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How and why improving your Mobility

We can hear the word mobility in many fitness related conversations and this is far from being a fad.

What is mobility ?

Mobility is the ability to move a limb through its full range of motion (ROM), not to be confused with flexibility which is simply the lengthening capacity of a muscle.
Moving freely and pain free being mobility’s overall purpose, an optimal mobility is the best recipe for reducing the risk of imbalances, thus lowering the chance of getting injured.
It is also a core component to improve physical abilities and athletic performances.

What can cause bad mobility ?

  • Muscle imbalances
  • Postural and alignment flaws
  • Muscle tightness
  • Injury in rehabilitation
  • Joint issues

Why is it important to work on it?

An optimized mobility will directly influence strength, movement efficiency, muscle endurance and postural stability.
A limited mobility would mean a limited range of motion. And as a limited range of motion leads to a body moving improperly, it would also mean high chances of creating compensation mechanisms, and… Muscle imbalances… Then pain and injuries (chronic or not!).
You got it, the perfect definition of a vicious circle!

What’s mobility’s influence on movement efficiency and performance?

• Preventing injuries

Shorten and tight hip flexors, shoulders rounded forward, inactive hamstrings and glutes… Our sedentary lifestyles (sitting all day at desk, watching TV and sitting in transports for long periods of time…) create muscle tightness and makes certain muscles becoming inactive, resulting in a decreased range of motion.

By not being able to get into the proper position to execute a lift or a move, the body will not be able to fully engage the muscles intended to work. From there, the body will start working with secondary (accessory) muscles to execute the move. As these were not supposed to be working that hard, compensation occurs.
So whether heading for a workout, playing around with your kids, or doing any daily life movement, a limited range of motion can quickly lead to disaster.

Getting injured is everyone’s nightmare, but for athletes, this means the end of their world.
What many athletes don’t realize is that when range of motion is deficient, performance suffers. It does by inducing a loss in movement’s efficiency and stability.
For strength training athletes and bodybuilders, the crazy thing is that if mobility isn’t optimal, they actually won’t be stimulating in an effective way the muscles they’re looking to get stronger!

It’s important to mention the fact that our body is ALWAYS trying to avoid harm. Your body will do whatever it takes to get you out of any damaging event.
So it will compensate what it cannot do by using other methods. For us here : the joint will compensate the angle it cannot reach by using other muscles.
The body won’t back up with bad mobility and improper movement patterns forever. It will do so until it’s had enough. Until it’s too late for the athlete to notice he had a range of motion deficiency to address.

• Recovering

Training every day is tough on the body. While muscle soreness and tightness are part of any fit person’s life, adding mobility work on top of a healthy diet and a good quality sleep, will tremendously help your body to recover better and faster.
As it will enhance a higher blood flow in the concerned area, muscles will benefit more oxygen and nutrients, both crucial ingredients for muscle growth and healing.

How to improve it?

• Stretching

First of all, try to identify and UNDERSTAND where your body experiences mobility issues.
(If you’d like to know HOW to detect a mobility deficiency, let me know in the comments and I’ll answer that in a future post ツ.)
From there, you can choose to either work only on your biggest mobility weaknesses or work on your general mobility. Of course we’ll always encourage you choosing the most complete approach but, according to your goals and depending on your range of motion capacities, it might be addressed in a different way.

Then, there is no 2 ways around it: stretch.
In most cases, try to prefer dynamic stretch to static stretch. It is important to set yourself up for a stretching routine as results won’t be here overnight.
Yoga is a really good way to improve your overall mobility as it is a very complete practice.

Find my personal daily mobility routine just here to give yourself a starting point.

• Self Myofascial Release (foam rolling)

Foam roller, Lacrosse ball, or hand held tools are all used to achieve what we commonly call Self Myofascial Release – SMR.
When a muscle overworks or is injured, a scar tissue like substance called adhesions builds up on the fascia. This resulting in an elasticity loss and a decrease in the workload the muscle can handle.

But what really happens when you apply pressure on these tired muscles?
It allows to break down the build up of adhesions, relaxes the muscle, and restores muscle’s elasticity by bringing the fascia back to its normal state.
Fascia is a very thin sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and organs.
As mentioned above, SMR also induces more blood flow to the massaged area, making this one receiving more nutrients and oxygen. Recovery of the muscle is then improved.

Because not only athletes or gym goers can benefit from SMR, every one should consider including this practice in their mobility routine at least once a week.

Do not let mobility issues keep you out of exercising, and make it a goal to get back to moving freely and pain free!

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