The Bare Necessities of Mobility


The new buzzword currently infiltrating various fitness circles, it comes as no surprise that this term's real meaning has been diluted many  time in order to sell a product, concept, or obtain a higher quantity of follower count (all without the quality.)

The truth is, mobility isn't about a five minute yoga session or the odd stretch. With mobility comes the foundation of your training; when you're planning your sessions, you should be thinking of the following order: mobility, stability, strength. (No, the last two aren't the same.) I got this adage from Gray Cook, and live and breathe it - both through myself, and vicariously through my clients.

Mobility sounds similar to flexibility, but they are not mutually inclusive. Mobility is, wittled down to its essence, the ability to perform a desired movement. But why is it important in our training - why bother including it if it doesn't burn calories or build muscle?

Fitness goes beyond the superficial, and the knock-on benefits of performing mobility exercises outweigh the risk taken when neglecting them. 

Mobility focuses on position and alignment. When your muscles aren't sitting at neutral lengths, your skeleton gets forced into all sorts of weird (and not so wonderful) positions. Consequently, your muscles may not fire correctly, resulting in you using the wrong muscles for the wrong kind of movements. For those of you unable to translate yet, that's not muy bueno not only for your fitness progress and journey, but also your health and injury record.

So what's the big fuss on mobility?

The goal with all mobility work is to restore your lost range of motion and reteaching yourself how your muscles should be working. 

This certainly doesn't mean you should be basing your sessions solely on mobility - in fact, many people actually need less mobility, and more stability work - but it does mean you should be more mindful of your sessions if you a) want to perform and feel at your best, and b) prevent future injury which will set you back both physically and mentally. It should also be noted that going straight into lifting after a decent mobility warm up will likely entail a one-way ticket to Injuryville; therefore, it's absolutely essential you finish your warm up with stability work prior to any big lifts or intense exercise that you map out during your session.

Some great mobility exercises to get you feeling nimble and relaxed:

A great thoracic mobility routine by The Movement Fix:

Some great hip mobility drills by Mike Perry:

And finally, Eric Cressey weighs in on some useful mobility exercises you can use in your program:

Figures in the industry worth looking at:

Gray Cook

Mike Boyle

Stuart McGill

Eric Cressey