Mobility training assists clients with stability, active and passive range of motion, and strength. There are many benefits and outcomes rolled into this type of training.
In the fitness world, mobility is defined as a joint’s active range of motion before encountering tissue restriction. This is certainly rooted in optimal movement, and training it can improve its capacity. The benefits are endless for the regular gym goer, athletes, fit pros, and especially those beginning an exercise program.
Benefits of Mobility Training
When you improve mobility, you increase the efficiency of how the muscles move a joint, and also improve the stability of that joint. With improved joint stability comes improved balance. Better balance and stability will prevent stumbles and injuries. It could be the difference between tripping over an object with a quick recovery or tripping, falling, and getting injured. While preventing fall injuries is especially important to the aging generation, it’s certainly helpful for all ages and fitness levels.
Through a lot of the mobility exercises, clients will gain strength. With stronger muscles, they will be able to perform more challenging exercises in the gym, but will also be able to do many daily activities with ease (retrieving something overhead, walking across a parking lot, and simply getting up from a chair).
Range of motion (ROM) allows clients to perform exercises to the fullest with greater dexterity. This is crucial to performance in many sports, including golf, tennis, swimming, and weightlifting.
Posture is positively affected by mobility training. Posture isn’t limited to just how our back and shoulders look, but that’s what comes to mind first for most. Mobility training at the shoulder joint and segments of the spine increases the available range of motion limited by too much sitting and looking down at our phones.
Sitting and standing upright with shoulders and back in alignment not only looks better, but also helps the client feel better and can prevent pain. Think of how someone can sit up while working at a computer to feel fine. If that same person hunches over the computer, using poor posture, they are more likely to feel joint pain and muscle aches. Improved posture makes it easier to take in deep breaths, to walk, run, sit comfortably, and more.
Cindy Brown is a certified personal trainer who uses mobility training in many of her training sessions and in her own workouts. “Mobility training is super important and is the foundation of a successful exercise program,” she said. “Mobility boils down to motion with control. It’s a combination of flexibility, stability and movement skill. Mobility combines with flexibility to develop a full range of motion.”
There are many exercises to reinforce mobility training. Functional range conditioning is a specific approach that helps strengthen the restricted range of motion at any give joint. “There is a degree of strength that needs to be developed within that stability and control,” Michele Rogers, a certified personal trainer commented. “…Taking movements to their end range.”
Many conventional exercises work to improve mobility and can do so by incorporating several muscle groups at once. Take the following examples, imagine using the full range of motion available at each joint without pain, and concentrate on spending extra time in the end ranges:
- Lunges working into a full range of motion
- Twists – standing, kneeling and floor
- Overhead mobilizations (gentle movements akin to dynamic stretching) with straight arms are great for improving shoulder mobility. A straight arm “push down” or lying pullover with light weight can also accomplish this
- Leg and arm circles
- Suspension cables offer many options: lunges, flys, and rollouts to name a few.
- Various Kettlebell exercises like swings and windmills
Many old school exercises have a purpose in mobility training. Think back to playground days of windmills and jumping rope. “I always begin my client’s sessions with 3-4 mobility exercises in order to warm up and strengthen joints,” Brown said. “One of my favorites is the windmill which can be performed either standing or on one knee.”
Who Needs It?
Anyone can benefit from mobility training, as it’s highly adaptable to all levels. “Many elderly people take very short steps when they walk. They have lost the mobility to take long, strong strides. It doesn’t have to be that way for most people,” Brown explained. “All ages can benefit from mobility training, but most definitely older adults.”
Some clients will resist mobility training. One of Brown’s clients said, “I don’t like it because it’s difficult so it’s obviously what I need.” Touché! The ability to move with ease is essential in exercise and day-to-day functioning. “I can’t expect a client to squat with good form if they have tight and immobile hips, knees, and ankles,” Brown said. “And if weight is added before mobility is developed, injury is almost inevitable.”
A squeaky door will move easier and quieter when a spray lubicant is applied to the hinges. Much like a rusty bike chain that will catch and make it difficult to pedal until oil is applied to smooth it out. Our own built-in natural lubricant, synovial fluid, provides similar benefits to our joints. By moving our joints, we can help the process along. Not only does this fluidity make it more comfortable, it also prevents a world of injuries.
Mobility training can help our clients whether they are climbing a mountain or climbing stairs; walking around the block or running a marathon, playing a recreational sport or competing on a professional level. It’s a valuable type of training offering a huge variety of exercise options to ultimately improve range of motion.