What is Mobility Training?
Mobility training is an effective way to increase your flexibility, balance, and joint function. It involves taking joints through a controlled, full range of motion. These kinds of movements improve proprioception, the ability to know where your body is in space, which can help you move more safely in daily and athletic activities. Mobility training often involves dynamic (active) stretching, yoga and similar exercises, and myofascial release.
What are the Benefits of Mobility Training?
- Joint health: Mobility training strengthens the muscles that support joints and increases joint range of motion (ROM.)
- Balance: Stable joints and improved proprioception help people maintain their balance.
- Range of motion: A bigger ROM strengthens joint-stabilizing muscles and keeps joints lubricated and flexible.
- Physical performance: Mobility training can improve how the body functions during physical activities.
- Less risk of injury: When joints are stable, and the ROM in various movements is increased, the risk of injury goes down.
- Less pain: Increased flexibility and stability can reduce or eliminate joint and back pain.
The Best Mobility Exercises
Dynamic stretching is one of the best ways to train for mobility. This is different from the static stretching you probably did in grade school gym class, where you would hold a stretch while trying to touch your toes, for example.
In dynamic stretching, muscles and joints are moved in a controlled way to their full ROM, and the stretch is not held for a long time. This simultaneously stretches and strengthens muscles.
Exercises like yoga and Pilates are great for improving mobility. They both involve a lot of active stretching and often require muscles and joints to extend to their full range. Both exercise systems have demonstrated measurable improvements in mobility and a decreased risk of falls in older people.
Myofascial release using a foam roller can allow greater mobility to joints and muscles. The fascia is an extensive network of supportive connective tissue surrounding every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel, and bone in the body. Inactivity, injury, and repetitive movements can cause the fascia to become stiff, limiting mobility and causing pain. Foam rollers can loosen up the fascia, minimizing pain and increasing mobility.
Why is Stretching Important?
Stretching, whether static or dynamic, is valuable to your health. Regular stretching lengthens muscles, which increases flexibility. An inflexible, stiff muscle is more likely to get injured. Flexibility makes you less likely to get hurt during physical activity.
Stretching can improve posture by balancing muscles pulled out of alignment by sitting all day or scrolling on your phone.
It can also reduce back pain by relaxing muscles and increasing blood circulation to tight areas.
If you’re an athlete, the increased ROM gained by regular stretching can improve your performance at the gym or on the field and reduce your risk of sports-related injury.
Perhaps most importantly, stretching can help you stay mobile and independent well into your twilight years. As we age, we all lose muscle fibers and flexibility, but regular stretching can help us maintain our function and lower our risk of falls and injury.
How to Stretch
Although dynamic stretching is the best choice for improving mobility, static stretching is a great way to increase your range of motion. Let’s briefly discuss how to do both.
Dynamic stretching is active and is done with controlled, repetitive movements. Full extension of a muscle or joint is held for only a few seconds. Dynamic stretching is a great choice before physical activity to warm up muscles and joints and prepare them for movement.
Static stretching, on the other hand, is performed by moving into a stretch just to the point of discomfort, not pain, and holding the stretch for 20 to 45 seconds. This kind of stretching is effective at improving flexibility. It’s often recommended to do static stretching after exercise to help relax the body, elongate muscles and improve recovery time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Dynamic stretching is the best choice for improving mobility because it does more than just increase flexibility. Dynamic, active stretching strengthens joints and the muscles that support them. The strength, flexibility, and stability that come from regular dynamic stretching will help you move comfortably and independently through your everyday life and can even help you improve your athletic performance.
Yoga is excellent for both stretching and mobility. It includes static stretches like seated forward bend, but many yoga poses involve active stretching. Different kinds of yoga will include different proportions of dynamic and static movements. For example, Yin yoga is a gentle, restorative practice with a lot of static stretching, whereas Vinyasa flow is highly active and excellent for mobility.
Prioritizing mobility work is generally encouraged by experts, although both flexibility and mobility are essential to your health. Mobility gives you more bang for your buck since it improves strength and flexibility. However, your focus[ will depend on your specific circumstances and what your body needs.
If your joints are inflamed and painful, it will be difficult to get started with mobility training. If you’re in this situation, you’ll probably want to tackle your pain before you get started. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medical options for pain control. There are also supplements on the market that can help.
Flexoplex, for example, contains well-known ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin that have been shown to improve joint pain. It also contains less-known ingredients like Boswellia, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve pain in people with joint disease. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement or mobility regimen, and meet yourself where you are.
If pain is not an issue, assess what you can currently do without difficulty. Start slow. The kind of mobility exercises you can do will depend on your starting strength and flexibility levels. If mobility is completely new to you, you can do ankle rolls while sitting at your desk or foam roll every night while watching your favorite show.
Work your way up to more challenging active stretches when you can. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mobility training. When you become more advanced, you could do a few leg swings and arm circles when you get up in the morning, add a couple of minutes of jumping jacks before your workout, or start a yoga or pilates class.
Mobility training is a relatively simple way to dramatically improve your quality of life. Working on mobility for even a few minutes a day can reduce pain in your body, strengthen your joints, improve your balance, and increase your flexibility.
Mobility helps us feel and move better wherever we are in our life journey. No matter your age, excellent mobility will protect you from injury and improve your physical function. Aside from feeling better now, it’ll be nice to be able to reach things on the top shelf and tie your shoes by yourself, no matter how old you get.