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Mobility: The Why and How

Mobility is the latest buzz in the fitness industry, but the concept of mobility is anything but new. Simply put, mobility is defined as a joint’s ability to move freely through a specific range of motion. 

Good mobility means that the range of motion a joint can travel through is smooth and pain-free. Furthermore, a joint’s ability to travel freely is also a major contributor to building muscle, strength, endurance and power. The primary reason mobility is such a huge factor in progress is when a joint has a restriction your body will compensate and find any way possible to get a movement completed. This leads to muscles up and down the kinetic chain to do the work of the restricted joint. Over time this will lead to injuries, pain and lack of performance. 

When thinking about mobility there are a couple of different ways to conceptualize it. Joints that move in multiple planes and joints that move in single planes. 

Multiple Plane Joints







Single Plane Joints





Getting to work!

When you start a mobility plan remember it is not exhausting, these movements are meant for you to reach the end range of a joint space that is your limit no one else’s. Your limit is when you feel a stretch that is causing resistance to travel further, not pain. The critical step here which is often overlooked or not cued is whenever you feel that point you want to simultaneously contract the antagonistic muscles. A good example of this would be back-to-wall shoulder flexion. When your arms are as far overhead as you can achieve with your arms locked out straight you should feel a stretch in your chest and maybe lats, now contract your shoulder muscles and use them to pull your arms further. The goal is to train your muscles to work in harmony to support each other to attain a full range of motion for each joint. If you only focus on the stretch aspect the effect will be temporary. You have to strengthen the antagonist so you can maintain range of motion for the long run. 

As with anything, assessing is your starting point. The best bang for your buck mobility assessment drill is the overhead wall squat. 

Performing an Overhead Wall Squat 

  1. Find a wall that gives you an unobstructed place to slide your hands on it. 
  2. Use your feet as a ruler and stand facing the wall one show length away
  3. Raise your arms overhead and and lock them out straight at the elbows with palms flat on the wall
  4. Slowly descend while keeping your feet flat on the floor, hands on the wall and arms locked out straight
  5. Only descend down as far as you can while respecting the contact points.
  6. Take an inventory on how far you go down, what your knees do, how your back feels and such. 
  7. After you have completed your mobility routine repeat this process and look for improvements
  8. Great mobility would result in you being able to squat below 90 degrees respecting form protocols.  

Here is a document with a great list of movements you can put in your routine. A great starting point concerning sets and reps for mobility drills is 2 sets of 8-10 reps. Once you have practiced these a couple of times, move towards a general feel over a determined number of sets and reps, when things feel tight or restricted do more if you feel great, move on to something else. Your total time investment is between 8 to 15 minutes. 

Click Here to View Warmup Stretches

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