Posted on February 01 2019
Looking to get into your best physical shape? Keen to enjoy the benefits of excellent health? Then it’s time to think about mobility alongside your training programme.
This aspect of health and fitness is often overlooked in favour of strength and cardiovascular training, but good mobility is the key to an injury-free life, prevention of chronic injuries, easy flexibility and achievement of more technical sports and fitness goals. Let’s take a look in further detail.
What Is Mobility?
When we say mobility, we are talking about a state of movement and flexibility that is in line with the way our bodies are intended to move, stretch, flex and bend. Think of a small child squatting, stretching and running and you have the picture of the perfect movement. Think of a 70-year old yogi in a complex pose and you also have the perfect definition of full-body flexibility! This optimum state of wellbeing can be enjoyed at any age, with the right training and development programme.
How Does It Help Your Physical Development?
When you enjoy a full range of motion, you can enjoy these benefits:
- A full range of motion to aid everyday life: Trying to reach that box from a high shelf? Trying to bend yourself into a corner to reach something? People with greater mobility can really get the most from their everyday lives and enjoy their physicality without the need for those sorts of gadgets that you see at the back of the Sunday supplements!
- Avoiding chronic injuries: Injury of any kind can become debilitating and ongoing injury from a lack of flexibility can lead to repeat and chronic injuries. When muscles and tendons are tight and unable to enjoy their full range of motion freely, injuries such as tearing or straining can easily occur. All of a sudden, that new gym habit is out of the window and you’re hobbling around because you spent too much time lifting and not enough time stretching afterwards.
- The feeling of wellness that comes with flexibility: If you’ve ever done a regular stretching or yoga routine, you’ll already know how well you can feel with a full range of motion. As well as the physical effects, there are mental well-being benefits. Ancient styles of exercise such as yoga and tai chi harness this mobility and allow the body’s energy to flow. When you move fully and freely, natural processes of detoxification, blood flow and circulation are optimised.
-Just imagine how tense and hunched you feel with an injury of any kind. Now, picture the feeling of release, movement and energy that comes when that injury is absent. Suddenly, the importance of mobility is rising up your fitness priority list.
Attainment of training goals: If you’re still not convinced, then consider how a full range of motion is the absolute key to attaining specific sports training and fitness goals. Olympic weightlifters can only perform lifts such as the snatch and the clean and jerk when they have the full range of motion needed to get into a deep squat. This takes hours of training in itself and means a technique can be achieved that immediately allows the lifter to add more weight to their bar. The same is obviously true with other disciplines such as dance, gymnastics and even athletics. Consider runners. With a full range of motion, the body has a natural and unrestricted running gait that is injury free. When tension, muscle tightness, imbalance or weakness is present, those injuries quietly build up.
How Does Poor Movement Impact a Workout?
Quite simply, if you don’t take your flexibility seriously, you will never achieve your full potential and the goals that you seek. You will also never fully experience that total feeling of wellness that comes with a body that can move and operate 100% in the way that nature intended, which means having great cardiovascular health, excellent strength and supreme flexibility.
How Do I Get Started?
Many people need to begin with fixing the damage of a lifetime spent lifting, running, cycling or doing aerobics classes with the most cursory of stretches! So, spend some time with a personal trainer or attend a class that focuses on the anatomy of deep stretching and flexibility. If you have existing injuries, see a physio for an assessment and get a programme of bespoke exercises that will help to heal, rather than hinder your progress.
Make sure you are warm before you start to stretch and carry out movements that will support your ultimate training goal. For example, CrossFitters will spend time mobility‑training different body parts depending on the day’s WOD, doing things such as glute and hip mobility with a plyo box or shoulder ‘mobs’ with a PVC pipe for barbell work.
Treat it seriously and learn as you go, and you’ll suddenly see your fitness gains take another jump forwards!
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