What it is and Why You Need to Start Doing Mobility Exercises Today
By Kelly Brown
Maybe you’ve heard the term “mobility” in regards to exercise thrown out there by a few friends. You’ve seen foam rollers and massage balls at the gym. Perhaps you’ve seen a few crazy exercises and stretches from some of your fitness friends on Instagram. But what is mobility, and do you need it (whatever it is)?
We all need mobility: It’s not just for athletes or your crazy friend who does boot camp seven days a week. Tom Sullivan, certified CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2, Olympic Weightlifting Level 1 coach and Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist, describes mobility as “teaching the joints to move through a full, natural, range of motion under tension.” Using joints under tension essentially means loading the muscles around the joint. For example: bending over and picking a bag of dog food off the ground in a safe, stable position so you don’t injure yourself. This is something everyone needs in a different way—it all depends on what you do, whether that’s sitting at a desk, doing yard work or high levels of exercise. When it comes to mobility, just remember if you don’t use it, you lose it. Tom broke down simple exercises we can all take 5 minutes to complete before a workout or right out of bed.
If You Sit All Day
“You’re going to have tight hamstrings,” Sullivan explained. “If you sit for 6-8 hours, and even if you get up for short breaks in between, you will still battle your hamstrings and hip flexors being short.” A great exercise is to kneel on one knee with the other foot on the floor in front of you. Reach back and pull your heel to your seat. Release your grip and try to hold your heel to your seat as long as you can and repeat.
Hips Don’t Lie – Exercises for Runners
When it comes to running, almost all injuries and pain come from the hips.
“A short muscle is a weak muscle,” Sullivan said. “When you run, you rotate the hip in one direction which results in iliotibial band, knee and low back pain.”
A helpful exercise is the 90/90 drill. Sitting on the floor, place one leg in front at a 90-degree angle and the other off to the side (off your hip) at 90 degrees. Move between leaning forward without your hands on the floor and twisting back to your back leg. Then, with your heels in the ground, rotate to the other side and repeat.
When It Comes to Rowing, Slow Your Breath
“If you’re doing anything that is core rotational or core bracing, breathing and learning how to pull air and create pressure in the abdomen and get stable is important,” Sullivan advised.
Try this drill to focus on your breathing before your next paddle. Laying on the floor, elevate your feet to the wall in front of you until you create 90 degrees with your legs. Place your hands on your mid-section and feel your breath go into your belly (hands rise) and back out as you actively press your back into the floor.
Bootcamp Back – Protect Your Spine
If you work hard in the gym at boot camp, kickboxing or lifting weights, focus in on your thoracic spine (area between shoulder blades). A great exercise is spinal waving.
“Anyone can do this with zero equipment,” Sullivan said. “It’s especially great for mothers who have breastfed and have upper back issues.”
Spinal waving is exactly what it sounds like: Standing tall, do the “wave” with your back, moving through full range of motion.
Growing Up Doesn’t Mean Getting Stiff
“As we grow older, it’s all about maintaining whatever strength and mobility already exists,” Sullivan expressed. “The first thing you do after getting out of bed in the morning is taking every joint in your body through a full range of motion. Just move every joint. Our body and our neurological system will keep that joint more mobile if we use it every day. That goes for both young and old. If you continue to move it, your brain will make the connection with that joint and allow it to continue to move.”
Sullivan’s best advice is to put a little work in every day to prevent long-term injury or disability. This is important for people of all ages and athletic abilities. That includes expecting mothers! While you don’t need tools to get started, the MOBI Performance Tool from Train Out Pain is an excellent piece of equipment that provides acute pressure. Or, try a rolling pin or PVC pipe at home. Use them to relax a muscle and then move into stretching and stabilizing.