Mobility and Strength Training

What is mobility?

Mobility is defined as ‘The ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion’. There is a place for mobility in every strength and conditioning programme. However, mobility should not replace strength training but rather act to compliment it. After all, improving your strength serves to increase the body’s capacity to tolerate load. So, if you’re a runner, cyclist or swimmer that means getting stronger so your body can cope with the demands your sport places on the body. Mobility is different to stretching or flexibility which is’ the ability of a muscle to lengthen passively through a range of motion’. Stretching alone will not improve your body’s tolerance to load.

The exercises I am demonstrating below (scroll to end for video) have an active component to them. Which involves you consciously activating or using a certain muscle group or muscle to encourage movement through that joint.

Hip Extension mobility

Hip extension is the ability for your leg to extend backward behind your hip. This is a common area of tightness or limited mobility that we see regularly in the DSC. People often complain of ‘tight hip flexors’ or they may feel tightness in their low back.

A simple exercise to help improve this mobility is the ‘hip flexor stretch’ -the name is deceptive as this is not just a passive ‘stretch’ but rather an active mobility exercise. Set yourself up the position seen in the image. A common error we see is that people arch their low back when trying to extend the hip. The key here is to keep a straight back while keeping your hip in a direct line over your knee. The second cue is to squeeze your glute and imagine you are tilting your tailbone under or ‘belt buckle up’. Whilst holding this squeeze, lift your arms over head.

The important part to remember here is to maintain the straight line through your low back, a good cue for this is to keep your rib cage down. Hold this squeeze for 20-30 secs and repeat on the opposite side.

Hop Flexor Mobility

Spiderman mobility with upper back twist

This one looks tougher than it is!

This is a great catch all exercise which incorporates mobility through multiple joints. So, if you are pressed for time (or you feel a little stiffer than usual) this is a good one to add to your programme. Begin in the position seen in the image on the left. Lift the inside arm and rotate your upper body towards the knee. Think of actively pulling your shoulder blade back behind you. Then bring the arm back down to your mat and repeat 8-10 times. The second cue for this exercise is to squeeze your glute and push your back hip down toward the mat. The third cue is to squeeze your knee straight and drive your heel back behind you, this will help to achieve a stretch to the calf.

Swap the leg positions around and repeat the arm rotations on the opposite side 8-10 times.

Ankle Mobility-Knee to wall

We often see people coming into the clinic with ‘tight calves’ and ankles. Most of the time this will have been preceded by an event such as an ankle sprain.

Dorsiflexion is the movement of the foot up toward the shin and is the movement that is most commonly limited. People may find that their heels lift off the ground when they squat, or they may feel a little stiffer coming down the stairs. Limited dorsiflexion places more pressure through the calf and knee and can lead to pain and injury in these areas, so this is an important component of any training plan.

Set up in the position seen to the right here. Quick note – one common mistake we see here is that people allow the heel to lift off the floor, this is the most important part as the heel needs to be planted to achieve the movement required. Another common mistake we see is that people allow the moving knee to move toward midline ie. past their big toe, this is the body’s way of trying to avoid the area of restriction. Instead aim your knee between your second and third toe. Repeat this motion 10-20 times on each side.

Ankle Mobility

Incorporating mobility into your strength plan or any training plan for that matter is crucial to keeping those niggles at bay! You don’t want to end up with long term injuries. Give them a try and let me know how you get on. Ellie