"I love working on my mobility," said no athlete ever. When you get to the gym, you're usually ready to rock and roll. Starting slow with a mobilizing warmup? Meh. You're more in the mood to load all the weights.
What about afterward? That moment isn't much better. When you're done with your workout, all you want to do is chug a protein shake and head home to take a shower. Who has time for mobility?
But has your coach ever stopped you and reminded you to do your mobility drills? Maybe they've even nudged you to work on them at home.
There's a good reason for it.
Why You Need to Work on Mobility
For starters, mobility plays an important role in your warmup because it helps to prepare the body for stress — read: training.
Mobility as Part of Your Warmup
If you throw a heavy barbell overhead before your shoulders are ready for it, not only will it be incredibly uncomfortably, but you're also putting yourself in a great position to be injured.
That's right — many injuries happen as a result of immobility.
When you spend time on mobility, it helps move blood into your tissues. It'll carry something called synovial fluid into your joints, which helps reduce friction so that your joints and tissues can move and glide more freely.
Because mobility allows you to get into those tougher positions — like a full-depth squat or anything that involves going overhead — not only does it reduce the chance of injury, but it'll improve your form, too.
We can take this one step further and argue that because it helps to improve your form, it also helps you activate and utilize the correct muscles. Let's say that you have poor squat mobility due to tight hips. As a result, you mostly squat with your back.
Not only is this dangerous, but it deprives you of some of the benefits that squats offer. Your glutes, quads, and hamstrings aren't getting the workout that they should be.
By improving your squat mobility, you'll put those areas in a better position to fire like you need them to. And as a result, you'll also avoid any pesky back injuries.
See how it all works together and overlaps?
So, mobility should be a part of every warmup, without question.
How to Do It
The areas you focus on mobilizing during your warmup should coincide with the areas that you'll work during your programming.
For example, if you're going to do presses, you should focus on your shoulders. If you're going to squat, pay attention to your hips and ankles. You don't have to spend hours on this, so don't let the time commitment stop you. Even just 10 minutes can make a big difference.
We know that warmups can sometimes feel slow and pointless, but your coach incorporates them on purpose. The time you spend on mobility here is crucial to ensure the quality of your movements and keep you safe.
Mobility During Your Cooldown
You'll want to dedicate part of your cooldown to mobility, as well. This is for a few reasons.
After you've finished training, your muscles have the tendency to tighten up, which (as you now know) can lead to injury. Mobility helps bring them back to their proper flexibility so you can avoid that tightness and any additional trouble it may cause.
In addition, mobility can help prevent or at least reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which means that you can recover faster.
As an added bonus, this is a good opportunity for your heart rate to slow down. After a grueling workout, you don't want to immediately go back to your day. Cooldowns are necessary, and mobility should always be a part of them.
How to Do It
As was the case for warmups, your mobility cooldown should target the areas you just finished working.
Mobility is Especially Important for Excessive Sitters
There's another point we need to cover here because it's something that applies to a lot of us.
Sitting can be as deadly as smoking and obesity. And unfortunately, a good portion of us spend most of our days hunched over a desk. In fact, sedentary jobs have gone up 83% since 1950.
When you sit, your hips tighten. Your shoulders tighten. Your pecs tighten. Everything starts to close up.
This is dangerous in and of itself. But imagine, next, that you go to the gym and try to train like this. It's a recipe for disaster.
Mobility is important for all of us and perhaps even more so for people who spend a lot of time sitting.
It's not just sitting, either. Spending excessive time in any one position can be hazardous. This means that if you spend all day on your feet, you'll want to be extra certain that you give your mobility exercises the attention that they deserve.
Note: Mobility Isn't the Same as Stretching
Static stretching will improve your flexibility, but being flexible is not the same thing as being mobile. This is important!
Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen. Mobility is the ability of a joint to move comfortably through a certain range of motion.
This is why you can be very flexible but still have poor mobility. Indeed, flexibility won't be enough to safely get you through your workouts.
Now, this isn't to say that static stretching and flexibility aren't beneficial. They can be, under the right circumstances. On this note, though, it's worth mentioning that doing the wrong stretches — or holding them for too long — can actually be bad for you because it weakens your muscles.
However, it's simply important to know that there's a difference between flexibility and mobility.
It's clear to see that there's a good reason — several of them, actually — that your coach is constantly on your case to spend more time on mobility. It factors into the quality of your performance as well as recovery and injury prevention.
Be sure to include mobility drills that reflect your programming in your warmups and cooldowns, and your body will thank you for it.