It takes a lot of commitment to strength training to see consistent muscle growth. To be able to fit training into their schedule, people often cut corners. While some neglect to properly warm up before slamming the weight plates on a barbell, most decide to skip their post-workout mobility session when pressed for time.
While mobility training can be time-consuming, tedious, and uncomfortable, it is also extremely important to incorporate into your strength training routine. When it comes to hitting the weights, here are a few reasons why mobility matters.
What is Mobility?
Simply put, mobility is the ability to move freely and easily with a good range of motion (ROM). Mobility can be assessed overall, looking at how your body moves as a whole, or with focus on particular areas.
For example, you may have an excellent range of motion in your upper body– your shoulders rotate without a problem, and you can hold a barbell in a front rack position with proper extension.
On the other hand, your lower body might have poor mobility. You can hold the barbell in a front rack position with the intention of doing a front squat but lack the lower body mobility to reach optimal squat depth. To improve your lower body mobility, you will need to do corrective exercises to increase your range of motion.
Why Mobility Matters
To continue the front squat analogy, consider the deeper meaning of not being able to complete a squat: you are unable to reach the point to get the best possible results out of your training, which will ultimately waste your time and stall your progress. Furthermore, you may not be able to maintain proper form, which can not only stall your progress, but it can also cause injuries.
When you lack mobility in your muscles, tendons, and joints, you may feel pain in that area as well as other areas of the body. For example, lack of mobility in the IT bands can cause knee pain. Overcompensating for a lack of mobility in one arm may cause pain in the other arm as it puts additional stress on that part of the body.
While muscle tenderness and stiffness are a common side-effect of strength training, the words “no pain, no gain” should not apply. You should never feel pain during your training program as it indicates a serious issue. Discomfort and exhaustion? Sure. If there’s pain, it’s time to see a professional about addressing the problem before it causes a lasting issue.
Assessing Your Mobility
To properly assess your ability and make a corrective action plan, it is best to consult with a professional who has experience in mobility screens. Functional Movement Systems (FMS) is the gold standard in mobility assessments; seek a personal trainer or physical therapist with this certification.
If you’re looking for a way to get a better understanding of your mobility strengths and limitations, there are a few ways you can conduct a self-assessment of your range of motion. The first way to assess your range of motion is by taking note of your form challenges during different lifts.
Being unable to get past parallel with a light weight during a front squat speaks to a limited ROM in your lower body. If you can squat fine but can’t get your elbows in front of you to hold the bar, your upper body is limited.
The second way to assess your flexibility and mobility is to conduct a complete self-assessment using standardized movements in different areas of the body, like the assessment found here.
Improving your mobility can help you overcome a plateau, prevent injury, and ultimately achieve the muscle gains of your dreams.