Since I started powerlifting, mobility training has become an essential part of my workout sessions. As I’ve been more sedentary in the last year, I have noticed that my hips are a lot tighter, my back and shoulders have become more used to that crouch-like position in front of the desk (I miss my standing up desk a lot) and overall, my body is just not as mobile as it used to be. I know for a fact that a lot of us are feeling this way with the lack of movement during this pakuromo (pandemic is officially banned from my vocabulary). You are probably wondering what can you do at home or outside to increase and improve your mobility, loosen up your mobility and set yourself up better for life. Here I am sharing four tips and drills that you can anywhere to improve your mobility in 2021. It’s never too late to start something new!
Mobility vs. Flexibility
Mobility and flexibility are two separate terms that get interchanged frequently. Flexibility is your ability to stretch and lengthen muscles in certain positions and angles; whereas mobility means going through the full range of motion. For example, most people without disabilities are capable of walking, jumping, moving with ease but may struggle with squatting due to tight hips and ankle mobility. Mobility training is essential because it prepares our body for the stress of training and the stress of daily activities. It helps prevent the risk of injuries, improves our techniques and increases our range of motion for both functional daily movements and training movements.
Tip 1: Dynamic Movements
Start your workouts with dynamic movements such as leg swings and arm swings. Dynamic movements are the ways in which we move our bodies from one place to another using our muscles and body. This includes moving side to side, back to front, diagonally and rotationally. Movements such as running, jumping, skipping, sliding, turning and diving all count as dynamic movements. In sports and training, we are more intentional about the way in which we use them.
Ever since I became more intentional about doing these movements daily, I have noticed that I am more aware of my body, my balance and my overall athleticism is much more stronger than it was a couple of years ago. I am more agile. You don’t even need to be an athlete to benefit from this which is pretty cool.
Tip 2: Stretch regularly
I know that it’s not the most fun thing in the world but it is so good for you. You are probably thinking that didn’t you say that stretching is more of a flexibility thing? It’s more in line with flexibility but in order to improve your mobility and range of motion, you need to lengthen the muscles and joints. Stretching makes your day-to-day life much more easier as it mimics movements that you do to carry out your daily activities. It calms your body after exercising, it prevents risks of injury and it can help you figure out body imbalances so you can work on them.
Stretching has become my priority in the last year especially as our lifestyles have become more sedentary. I used to do a quick 5 minutes or less stretch routine after my workouts pre-2020 but now I have made it mandatory to do a 15 minute full body stretch everyday, including rest days. My body no longer feels tight, my hips don’t hurt anymore when I sit down to work (mainly because I’m also intentionally getting out of my chair more).
Tip 3: Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is another unpopular way to improve your mobility but it helps to loosen up your muscles, increases your range of motion without decreasing strength. It’s very inexpensive because you can either buy a foam roller or get a tennis or lacrosse ball to do it anywhere!
I like to think of foam rolling as a self-massage when I can’t get a massage done by a professional. I can work loosening tightness in certain muscles or trigger points. As most of us are working from home and are sitting down more, I like to foam roll the following areas:
- Quads and Hamstrings
- Shoulders and Upper Back
- Hip Flexors and Calves
- IT band – connective tissue on the outer thigh that runs from the hip to the knee.
Foam rolling can be really painful if you haven’t done it before. I recommend easing yourself into it. I remember it vividly…I really took my time with it and if it felt too much, I worked the areas around it the muscle. If it is painful, it means that your body is too tight and just needs some TLC.
Tip 4: Low Squats
Squats is the ultimate full body exercise as it works the core, the legs, the back – they are only done correctly with the right techniques and the right mobility to do so. Squats are also functional movements that we use on a daily basis such as sitting down and getting up from our chairs and picking up low objects. You might sometimes feel that you are unable to rise up from your chair or pick up something efficiently. All of that depends on your mobility.
If you don’t actively go to the gym and practice your squat technique, you can perform low squats around your home. Sit in low squats for about 5 seconds at a time when you are brushing your teeth or as a drill. You may not be able to get low but use a wall to support your back. With practice, you’ll be able to rely less on the wall and sink into your squats lower.
When I first started powerlifting, I couldn’t sink into a low squat. I found it very difficult but with squatting twice a week (at the time) and doing variations of squats during the week, it got a lot easier. I’m now able to sink close to the ground in my squats. It does take time but my ankle mobility has improved a lot in the last three years.
It may seem like a lot of work to improve your mobility but I can assure you from personal experience that it has improved my overall well-being. My body isn’t in pain anymore. I’m more agile, I’m more mobile, I’m able to touch my toes without a pain in my hamstrings. These are all successes to me because it means that if I continue to make my mobility training a priority as I get older, my future self will thank me for taking care of my body whilst I was younger.