To finish our series on consistency, we want to talk about mobility. Mobility is perhaps the second most important aspect of fitness, behind diet. This is especially true as we age.
Mobility is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion. This is different from flexibility, which is the ability to stretch a muscle. Flexibility can limit mobility, but so can strength imbalances, impingements, and much more. As we age, our bodies lose elasticity and support. Thus, mobility becomes extra important for our continued success in fitness.
Like anything else we do, for mobility work to be effective, you have to do it consistently. However, as we talked about in our Consistency in Workout post, what does consistent mobility work look like?
Some Basic Science
Back to some basic science. As we age, our muscles and joints lose their ability to stretch and move like they did when we were young. Add to this that fact that most of us sit all day long, and joints begin to tighten up. Sitting in front of a computer all day can cause our shoulders to shift forward and our upper packs to permanently round. Sitting will also cause our hip flexors to shorten and limit our range of motion when it comes to squatting or bending over. This loss of range of motion isn’t instant, but happens over years of daily immobility.
Regularity in Mobility Work
To regain our mobility, we have to work on mobility “regularly.” Regular mobility work means daily mobility work. Most of the literature out there suggests 3-4 sets of static holds or reps for each mobility movement. For example, you might hold a pigeon stretch 3 times for 1 min on each leg. In Dr. Aaron Hosrschig’s book, “Squat Bible,” he generally suggests 3 sets of 10-15 reps or 3 sets of 0:30 holds for each mobility exercise. Doing such work daily will help to regain small amounts of mobility over a large period of time.
Basic Mobility Work
There are two common ways to approach mobility work. First, you can put together a daily practice of general mobility work. You want to focus on shoulders, upper back, hips, hamstring, and ankles. Simply going to your favorite search engine and searching for something like, “Best shoulder mobility exercises” will give you plenty of options. In the beginning, it isn’t super important which exercise you pick. It is more important that you start working on your mobility consistently.
The second way to work on mobility is to focus on an area of your body that is bothering you. If you have low back pain, it might be caused by a lack of mobility in your hips. Thus, you need to focus on hip mobility. Focused mobility work can be tricky because you have to be able to understand the problem and determine the cause. Only then can you find appropriate mobility exercises. This may require you to find someone who understands basic physical therapy.