Spring is starting to peek in (at least where I live) and it’s so exciting. It also means things are opening back up, including gyms! If you’re excited to get back into it, it’s vital to know about any mobility or flexibility issues you may have before you do. Jumping back into exercise without knowing if you’ve got full range of motion can lead to injuries.
That said, let’s talk about mobility and flexibility!
Starting with Definitions
Some folks think mobility and flexibility are one and the same. In actuality, flexibility is an aspect of mobility.
Mobility: the ability to effectively and safely perform common movements like pushing, squatting, hinging, crawling, pulling, and rolling, that are required for functional living
Flexibility: the range of motion in a joint or group of joints; the ability to move joints through a complete range of motion
Mobility is being able to sink into a deep (parallel or further) squat with good form. Flexibility is the movement of your joints which will be influenced by the mobility of the soft tissues surrounding them.
Why Are Mobility and Flexibility Important?
Basically, they enable you to perform the above common exercises correctly. These exercises translate directly into day-to-day life (more on that below!).
If your mobility and/or flexibility are poor, so will your form. That leads directly to a lack of strength or progress at best and potential injury at worst.
A lot of people put load into their squat, deadlift, etc. with restrictions in their mobility and/or flexibility. This leads to bad form and the recruitment of other muscles to compensate.
So having good flexibility and mobility allows you to position your body in the safest, most advantageous position for moves you use daily and for utilizing your strength. If you have strength but limited mobility, you're basically working against the pull of your muscles and moving less efficiently through life.
Now, the Big Question: How Do You Improve Your Mobility and Flexibility?
With drills and exercises of course!
Exactly which drills, exercises, and stretches will help improve your mobility and flexibility will vary completely from person to person.
Everyone has a different area that's tight, stiff, or difficult to move. It's essential to see a personal trainer or physiotherapist so they can do a full assessment and help you figure out your next moves. (Pun intended!)
What Happens When You Have Limited Mobility/Flexibility?
When performing moves like squats, deadlifts, and other compound exercises, your body uses a lot of different muscles at once.
Say, for example, you have limited ankle dorsiflexion (bend) and you're doing a squat. If your ankle can't bend far enough for proper squat form, your body will recruit other muscles to compensate. You may buckle your knees in or lean too far forward.
This can lead to poor form at best and injury at worst. When you're not using the muscles the move was designed to target, the other recruited muscles (that aren't supposed to be put under so much load) pick up the slack. The risk of straining them is high.
What Happens When Mobility Restrictions Are Resolved?
You probably see where I'm going with this—you reduce the risk of injury and improve your form.
This means you're not only lifting more safely, but you can make more progress in your lifts.
Let's return to the squat example. When you have full range of motion in your ankle dorsiflexion, you come down into the squat with your hips, knees, and ankles aligned.
Your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core are engaged and taking the main load of your squat, as these large muscle groups are intended to do.
The focus of the weight of your squat is on those muscles, making them stronger and leading to better progress for you.
It also means your form is on point, which means your muscles can get stronger more quickly than if they weren’t getting targeted as they should.
Find a Personal Trainer or Physiotherapist Today!
So, before you leap gung-ho into a new workout routine, find a personal trainer or physiotherapist to check out your form. They’ll make sure your mobility and flexibility are on point, so you can confidently crush your workouts.
If you can’t afford one or can’t meet with one, at the very least, watch videos (from qualified sources!) to see what good form, mobility, and flexibility look like. Then film yourself doing the same move and compare. (But really, seeing a professional is better!)