Mobility has been a growing area in fitness for several years now. The main idea behind it is to simply improve your ability to move. By improving your ability to move you’ll likely be healthier overall, as well as stronger and fitter.
If you’ve ever played any sport you’ve likely done some simple warm up drills that could be called mobility work. Things like ankle, wrist, and arm circles are what we’re talking about. The idea is to achieve and maintain a full range of motion with every joint in the body. Certain places in the body tend to be harder than others to move in isolation, like the pelvis and thoracic spine. When you find areas that are restricted you know you need to work on them.
The way I see it, if you’re doing any sports or fitness training you’ll likely need a fair amount of mobility. Having more mobility than you require for the task at hand is great, as you’re less likely to become injured. In addition mobility provides a means at gaining greater control of your body, which is what any athlete or trainee needs.
Try out these five ways to better your mobility work and you can extend these benefits even further:
1. Complexify the Movements
The fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. It’s also the simplest of movements. A more complex movement is a circle. If you can move a body part in straight lines from front to back and side to side, then combine it all together in a circular movement.
Another more complex pattern is to do figure eights. This involves small circles in different segments of the movement. Some people even extend this idea into a four-leaf clover pattern.
One more option that can allow you to exert greater control of your body is to trace the alphabet. This is fairly easy with something like the shoulder, but much harder with any part of the spine.
Tracing the letter A with my ankle.
This same idea can be translated to other movement beyond arm circles, ankle circles, and the like. Look at my recent article for 52 different ways to stand up off the ground. This shows how increasing the complexity of any movement can build not just mobility but strength, stability, flexibility and more.
2. Increase Coordination
Mobility work is not just about mobility. It can be a great way to increase coordination. All exercise involves some coordination to get your body to act how you want it. Thus with greater coordination of all your joints you can often find greater performance.
When it comes to the arms they can be moved at the same time, which takes more coordination than a single limb at a time. They can move in the same direction, but also in different directions. Also try doing movements in different parts of the body. Try the ankle and wrist at the same time. Or the pelvis and neck (pictured to the right).
3. Change the Speed
Mobility is often done at a natural speed, the idea being to get the synovial fluid flowing in the joint. So, go faster. This can serve as a bit more of a warm-up if you desire to get that effect.
But you’ll find a big benefit will be in going slower, taking multiple seconds, even half a minute, to do a single line or circle. As you do this you may notice the movement is no longer smooth, but moves in fits and starts. What this means is you don’t have complete control of the range of motion. By spending more time in slower movements you will gain greater control.
4. Change Your Position
Most mobility work is done standing. But by changing how your body is positioned you will get a different feel of the mobility work. Try your mobilty drills while:
- On all fours
- Lying on your back
- Lying on your stomach
- In a headstand
- And any other ways you can think of
Thoracic mobility done on all fours.
5. Use Your Intuition
Mobility work is commonly done from toes to head to fingertips, the same whole body routine in the reverse direction. The goal in this is to once again get all the joints moving and build and maintain that full range of motion. If you lack range of motion in any joint this is something well worth going after. Many people will find that not only does their movement and therefore performance improve, but also certain nagging pains may go away.
Once you’ve attained this level you may not need to always practice mobility in the same way. If you have full mobility is it necessary to practice it everyday? I don’t think so. Instead, I like to listen to my body. When you gain more awareness of your movement, as you do in mobility, you can also gain more internal awareness of what your body wants and needs.
You can do mobility work as a sort of active meditation where your awareness goes internal and you move however your body needs to move. With this you will end up doing all of the above steps and even more. You’ll come up with movements and combinations that no one else would ever teach you.
In the end it all means greater control of your movement. And that is what performance in fitness is all about.