Having the freedom to move without the fear of busting your shoulder or popping an ankle is something I think we all strive for, especially if you enjoy being active. Things like…
Going for a run
Having one of those really good days in the gym where you feel unstoppable
Getting in the zone while you’re on your bike and feeling the power as you pedal
Being dialed in and strong in a yoga class
Crushing the ball down the course with a perfect golf swing
All of that starts and ends with having control and strength at your joints…otherwise known as mobility training.
After years (and I mean yeaaaars) looking for solutions to my own nagging injuries, I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled on a style of training from the brilliant minds at Functional Range Conditioning, that has not only fixed my own issues, but so many of my clients.
My hope is that by the end of this you’ll walk away with not only knowing what mobility training is but have a better understanding for how your body works so you can take control of your self care.
Let’s dive into the basics.
WHAT IS MOBILITY TRAINING?
Mobility training is joint training and it improves the way you move aka how mobile you are.
It’s the most simple and effective way to:
Relieve aches, pains, and tightness
Reduce severity and frequency of future injuries
Increase flexibility and range of motion
Improve sports performance
Break through training plateaus
Just like you have strength training to build muscle, and cardiovascular training to strengthen your heart, you have mobility training to create stronger, healthier joints.
Anything you want to do physically requires proper joint function. Make them Rockstars and your nervous system calms down and all those knots and pain go away.
A lot of people think mobility training is stretching, yoga “flows”, or using gadgets like foam rollers or massage guns, but it’s not. And it’s not a warmup, or something you only do at night before you got to bed.
WHY IS MOBILITY TRAINING SO POWERFUL?
Mobility training is incredibly powerful because it attacks things at the most basic level…the joints. All movement and all aches pains, tightness, or injury stems from your joints.
And yes, even if you feel like you have a muscle problem like knots, tightness or strains for example, it was put there because your joints aren’t functioning the way they were meant to.
Unfortunately, when you stretch, foam roll or use a massage gun, you’re only reaching the surface level and aren’t getting to the root of where the problem is coming from…the joints.
Have you ever spent countless hours with these modalities to wake up the next day and feel the same nagging issues? That’s because you were only working on the surface. You might instantly experience that “it hurts so good” feeling we’re all familiar with and it might feel like you instantly feel relief but it’s only temporary.
Mobility training at your joints gets long lasting results.
Think of it like this….
Healthy joints support your muscles, which move your bones and allow you to safely run, take a long ride on your bike and hit the gym hard…all without pain.
And the best part? You don’t have to spend more time doing it than your favorite activities. 10-15 minutes a day is all it takes and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM MOBILITY TRAINING
While mobility training can literally benefit every single person on this planet, I think those that get the most out of it are what I like to call “the everyday athlete”. This just means you enjoy being active, whether that’s playing a sport, lifting weights, or playing with your grandkids outside. All you need for success is the desire to move, feel and perform better.
Newsflash though: The “cool stuff” you see coaches doing on social media isn’t something anyone new to mobility training should be doing. Just like anything, you have to lay a foundation for quality movement before going crazy.
You wouldn’t put a beginner in the ring with a black belt would you? I hope not.
The same goes for mobility training. The good news is if you’re consistent with your training, you’ll be well on your way to doing stupid human tricks in no time.
HOW MOBILITY TRAINING WORKS
We can easily go down a rabbit whole with this but I’ll try and keep it as short and sweet as I can. To answer this question, we first need to understand why pain or injury gets there in the first place.
How Problems Start
You first need to understand that your nervous system is the one calling the shots. It controls all of our movement and pain responses, and all of your body’s protective mechanisms. Anything you want to do requires the “ok” from this guy.
I like to think of the nervous system as an over protective older brother who won’t let you go out to parties when you’re a teenager. He just doesn’t trust you to be safe, right?
If a joint doesn’t work properly or is weak, you might not even notice there’s a problem at first but your nervous system will. It’s always there trying to protect you when it doesn’t feel safe with you going in a position that requires that particular joint.
This protection comes in the form of things like knots, spasms or tightness that leads to aches and pains. Or it will restrict your movement which limits your sports performance and can create training plateaus.
How To Make These Problems Go Away
Now, we know that if the nervous system doesn’t feel safe and secure, it’ll throw the breaks down. You have to build trust with the nervous system before it’ll ease up. So how do we do it?
Are you ready for this? You’re already on the right path.
It’s by using mobility training to develop strength and control in your movement at the joint level.
When this happens, your nervous system begins to trust you and feel safe. Before you know it, your issues become a thing of the past.
It really is that simple folks.
If you’re feeling aches, pains, or tightness…no matter where they are, or you’re experiencing plateaus in your training, it’s because your nervous system detects that your joints aren’t working properly and is putting these issues there to protect you.
Mobility training is the tool we use to develop strength and control at your joints, which then signals to your nervous system that it’s safe for you to move freely.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY
I wanted to include this in this beginner’s guide to mobility training because it’s a common questions I’m asked from those just starting out and there are important differences to understand.
These phrases are often used interchangeably as if they’re the same, but I can assure you they’re not. Here’s a quick example:
When we talk about flexibility think of someone reaching down to touch their toes to stretch their hamstrings. The truth is, most of that range of motion is passive meaning there’s an external force, in this case, like gravity to help pull them into that stretch.
Now take that same stretch and look at it a little differently. If I’m standing and pull my leg up towards me, I’m still stretching my hamstring, but now I’m using all of the tissue to get that stretch. This is an example of mobility and in this stretch, we call this active range of motion because nothing is helping me get into this position.
Another example is down dog in yoga. Your flexibility is being able to push your head through your arms to feel a stretch in your lats. The external force is gravity and the leverage you can produce through the floor with your hands.