Why Every Athlete Should Focus On Their Mobility Training
You might be a competing athlete, a weekend fitness warrior, or just someone trying to improve your day-to-day health and wellness. Every activity you do requires the mobility of your body and varying degrees of athleticism.
Athleticism comes in all shapes, sizes, forms, and disciplines. But boil it down, and athleticism is your ability to precisely and effectively move your body through space and time.
From the explosivity of an NFL offensive linemen, the fluidity of a figure skater, to the precision of a golfer’s swing. You may imagine three drastically different images of an athlete. Still, all three represent that definition of athleticism. The precise movement of their bodies through time and space with the perfect range of motion at the elite level. And the same can be said for you!
What Is Mobility Training?
Mobility training is the exercises and protocols specifically designed to improve the range of motion of body parts, muscle groups, and most importantly, the joints that move them.
Your ability to execute any movement with proper range of motion ties your athletic performance and longevity in training to your progression as an athlete. And putting the focus directly on training your mobility translates to all areas of reaching your goals.
“Isn’t mobility just the same thing as flexibility?”
Right out of the gate, you may assume that mobility training and flexibility training are relatively interchangeable topics. However, there is a clear distinction between the two. Flexibility focuses on the passive lengthening of a muscle or muscle groups, while mobility focuses on your body’s motion through an active movement.
Now, there is absolutely overlap between flexibility and mobility. And in many cases, the exercises and protocols for both can positively influence the other (which is fantastic!) But mobility looks at the whole picture from the perspective of the proper range of motion itself. At the same time, flexibility is one of the pieces that fit nicely into the completed puzzle.
Why Is Mobility Training Important?
At its core, your athletic ability has a direct link to your mobility. It is your ability to move actively through a body part’s full range of motion. If a movement lacks mobility, you won’t be able to execute that movement through your body’s full range of motion (or worse, perform the exercise improperly.) And your overall athleticism will suffer for it.
It doesn’t matter if you are a runner, competitive bodybuilder, or take part in any discipline of team sports. If your mobility is lacking, so is your full potential as an athlete, and you won’t be reaping the total rewards of all your hard work in training.
Four Major Mobility Training Benefits
The benefits of dedicated mobility training are nearly endless. Let’s narrow it down to four main reasons how it builds the foundation for the critical components to your athletic development.
- Maximizes the full benefits of your training efforts through proper range of motion
- To have you recovered and ready for optimal output in your next training session
- Help prevent injuries that keep you from training
- Improves overall athleticism
1. Range of Motion
Without the correct range of motion in any exercise, you may be risking injury. You are also risking not activating the muscle groups you set out to train in the first place. When this happens, your secondary muscles begin to compensate for the improper motion. Then your form deteriorates, your secondary muscles aren’t designed to handle the stress placed on them. And possibly worst of all, you’ve wasted a ton of time.
Mobility training has numerous ways that improve your recovery post-workout. Mainly, you will enter your next training session ready for optimal output by maintaining the range of motion between sessions. Additionally, most mobility training protocols improve circulation to the parts of the body you are targeting – ultimately speeding up the workout recovery process. Here at Mobility Athlete we’ll discuss the recovery benefits of everything from active recovery and myofascial release, to cold exposure therapy and incorporating heat shock exposure for accelerated recovery.
3. Helps With Injury Prevention
Unfortunately, none of us are invincible. While any form of training and exercise presents the risk of injury, mobility training is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of getting hurt. Correctly executing any exercise with proper motor control combined with strengthening the supporting muscles around the joints of the movement is an excellent investment in ensuring that you can keep on training long term.
Nothing is worse than halted progress to your training goals due to injury.
4. Improves Athleticism
Just like the picture painted at the beginning of this article, if athleticism is your ability to move your body, any lack of proper motion is only going to reduce your athletic potential. The best remedy to twisting the key on that locked-up potential is mobility training.
The Different Kinds of Mobility Training Exercises – A Simple Introduction
Let’s start simple. All of the tools and techniques to get you moving along on your mobility training and workout recovery journey could fill an entire website. Which is why we made one for you! So we will break down some of the main categories of mobility training here. You can also use that as a launching pad to dive deeper into each topic.
Five Major Mobility Training Categories:
- Range of Motion Exercises
- Stability Exercises
- Myofascial Release
- Dynamic Stretching
- Mobility Focused Static Stretching
1. Range of Motion Exercises
Range of motion exercises help you to create a baseline for how well each body part and joint moves your body. When you think about any athletic movement you perform every day, its a great starting point to determine your range of motion inhibitions, what the root cause of the immobility may be, and then address the issue from the root cause first.
This is always the beginning of understanding your current state for the mobility that you need for proper range of motion and the optimal outcome for what you are trying to achieve.
2. Stability Exercises
If you want to look at the foundation for strength training that improves mobility, it’s hard to find a better example than stability training exercises.
Your stabilizing muscles are often neglected, especially if your training involves the same movements repeatedly and can get weaker over time, only making the problem worse.
Strengthening your stabilizers is one of the best ways to begin to improve mobility. As a bonus, it’s also one of the best ways to supercharge your existing athletic ability.
3. Myofascial Release
We’ll give a full breakdown of myofascial release in this post. For the simple introduction – if you’ve ever seen someone using a foam roller, massage gun, rollerball, or even odd-looking canes used for back and neck release, what you’re looking at is ‘self-myofascial release’ exercises.
Without getting too technical, over time, the muscle fascia loses mobility for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they get tangled or adhere to each other, and it results in less mobile tissue.
Tools like foam rollers and percussive therapy massage guns help to release these fibers and allow you to regain their original flexibility.
4. Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretches are a focused movement type of stretching that brings your body through the full range of a given motion without a static hold and often simulates the movements performed during the coming training session.
In combination with range of motion exercises, dynamic stretching can be used as an excellent gauge for your current mobility and range of motion before a workout. It can allow you to feel where tightness exists, where your range of motion may be limited, and what areas of mobility you need to focus on to improve going forward.
5. Static Stretching
There is a reason why static stretching is last on the list. It’s not that it isn’t important; it’s just that there are many misconceptions on how and when you should use it.
Static hold stretching provides temporary muscle lengthening and, when practiced over time, leads to improved long-term flexibility. Like we talked about at the beginning of the article, it’s important to remember that flexibility is a piece of the puzzle that will help your overall mobility. So it’s essential to first think about your overall mobility and how improved flexibility through static stretching can help support that goal.
Who Should Do Mobility Training?
As always, it’s best to first consult your physician, doctor, or preferred health professional before taking on any form of new physical activity. That being said, mobility training is an accessible form of training that provides benefits to anyone.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to set a personal record in your sport of choice or just a parent looking to keep up with being active with their children. The benefits of basic to elite athleticism that come with training your mobility provide you with an endless frontier of new possibilities.