Mobility Before Exercise

Mobility Before Exercise

By: Kristen L. Miller, MS

Mobility is one of those often overlooked aspects of fitness.  Spending time on mobility, before and after a workout, can save you years of pain, rehab and possibly even surgery.  Mobility involves moving each joint through its full range of motion to restore lost movement patterns.  Mobility is different from stretching in that stretching only focuses on lengthening short and tight muscles, whereas, mobility addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance.  These elements include short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems and joint range or motion dysfunction.

There are several benefits of performing mobilization techniques prior to exercise.  Here are a few of them:

–          Decrease chance of injury.  Injuries occur because we make sudden movements along “out of position” joints.  Full joint mobility gives us some lead way when we produce these sudden movements.

–          Increase movement efficiency.  When your joints can move smoothly along their intended pathways there is no impeded movement.  You still have to do the work, but your efficiency will not be held back by the use of the wrong joints in the wrong places!

–          Increased Performance.  Efficient movement lease to increased performance.  Once you understand the role of each joint and muscle group and how to activate them for a particular movement you will see gains in performance.

–          Increased Range of Motion.  Mobility prepares the joints and their surrounding muscles to move in the complete range of motion intended.  With full range of motion you will be able to generate more power, sustain exercise longer and feel better during exercise.

Mobility should be performed daily and should precede strength, sports or even long periods of sitting.  It only takes a few minutes of your time. Work on areas that are already lacking in range of motion or that you know will be taking a beating that day.  The most common areas to perform mobility on are ankles, hips, lumbar and thoracic spine, shoulders and wrist.  Mobility is most commonly performed using a high density foam roller or tennis and lacrosse balls.  The foam roller is useful for targeting large areas of the body such as the back and legs, whereas the tennis or lacrosse balls are useful for hard to reach places like the scapula, wrist and ankles.

To learn how to perform mobility correctly ask a professional trainer or coach who is familiar with the process.  One of the best websites available on mobility is run by Kelly Starrett who is a professional strength and conditioning coach as well as a doctor of physical therapy.