Mobility is in our name but what exactly does it mean? It is certainly a buzz word in the fitness industry and I am consistently asked how one can improve their mobility. To improve our mobility, we first need to understand what it is.
In essence, mobility just means moving your body freely and efficiently.
For the geriatric population, this may mean something as simple as transferring from a bed to wheelchair.
For many of us though, mobility is the freedom of an athlete’s limb to move through a desired range of motion.1
We normally apply this to the joint itself but this is a universal definition.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is the joint’s TOTAL range of motion.1
Both are incredibly important for performance, reduction in discomfort, and overall well-being.
Mobility —> Flexibility —> Strength —> Power
I like this approach because of its simplicity. Unfortunately, rehabilitation is not this simple and often requires a multifactorial approach from several disciplines. There are so many missing pieces to this puzzle but its a powerful approach.
In this article, lets look at mobility as the joints ability to move freely and efficiently through its entire range of motion. What causes poor mobility? Again, this is multifactorial and can be caused by many things including:
- Lack of exercise
- Prolonged postures
- Poor nutrition
- Previous injuries
If are limited in our mobility, we often rely on other parts of our body to make up the difference or lack the performance ability altogether.
How can we improve mobility?
Firstly, the source of the problem needs to be identified. Are you not exercising enough? Are your muscles not being stretched? Do you have other issues in your health that need to be approached? If you have this dialed, then these three suggestions are perfect for you:
1) Foam Roller
Yes, as simple as it is a foam roller is an incredible mobility tool specifically for our spine. It is fantastic for thoracic mobility, cervical mobility, and shoulder mobility. You can find our affiliate link here with our suggested foam roller that we have had the most success with.
- Thoracic Rotation Mobility Instruction
- Thoracic Extension Mobility Instruction
- Cervical Pain Instruction
- Shoulder Mobility Instruction
2) Lacrosse ball
Again, does not need to be fancy but this little tool can be incredibly effective. Place it on your spine to promote individual levels or underneath your foot to promote natural splaying of the metatarsals. This is also a great tool for soft tissue work for muscle, fascia, and tendons.
3) Thick Exercise Band
A great routine I often show patients in clinic for increased dorsiflexion (Bringing foot towards your head). Limited dorsiflexion is often overcome during our squat with increased bending at the hips and reliance on our low back. While not perfect, this is a good technique to force that sliding motion over time.
4) Honorable Mention: Massage Gun
I know I know, another fitness fad but man do they feel good! Not directly related to joint mobility, relaxing the muscles surrounding the joint can play a small part in how our joints move in general. Have a partner run this tool ALONG your spine, NOT directly on it to relax the paraspinals.
There it is folks! Mobility can absolutely be improved but remember that the rehabilitation or strengthening process is multifactorial. At the end of the day, movement is the most powerful tool of all even if its just a walk down the street.
1) Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Chapter 20: Program Design and Technique for Aerobic Endurance Activity . In Essentials of strength training and conditioning (4th ed., pp. 538–538). essay, Human Kinetics.