What is Mobility?
Mobility is a pretty hot topic these days and rightly so. Having good mobility means you can move your body through various movement patterns with no restrictions. In other words, you can move or be moved freely and without pain.
When someone says that a person has “good mobility”, they mean that they have good range of motion at their joints and they have the control and strength to move their body through that range.
When we lack mobility in the body we can feel ‘stuck’ or unable to perform different movements, like lifting your arms above your head, or getting your hips below your knees in a squat.
Mobility is made up of 3 components; range of motion, motor control, and strength. Today, we’re talking mostly about range of motion and strength at that range.
The importance of Active Mobility
When working on your mobility, remember that mobility without function, also known as passive flexibility or passive mobility, is not the goal.
Yes, we want to have lots of mobility and be able to take our body through a large range of motion, but that passive mobility is not really useful in day to day life or in a training setting (unless you’re a contortionist) if there’s no strength there.
An example of passive mobility vs. active mobility would be being able to perform a squat in yoga, also known as ‘yogi squat’, or ‘malasana', where you sink into your joints and you’re not really using a lot of musculature to hold yourself up. But then not being able to perform a goblet squat at that same range where you have to use your muscles to stand up and then go back into a squat position and so on.
Another example would be a dancer being able to hold their foot and extend their leg out to the side, but not being able to hold their leg in the same position once they let go of the foot.
In my opinion, having a healthy body composition means being mobile and also strong, not just one or the other.
Let’s Not Forget: Flexibility is Part of Mobility and Shouldn’t be Overlooked.
While flexibility has gotten a bad rap in the industry as being part of why injuries occur, flexibility is still required for mobility.
If the definition of mobility is to move actively through a range of motion, well, we need to have that range of motion. Therefore, working on flexibility and passively lengthening the muscles is an important component of mobility.
Some people are hypermobile, meaning they naturally have tissues that allow them to move beyond the normal range of motion, and usually don’t require any focus on flexibility to improve their mobility. In fact, they need to be focusing on strength at range more than anything. However, many people are not hypermobile, and need that extra attention on improving passive range of motion (I am one of those people).
Mobility can be limited by flexibility and your capacity for movement and so training flexibility as part of your mobility practice is worth your while.
Remember, Improving Mobility is a Practice
Improving your mobility is a practice and creating lasting change in the way your body moves takes time. Patience is key. Don’t expect to jump on a foam roller for 5 minutes after a workout for a few days or weeks and make significant mobility gains.
The first step in improving your mobility is figuring out your deficits. Where do you feel ‘stuck’ in your movement? Maybe you’re looking for functional mobility where your everyday movement is free and efficient, or maybe you’ve been working out at the gym and you can’t seem to hit that overhead press or perform a squat with good depth. Ask yourself, what are your goals? Where are your deficits?
Once you know your goals and where you need work, it’s time to find some mobility exercises that target those deficits. I like Rehab-U’s mobility exercises on youtube for some really helpful and straightforward tips to target common problems.
I’m actually currently taking a course by Rehab-U to improve my knowledge of mobility training and I’ve been loving it. There is also some great information for free on their youtube channel and website, check it out here.
I hope this information has helped you in some way and maybe inspired you to take action toward your mobility goals. Think about how many times we mention how stiff we feel or how much we need to work on our mobility.
This is your sign to take action!