I’m not a doctor, consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program.
Many people experience limited mobility due to factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, injury, or aging. The good news is that mobility can be improved through various techniques and exercises described in this blog post.
If you don’t use it, you lose it!
In order for your body to achieve a range of mobility and maintain it, we must regularly use that range. If you sit at a desk all day, don’t expect to be able to do a full ROM squat at the gym.
When I sat at a desk for a living I had back pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain. Humans are not meant to sit for such long periods, so the first thing to do is to change your lifestyle or your resting/working positions.
Instead of sitting at work, try standing, sitting on the ground, a half-kneeling pose, or pigeon. Move your body every 15 min to prevent your posture from slouching.
My #1 recommendation for mobility gains is to spend more time sitting on the floor.
When you finish work, don’t sit on the couch - that’s not going to help! Instead, get a comfortable mat or carpet and lay out on the ground as you watch tv or netflix, or god willing read a book.
Build a Habit
The secret to mobility gains for the modern man is to find little areas of your life where you can add mobility.
For example, every morning when you wake up, drink water and stretch for 5-15 minutes. As you wait for the subway, sit in a deep squat. At work, stretch your calves by standing on a slant board or perform a couch stretch while working at your desk. When you brush your teeth, sit in a deep squat. Before bed, perform a couch stretch or lay on the ground with your feet up the wall as you read.
The opportunities to add mobility to your current daily life are endless. These mobility “snacks” add up tremendously so that after only a week or two you’ll notice significant improvements.
Exercise with Full ROM
If you choose good exercises, use a light weight, and perform them with full ROM, you will most certainly improve your mobility.
Bench press to get a pump might help to build your muscle but it’s not going to make you more mobile.
For the majority of people who spend all day sitting, going to the gym to sit down is not a good idea. Look for exercises that help to open you up instead of tighten you up.
For example, choose a half kneeling cable row over a seated cable row to actively stretch your hips as you exercise.
Stretch the Cause, not the Symptom
When I first started stretching for the splits I focused on my hamstrings until I eventually strained my hamstring muscle and had to stop for a few weeks!
Although my hamstrings were tight, my hip flexors were even tighter. I find this to be true for most people.
The muscles work through antagonist pairings, meaning that each muscle(s) has an opposite muscle(s), and an equal mobility tension is necessary for proper function. For example, you should stretch your biceps as much as you stretch your triceps, and going too far from this balance will likely lead to a muscle strain or worse.
Instead of focusing on your hamstrings, perform a couch stretch or ATG split squat and focus your stretching time on your hip flexors.
Take it slow and think about 5 year progress instead of 5 months.
If you’d like to work with me to improve your mobility, schedule a consultation here.
Hope this helps! - Tom