A well-balanced diet? Check.
Drinking adequate amounts of water daily? Check.
An average of 7-9 hours sleep? (most nights) Check.
Adequate Recovery? Check.
This encompasses all of the primary components of a solid training plan, right?
But often, we forget one key component- mobility.
In the training environment flexibility and mobility are often used synonymously, although there are some subtle differences.
Flexibility refers to finding a range of motion i.e. Touching your toes shows how flexible your joints are.
Mobility on the other hand refers to the ability to produce force and move freely throughout that range of motion. I.e. A Jefferson curl.
Although this might seem confusing and quite pedantic, there is very good reasons for the subtle differences.
There is a great quote from ancient times which explains, “The branch that can withstand the most bend, will not snap.” Which correlates with the physiological properties of our human body.
If we are able to produce force throughout a larger range of motion, our soft tissue (tendons and muscles) will not snap.
Now this might seem a little obvious, but there are two great reasons for not wanting our soft tissue to get damaged.
1. It hurts.
2. If you’re injured. You can’t train properly. If you can’t train properly, you’ve just added more time until you reach your goals allowing your performance to decrease.
So, let’s compare the foundation of your dream body to that of your dream home.
With flexibility being the sand that you would only use, as your substance of choice for the bricks to be laid upon.
Yes, you need the sand. But unless you combine it with cement and water (mobility) you haven’t got a complete product.
You can’t expect that foundation to last as long as you would like it to.
Especially if that house continues to grow bigger and you continue to add more force to the structure (joints).
These imbalances will continue to occur when some muscles are stronger than their opposing muscles.
There are many factors which can contribute to this, however, the most prevalent is found by combining your work practices with your training regime.
If you work in an office and sit 8-12 hours a day or perhaps standing in an anterior loaded stance all day (shoulder slumped), you’ll find that your anterior muscles like your pecs, deltoids and hip flexors will become passively shorter, due to gravity over-writing the lack of activation from the postural muscles. Couple this with a standard “Pecs, Guns, Shoulders and Abs” program that most mirror fiends strive for, it’s no wonder injuries occur when they are asked to do anything outside of their program.
In conjunction to this, other standard issues will be highlighted through your posterior chain, with the likes of your lower back, glutes and hamstrings becoming weaker, inactive and often feeling “tight”. Which will lead to even less activation which creates even weaker muscles, ultimately forcing you to succumb to the effects of gravity and looking and feeling like the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Indeed, the term “use it or lose it” in this sense, is definitely true. It is not because you are 30 that your body hates you. It’s because you’ve allowed your muscle to develop and remodel themselves into compromising positions for 30 years.
Whilst muscle imbalances may not be a problem at first, the real issue occurs when your body is required to be used. See, you can strengthen as much as you want, but if you lack the ability to produce force through the range of motion that your body requires, something’s gotta give.
Unless you learn how to identify and fix whatever imbalances exist, it isn’t a matter of if, but rather a matter of when.
But just how do I get my mobility back?
Most individuals actually lack the knowledge and ability to improve their mobility. The simplest principle to develop better mobility is to allow force and time under tension to remodel the tissue and help you ‘sink’ into a deeper range of motion, whilst controlling agonists and antagonists in a balanced way.
The five movements below can help you remodel your tissue and regain your mobility in less than 10 minutes.
1. Deep Squat Hold
2. Supine Chest Opener
3. Jefferson Curl
4. Lateral Split Hinges
5. Thoracic Opener
What to do now
Begin implementing these strategies into your daily routine based on the principle of adding force to a given range of motion x time under tension to allow the soft tissue and neuromuscular properties to remodel.
An easy way to manage your mobility is to set a 30 second timer. Begin one of these movements whilst finding a range which pushes past comfortable, allow yourself to sink into that position over the period of 30 seconds, whilst still maintaining tension through the muscle.
Make your way through the list with 30 on/30 off or choose 2-3 movements each day based on what your body needs. Continue this process with a beginning test, and re-test after a few weeks to track your progress.
You should find a larger range of motion whilst actively producing force, which will be the key component to any training related goals, whether they are strength gains, body image and composition or performance based.
Be present whilst you perform mobility drills. The mind-muscle connection is both an “p and downstream feedback mechanism.
If your body is moving well then your mind will be unrestricted, and vice versa. Unrestricted movement will be the key to unlocking unrestricted mindset.