At some point we’ve all desired to become more flexible and more mobile, but do we know why? In short, we really only need as much mobility as our lifestyle – and maybe our sport or recreational activities – demand. If you are a gymnast, then you will need a high degree of mobility. If your goal is simply to be generally healthy, then trying to attain the mobility of a gymnast is unnecessary, but also a waste of valuable training resources.
Drawing on his nearly three decades of PT experience, Coach D breaks down how much mobility you really need, and shows you the best way to obtain it.
Flexibility and mobility are not the same thing. Flexibility is the normal range of motion a joint should move through. Mobility is the functional use of your flexibility; it is both range of motion in the joint and strength throughout that range of motion. It is possible to be flexible but lack the strength to support yourself in that range of motion. So, strength is a very important ingredient in mobility. Mobility should support function, and be outcomes driven. Too much mobility is bad, as is too little. Your need for mobility – and thus your choices when working mobility into your training program – should be based on the demands of your life and your sport. Tissue fibers become less elastic, and more plastic as we age. So, Masters athletes will be less mobile than younger athletes. Don’t perform static stretching before strength workouts. Use dynamic movements to warm up. The best ways to stretch are dynamic stretches (movements under load), contract/relax techniques, and isometric stretching under load. Duration of 30s to 1 minute is the sweet spot. These are more effective than static stretching. Yoga, tai chi, and other practices can be good ways to gain mobility, but don’t neglect your strength. Strength trumps mobility.
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