By Neal Valera
The beginning of each New Year brings new clients, first-time exercisers and those getting back into fitness. Extremely motivated to get their health and fitness on the right track, they often start with too much intensity. Whether it’s lifting weights or cardio, going from 0-100 mph in 3 seconds.
This motivation is great. You don’t want to discourage it, but it’s our job as professionals in this industry to educate them that changing your health and fitness is a long game. It requires an overall lifestyle change.
The goal is to be active for years to come. For longevity and to avoid potential injury, we need to make sure we take care of their joint health.
Mobility should be a staple in all programs but is something that is too frequently overlooked by new trainees.
What is Mobility and Why is it Essential?
What is Mobility?
Most people think it’s just stretching, but mobility is simply the ability to move.
It starts with having adequate range of movement at each individual joint. From flexing to extending, rotating, and gliding, having control and strength of these basic motions is key and will unlock our movement restrictions.
Mobility gives us a better chance to coordinate multi-joint, multi-planar movement patterns. Whether it’s daily activities, work, playing with your kids, or competitive sports, our surrounding environments demand all kinds of tasks. Better mobility will give your body more options and solutions to handle different tasks.
Look at how easily a child with healthy joints can move in and out of different shapes, at awkward angles, with no trouble at all. This is something we can keep as we age if we continually expose our bodies to a variety of movements and environments.
Unfortunately, the majority of the population sits all day and lacks the requisite motion necessary to keep our joints moving as intended. Some of us have old injuries that were not rehabbed properly. Some have aches and pains from not doing enough.
As trainers and coaches, we need to be able to provide different training interventions to maximize our clients joint health and mobility, while still helping them get stronger, more muscular and fit.Mobility is also the foundation for physical qualities beyond movement. Our ability to move well can help us produce more power and strength. It can help us improve endurance by being more efficient and potentially reducing the risk of injury.
“The range through which force can be efficiently applied.” - Frank Dick
If we can help our clients move with more freedom and ease, they are able to push themselves harder during their training sessions.
In addition to the importance of mobility, don’t lose sight of your clients’ overall goals and the reason they came to you initially.
You can maintain a heavy focus on strength training and cardio while attacking a mobility weakness. Make sure to adapt the selection of exercises based on your assessment. You want to put your clients in the best possible position for success and gains while limiting the potential of injury.
What is Effective Mobility Training?
Effective Mobility Training is more than passive stretching or foam rolling. We need intensity to create the physiological adaptations for which our clients came to us.
Think about how much effort and consistency it takes to build muscle and improve your cardiovascular health and performance. Now consider how much force and intention are typically applied when you do your stretching or mobility work.
While passive stretching is a part of the formula, we need to put forth the same effort and intensity into mobility training and treat it like strength training/cardio to make real, lasting changes that improve movement. Muscular effort must be involved.
At Stick Mobility, we think of mobility as strength training. Why? To move, it takes a certain amount of strength at every joint. Many will gain passive range of motion through basic stretching, but they tend not to add isometrics or load to ensure that they can move in and out of different positions.
At Stick Mobility, we break mobility training into three different phases: Joint Mobility, Strength Training, and Active Stretching. Each phase involves isometrics at varying intensities.
The joint mobility phase sets the stage for building more capable and resilient joints. The strength phase is more intense and gives us the ability to not only exert more force but also resist force. Active stretching involves moving and stretching along different fascial lines.
This can be a great way to improve range of motion and as a dynamic w or for recovery. Depending on your greatest need, you can prioritize one phase or have a balanced approach using all three.
Implementing Mobility into Your ProgramWhere Do You Start?
Trainers and coaches sometimes struggle to implement mobility training into their clients’ sessions, because it may not have the same excitement as strength training or cardio. With mobility, the ultimate goal is playing the long game. When it comes to adding it to your client's routine, less is more.
Having a basic assessment process is crucial to give your client the appropriate information to improve in certain areas, thus maximizing their results and reducing the risk of injury. Start looking at the major joints (ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, spine, and shoulders). See how well they can move these joints as they were designed to move. Can they take them through an adequate range?
Once you’ve identified the areas that are the most restricted and will impact your client's overall movement, make that the priority. Explain that limited mobility in your joints can have an effect up and down the kinetic chain. The body is a complex and intelligent system, so it will find other ways to perform tasks, even inefficient ways when restrictions limit performance.
To create more range in an area, you will need to challenge the range of motion with a stretch. It is important to add an isometric contraction by squeezing the muscles that are being lengthened. Another thing to focus on is making sure your client can move through different lines of tension (fascial lines) and multiple planes of motion.
Elevate Your Mobility Skills and Become a Certified Stick Mobility Trainer
Stick Mobility Can Simplify Mobility Training
Our strong and flexible Training Sticks give us a simple way to create tension, leverage, body awareness and stability that is safe and scalable for everyone. They also provide a great way to give kinesthetic and visual feedback to the client and coach.
We can hang on them for decompression of the spine and shoulder mobility. We can squeeze, push or pull apart on the stick with different parts of the body to create an isometric contraction and strengthen the areas to which we are gaining more access.
By helping to stabilize one part of the body and using leverage to help us mobilize another area, the sticks can help us create different constraints. With leverage, you will be able to get into a position. The sticks will help give the less conditioned person (or someone in the rehab phase) greater confidence by giving them more stability or the ability to deload bodyweight and allow more time under tension.
By focusing on the major joints and adding a few of the big, active fascial line stretches - in as little as 10 minutes a day! - you can make a significant impact on someone’s joint health and overall movement.