The other day while training some of my clients I wanted to try a little experiment. I wanted to ask 20 different people in the gym one simple question. What can you do to get healthy? As you would guess, I heard all the typical answers that you would expect. I need to eat less, or I need to run more, surprise right? Going into this experiment I knew that these were answers that I was going to get. I was fine with that, but my goal was to hear one specific answer. I wanted to hear if anyone would say that they wanted to incorporate more stretching or mobility into their workouts. As a fitness professional I was slightly disappointed that no one wanted to choose to work on their mobility. Yes, the answers I was receiving are part of the process, but mobility training needs to be part of that process as well. I don’t want any one of you to have trouble tying your shoes one day, and this will be a problem if you don’t become more mobile. This may seem like an irrelevant task now, but if you don’t work on your mobility simple tasks will turn into difficult ones. With this blog I hope all you can begin to understand the importance of mobility training. I promise you that if you begin stretching now your body will thank you later. Let’s fix those little aches and pains that have been plaguing us for years!
What is mobility training?
Mobility training is a form of training used to improve flexibility by actively stretching the muscle to help it return to its original resting length.
Now how does this benefit you?
Most of you have heard of the concept we have come to know as stretching, or that thing you don’t do before your workout. Yes, mobility training is stretching more or less, but I want you to think of it as something much more than that. Short term, stretching is something that you should incorporate into your workouts. But right now I want you to think in terms of longevity. Every time you stretch before a workout you are preparing yourself to be ready for that individual workout. This is vital for the workout that day, but what you are really doing is preparing yourself for the future. Stretching one day is small step towards a greater goal. Every time you stretch you are helping out your future self. Your future self will thank you when you are running around with your grandkids without that pain in your lower back. Playing with your grandkids is the long term goal of stretching because we want to live our lives to the fullest. No one wants those aches and pains when we reach those advance stages of our lives. We want to live pain free and happy, don’t we? One step towards this goal is mobility training and stretching. This is a very simple task that will have endless benefits.
What are these benefits specifically?
- Larger Range of Motion (make simple tasks easy)
- Increased Blood Flow (recover from those workouts)
- Better Posture and Pain Reduction (feel healthier and energized)
- Relaxed Muscle Tone (work out the kinks)
- Stress Relief (relaxation)
I know a lot of you have heard these benefits before. Everyone knows that you are supposed to stretch. The problem is that no one takes time to do it, or people honestly just don’t know how to stretch. I know that sometimes it can be even a little bit embarrassing when you are trying to stretch. No one likes doing things that they are not confident in. That’s just simple human nature. I want all of you to have a simple routine that not only benefits you, but one that you are confident in doing. The following routine will be a simple and easy routine that you can perform as often as you want. Mobility doesn’t have to be limited to the days where you are going to work out. Helping out the future you can be performed on any day of the week!
Sample Routine (click HERE for demo)
- Scapular Slide 3 x 10
Upper body mobility is often overlooked especially when it comes to the shoulders. I want you to think about how much your shoulders play a role in the tasks you perform on a daily basis. Your shoulders allow your arms to move freely to help you live your everyday life. Without your shoulders how would you reach up and grab that jar of peanut butter that sits on the top shelf? How would you be able to pick up your children? These are things that would not be possible without our shoulder joints. This is why working on our shoulder mobility and range of motion is so vital. By improving our shoulder range of motion all those upper body tasks will become easier. You will even reduce your pain at the same time. So please give these scapular slides a try, and I guarantee they will help you on your path to becoming pain free.
- Quadruped T-Spine Rotation 3 x 5 each
Your t-spine, also known as your thoracic spine, are the vertebrae in your middle and upper back. I know a lot of you may be asking why is your t-spine important when it comes to your mobility. It may seem a little different to think of your spine when you are thinking about becoming mobile, but your t-spine is very important. An immobile t-spine can lead to problems in several other areas of your body. These areas include your shoulders, low back, neck, and hips. Over time this lack of mobility will only get worse because our poor posture will only add to our poor thoracic spine mobility. By working on our posture and performing t-spine exercises such as the quadruped t-spine rotation we can greatly improve our thoracic spine mobility. This will only lead to larger ranges of motion in other joints helping our bodies to feel young once again.
- Hip Pull Through 3 x 30 seconds each
Sitting is something that we all do on an everyday basis. Yes, it can be nice to sit down after a long day, but we know it is bad if we are sitting all day at our jobs. I will touch more on sitting later, but in terms of our hip mobility it is awful for us. Sitting will weaken our glutes while shortening our hip flexors at the same time. This can even lead to problems in other areas such as our low back. I know a lot of you are thinking that you have to sit for your job, and I do understand that this is not something that you cannot stop doing. This does not mean that you can’t still work on that hip mobility. By performing hip stretches such as the hip pull through, you can even help to reduce knee pain. Not to mention that once your range of motion becomes greater, exercises such as the squat will become much easier. Better hips mean better workouts which will lead to gains in the gym.
- Single Leg Hamstring Stretch 3 x 10
Tight hamstrings…Everyone knows that soreness in the back of your legs after leg day. Yes, this will happen to everyone after a tough leg day, but there is a bigger problem at hand. Due to an in-active lifestyle and lots of sitting our hamstrings muscles will begin to tighten over the years. This will not only begin to affect your workouts, but it could be start to affect other areas of your body as well. Having tight hamstrings will almost always lead to lower back pain. This pain could get to the point where it begins to hinder your everyday living. I never want this to be the case for any of you. I know several people who have to deal with back pain on a daily basis, and it really can make their life difficult. We all need to start doing hamstring stretches like the one above so we can avoid this problem. One thing that you should always remember is that just because you are stretching one muscle does not mean that you aren’t helping out another problem area. Our body is a series of connections that have to work in unison to live a healthy and happy life.
- Elevated Quad Stretch 3 x 30 seconds
Now that we have stretched the back of your leg we can’t forget to stretch the front. Your quadriceps are another main muscle group that you can’t ignore. Tight quadriceps can lead to chronic back pain as well if they become tight over time. I know your starting to see a theme here with the back pain, which is why our mobility can’t be ignored. Generally you will feel the tightness in your hamstrings way more than your quadriceps. This is normal, but that does not mean that you can’t forget about this muscle group. Even if you don’t feel tightness in a certain area you should still always stretch it because it will help. So next time you are stretching your hamstrings don’t forget about the quadriceps too. Your low back will thank you, and you will be feeling great in no time.
- Ankle Glides 3 x 10
We have finally made it down the bottom of our body. The last and one of the most important joints we will look at is our ankle. In our kinetic chain our ankle plays a huge role in many of the movements that we perform. How many of you have ever been told that your squat is too high? I know I have! This can be frustrating and we continue to wonder why we can’t squat to depth. A big part of this is our lack in ankle mobility. When we squat our heels will come up because our ankles simply don’t have the range of motion. This can cause us to compensate with other parts of our body possibly leading to injury. This can be especially important when it comes to a very common theme in this blog, our low back. In several movements we will begin to lean forward causing our spine to lose its proper position. What can this cause? You guessed it, back pain. This is why our ankles cannot be forgotten. Problems here will lead to problems elsewhere. Then these problems can cause new problems. So, please let’s start at the root of the problem and work on our ankles.
As you have been reading this blog you have probably noticed that I have touched on back health a lot. Back pain is a problem that plagues our society and we need to fix it. Improving our total body mobility will defiantly help to fix our back problems and reduce our pain. But this is not the only problem. One thing that I cannot stress enough to our current society is to fix our posture. So many of us sit all day and we tend to slouch. This causes our back to round and our chest muscles to tighten. If we do this long enough we can eventually develop a rounded upper back also known as kyphosis. This can make us significantly weaker and eventually lead to more back problems.
How Do We Fix This
First of we need to be conscious of our posture. We need to stand tall with our ears directly above our shoulders while have our spine in a neutral position. This may seem like a confusing concept but all you need to do is have someone look at you from a side view. If your body’s major joints look to be in a straight up and down line then you are doing a good job. Once we have our everyday position figured out we have to work on strengthening our imbalances. Your chest will become tight and your back muscles will become very weak. Here are three quick exercises that can help you even out those imbalances.
- Pec Stretch (Mobility)
- Foam Roll Upper Back (Soft-Tissue)
- Band Pull Part (Strength)
Performing these exercises on a daily basis along with practicing good posture will help you back on that path towards health and wellness. When we think of our health we have to start thinking outside of the realm of our strength levels or our cardiovascular health. Yes, these are two major keys that will help us to achieve our goals. But we can’t forget that we move with our body every single day. Our joint health along with good mobility will help make all those daily tasks of life that much easier. This will not only lead to a happier life, but a quality of life that you know you deserve.
Your friend in health and wellness,