stretching and mobilityWhen it comes to fitness and nutrition, we tend to focus on the stuff that’s sexy.

Shed fat.  Build muscle.  Get abs.  All the things that, quite frankly, you probably started working out for in the first place.

All of that is great, but unfortunately, it’s often the really boring stuff that can make a huge difference.

Today we’re going to be talking about one of those truly unsexy topics – mobility.  Specifically, we’re going to be going over what it is, why it’s important, and why what you do before your workout matters as much as what you do during it.

stretching and mobilityWhat Is Mobility?

Mobility, in a nutshell, is your body’s ability to move easily and efficiently within its natural range of motion, and the ability to perform the functions it’s meant to perform.

The problem is that, as we age, we tend to develop faulty movement patterns which, over time, lead to a reduction in our natural range of motion.  

An example of this is the fact that, for the majority of people living in the modern world, we sit hunched over a computer all day.  Over time, this tends to tighten certain muscles and force us into an unnatural position.

To illustrate this, try this little exercise- put both your arms out in front of you.  Get on one foot, and try to do a one legged (pistol) squat.

How low could you go?  Were you able to get all the way down?  Or, like most people, did you get stuck halfway and lose your balance?

Chances are if you can’t perform this exercise (and most people can’t), it’s because you lack range of motion in the ankle and stability in your hips.

stretching and mobilityWhy Is Mobility Important?

Ok, so at this point, you may be wondering why all this matters when it comes to the gym?  I mean, as long as you can move the weight around, you’re good to go, right?

Well, here’s the problem.  Being able to move your body through a full range of motion is absolutely essential to getting the most out of the exercises you’re doing.  

Take the squat as an example.  Let’s say you’re really working on building a better butt and want to get maximum glute activation when you squat.  

Well, unfortunately for you, if you can’t get down low enough because of your ankles and your hips, you’re going to have a hard time achieving that goal.

Another example is the bench press.  A big part of being able to bench properly and effectively is the ability to pull back your shoulder and arch your back.  

And unfortunately, guys who can’t do this, but choose to bench anyway, not only don’t get all the benefits of the exercise, but they also set themselves up for shoulder injuries down the road.

stretching and mobilityWhat Are Some Common Mobility Issues In Men?

The list of mobility issues that affect men is a long one, and could probably span an entire book. Here are a few that are extremely common.

Thoracic Mobility: Your thoracic spine is the part of your spine that runs up the middle and upper back.  

Guys with thoracic immobility often have a hard time both arching their backs, as well as difficulty getting their hands up behind the head.  This makes it difficult to get into position for both the squat and the overhead press.

Rounded Shoulders: This is exactly what it sounds like – shoulders that “droop” forward (i.e., caveman posture), making it difficult to take them through their full range of motion.  This makes it difficult to do any sort of exercise involving the shoulders (which, unfortunately, is a lot of upper body exercises).

Hip Mobility: When the muscles in your hips get tight, it really has an adverse impact on your lower body workouts.  Specifically, the significant areas you’ll notice it in is your ability to squat, as well as do any “hinge movement” (i.e., the deadlift).

Ankle Mobility: This is another one that hinders both your squat and deadlift.  It’s even worse if you play sports, as ankle immobility makes running (and doing anything on your feet) that much harder.

stretching and mobilityHow To Stretch And Warmup Before You Workout

So, given that mobility is so important, it’s critical that you stretch and perform corrective exercises before you workout.  

Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also be able to move your body through its full range of motion, thereby making the most of your time spent in the weight room.

With that said, there’s a lot that can potentially go into a good stretching routine.  Everyone is different and has different issues hindering their mobility.

There’s also the issue of adherence – we can give you a million different exercises, but if you don’t actually do them, you’re not going to get any benefit out of it.  Often starting with a few exercises is a better move, because the chances that you’ll stick with them is a lot higher.

So, what we’ll be doing is giving you a list of one or two different exercises and stretches for each of the major problems listed above. Take 10-15 minutes before each workout and perform each of these:

Thoracic Mobility

Foam Roller Mobilizations

Thoracic Rotations

Rounded Shoulders

Cow Face Pose (work your way up to it, especially if you have really tight shoulders)

Goal Post Stretch

Hip Mobility

Lying Hip Rotations

Kneeling Internal Rotation Stretch

Ankle Mobility

Lacrosse Ball Rolls

Banded Ankle Mobilizations

Mobility is not the most exciting topic in the world.  But just like anything else, it’s one of those small details that, once you get it handled, can make a big difference in your results.  Spend a few weeks focusing on these little stretches, and you’ll not only feel and perform better, but you’ll also prevent injury and ensure you stay healthy enough to consistently hit your goals.