques like self-myofascial release can decrease soft tissue restrictions that inhibit getting full range of motion. Improving range of motion (ROM) is key to improving overall mobility. Self-myofascial release is the most common technique for soft tissue work. Adding it into your day (even days you don’t hit the gym hard) can work wonders. Being diligent about making the time to do some soft tissue work after a hard workout can also improve your recovery time and help you feel a little less sore when you wake up the next day. Typically, post-workout you should opt to do some soft tissue work before moving on to stretching.
The key to becoming more flexible, stretching aims to lengthen the target muscle. This can be done one of two ways by either statically stretching or using a variation called PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation).
Static stretching is most common and can be done by holding the target muscle in a lengthened position for 30 seconds. PNF stretching is a great alternative and is a bit more interactive for people who get bored to death doing static stretching after workouts. PNF is most commonly done by stretching the target muscle, isometrically contracting the muscle, and then stretching the muscle further. An easy timetable to follow for PNF stretching is 3 rounds of 5-10 seconds of contracting followed by 10 seconds of passive stretching. A great tool to add to your gym bag to help with stretching is a simple resistance band. This can help you with your PNF stretching so you don’t need the resistance of another person and can also help you get into more difficult stretching positions. The Rogue Monster Bands a great for flexibility and double as resistance bands for strength work. Check them out here.
Joint mobilization

Joint mobility is the degree to which a joint (where two bones meet) is able to move before being restricted by surrounding tissues. The goal is to help increase extensibility of a joint by breaking up adhesions and stretching a joint itself. Working on joint mobilization (and stabilization) can help you get a full range of motion around joints but also help prevent issues around trouble joints like knees, shoulders and ankles. There are a variety of exercises (many involving some more stretching) that can help improve joint mobilization and help protect them during heavy workouts.
If you’re serious about taking mobility seriously, check out Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD program. You can also get some simple ideas to get started here.
It can’t be stressed enough that working on mobility can help prevent a variety of overuse injuries, aches and pains. If staying injury-free isn’t reason enough, working on mobility makes you a more efficient and productive lifter. Greater ROM allows you to be more powerful while making you less prone to having bad form and compensating with other muscle groups, which can cause injury. Less injury, more efficiency, more power, better results. Now start putting more emphasis on your mobility!


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