To understand the basics of mobility, you need to understand the difference between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to flex throughout your range of motion. Mobility is the ability of the joint to move actively through the range of motion. So, flexibility equals muscle and mobility equals joint.
Now to be sure, flexibility is necessary for mobility. Mobility is also based on the joint structure and the nervous system. The level of mobility you have indicates how efficiently your joints are moving. Now to decrease your injury risk, it’s important to increase your effectiveness and minimize the gap between flexibility and mobility.
Active versus Passive Range of Motion
To understand injury risk, know the difference between passive and active range of motion. Active range of motion is the range of motion your joint has that you can create by moving your muscles yourself. Passive range of motion is the range of motion your joint has when an outside force moves it. For example, a hamstring stretch performed by a coach when an athlete’s leg cramps is a passive range of motion movement.
Most people have a greater passive range of motion than active. This creates a higher risk for injury. Lack of control of the passive range of motion means that you’ll struggle to safely enter and exit the range of motion. To help prevent injury and improve mobility, your stability and strength need to improve.
Static stretching is great for flexibility, but less so for mobility. In order for the body to allow you to reach the active range of motion, you need to increase your stability and strength as well as improving your ability to stretch.
Why Does Mobility Matter for Gains?
In addition to helping to mitigate injury risk, mobility can also have a big impact on your muscle mass and gains. To best develop a muscle, you need to push it across its entire range of motion. This is why it’s so important for you to complete a full movement from extension to contraction. Now think about how this relates to your mobility. If you lack the shoulder mobility and flexibility to maintain a full flex of your shoulder, you won’t be able to stimulate your lats to their full extension. Therefore, improving your mobility will also improve how much you can work your muscles.
In addition, when there is a lack of strength, stability, and mobility, other muscles and joints tend to compensate. This means that joints, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage are stressed much more than our muscles. This can lead to a lack of compound muscle growth and eventually to injury.
The goal of mobility training is to make your body progressively more effective at warming up. While you might need 20 minutes to start, but as your effectiveness grows, your mobility warm up might go down to just 5 minutes at the start. Once you’ve developed your mobility, it’s much easier to maintain it. To maintain, work the ranges that you are going to train before you start your workout.
Foam Roller Mobility Exercises
Thoracic spine extension is something that many bodybuilders struggle to achieve well. When the thoracic spine isn’t strong enough to hold an extension, it puts stress on the shoulders and neck that can cause pain and injury. By performing a foam roller thoracic spine extension, the individual vertebrae are mobilized and strengthened.
The anterior lateral hip group is home to many muscular and neural structures. The gluteus medius muscle is a fan shaped muscle located between the femur and pelvis that stabilizes the hip and pelvis. Because of its location, it’s hard to reach through traditional foam rolling. Instead, leave the roller stationary and instead rolling the hip and pelvis over the roller. Rolling slowly will make sure to mobilize the joints in addition to working the muscles.
The lats and the rib cage are closed connected. Targeting the lat muscles is highly dependent on the mobilization of the rib cage. Lying on your side, put the roller under your shoulder and press down on it. Use your other arm and rib cage to reach though to put your hands together overhead.
The pectoralis muscle group is primarily worked in the bench press, but its mobility is key to many upper body movements. Place the foam roller under the chest in a 45-degree angle right under the muscular portion of the pec. Rotate your opposite shoulder and rib cage, allowing the pec, rib cage, and thoracic spine to mobilize.