A person's mobility plays a crucial role in their overall exercise performance and is the key to remaining injury-free.
Let's first discuss the difference between mobility and flexibility.
Flexibility is characterised by:
- The maximal range of movement of a joint or series of joints and of the muscles which cross them.
- It is primarily trained through passive/static stretches.
Mobility is characterised by:
- The ability to move a joint or series of joints through a range of motion and allows a balanced interaction between muscles, joints and the central nervous system.
- Performing active (with movement) exercises which improve your strength at the same time.
Flexibility alone is not enough to improve your mobility and reduce the risk of injuries because it does not train your active range of motion. Performing exercises through a full range of motion is in essence mobility training because you are actively performing the movement while improving strength.
So what happens if we have poor mobility?
Training through a limited range of motion will significantly increase your risk of injury to a joint because there is an uneven and repetitive stress on that part of your articular cartilage. This may eventually cause them to wear out faster.
If we train in a limited range of motion our muscles and nervous system are only able to stabilise through that specific movement. The result of this is if you suddenly go into a range of motion beyond what you are used to in training or sport, it is highly likely you will suffer an injury. You will also begin to develop muscle imbalances, thereby promoting a cycle of dysfunction. Keep a good balance in your training and spend more time working on your weaknesses not your strengths.
Tips on how to implement more mobility work into your week:
Mobility drills are perfect to mix into your workout as part of a warm-up, cool-down, or even as part of your rest day. When you schedule a rest day don't fully withdraw from movement, do mobility drills as part of an active rest. This will help you recover faster while restoring balance to your body.
Focus on one or two areas at a time. This way you can give your full attention to correcting these mobility limitations first before moving on. If you try to do everything at once you won't be able to dedicate the time needed to correct the issue, and you won't enjoy training as you will feel underwhelmed as you are only doing remedial work.
Instead of watching TV when you get home from work, take this time to unwind while improving the functionality of your body.
Put as much time and dedication into improving your mobility as you do with the rest of your training. It can't be achieved overnight.
Talk with your coach about identifying mobility drills specific to your needs and implement them into your routine.