The word “mobility” gets tossed around a lot in the fitness industry. Incorporating a mobility practice will yield far more value than just preventing injuries and many fitness enthusiasts have adopted such programs to their training habits. Having said this, I feel as though many fitness enthusiasts still don’t truly understand the purpose of such practices.
If you’re a member of my facility, you learned quickly that there is MUCH more to fitness than having “good strength or cardio”. If your range of motion and mobility is lacking you’re leaving performance on the table. Focusing on joint preparation is just as important for performance gains as training strength and conditioning elements.
In order to appreciate what true mobility training is, I think it’s important to first understand what it is not. Wrapping a band around a rig and stretching your shoulders might feel great and improve passive flexibility when done for long enough periods of time, but improvements in actively stabilizing and controlling range of motion will not be an outcome.
Flexibility and mobility are NOT synonyms. We simply cannot use them interchangeably. Related, yes. The same? Not quite.
Let’s dive a bit deeper.
Flexibility = One’s ability to passively flex and extend a joint.
Mobility = Motor control ability. As in, your ability to control the articulation of the joint through its full range of motion
While flexibility puts the focus on the end range positions themselves, mobility puts the emphasis on the control one has as they can flow through the joint from end to end.
What we’re really talking about when we define mobility is,
Do You have the requisite biomechanics to get into full, normal, physiologic positions?
Put another way,
Can your body do what it’s supposed to do safely and efficiently? Yes or no?”
Being really flexible and bendy doesn’t necessarily mean you can control your body through ranges. You may be really stretchy but if you don’t have ownership over those extreme ranges of motion, how can your body actively call upon those ranges when you need it?
Therefore, when training to improve joint mobility, the goal is to improve active range of motion.
To do so, just like any other training stimulus (strength, power, muscular endurance, aerobic capacity, etc.) we’re looking to improve by following the same principles of progressive overload in order to elicit an adaptation from the body. Connective tissue, whether it’s a muscle, tendon, ligament, capsule, or bone, needs to be placed under stress to remodel the tissue being addressed.
Beyond risking injury, athletes who consistently “empty the tank” without full range of motion are just simply getting in the way of their own results. A good example is a person who is trying to do an overhead squat and finds themselves struggling to just squat down. In this case, the individual has energy that’s being used just to fight against their own body. When people gain mobility the end result is freedom of motion and a whole reserve of energy to direct into the actual movement and into whatever they’re lifting as opposed to just trying to get into the shape of the movement.
But what if you don’t care about lifting more weight or beating your last 5k time? If your primary goal is to burn as many calories as possible, why do proper mechanics matter? ( I sincerely hope this isn’t any of you…)
Well, when you’re working against your body, you’re not actually performing any work. You’re simply limiting your physical capacity. So it’s not like “I’m burning more calories because I’m trying to straighten my arm.” It’s actually, “I can’t burn more calories because I physically can’t do more work.”
Understanding the above graphic is crucial for success in the fitness world. While functional fitness is all the buzz these days, many people don’t have the functional capacity to perform functional training. Joint preparation is essential to exploring your athletic potential. Join us at RHCF today and you’ll learn more about the value a mobility practice can bring not just to your training, but to everyday life!