By Brian Nevison

The most effective methods for improving mobility are up for debate, but this much is certain: possessing adequate mobility throughout the body is extremely important to your health, fitness, and longevity! Functional Range Conditioning developer Dr. Andreo Spina defines mobility as “the ability to actively achieve a range of motion.” It requires flexibility as well as strength and control within those accessible ranges.

Poor mobility can result in the following:

  • Increased injury risk
  • Increased pain and stiffness
  • Poor coordination
  • Accelerated joint degradation

The goal of effective mobility training is to prepare the body to safely function within the ranges necessary for our daily lives. Based on their professions, habits, or hobbies, some people will have very different mobility than others. Regardless, if we perform activities for which we do not possess adequate mobility, injury and dysfunction are inevitable. So how can we effectively improve our mobility for the long-term, and where did it go in the first place?

Here are some strategies that will immediately impact your mobility:

  • Perform CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) every day.
    • Slowly rotate your major joints (one at a time) in a controlled manner, pushing the outermost pain-free range of motion. This practice will gradually increase your active range of motion, and allow you to explore every angle in a short period of time.
  • Actively move into your stretch.
    • Start with a position that you can achieve on your own to determine an appropriate range of motion. For example: lie down and actively raise your leg as far as you can. This is the angle at which you should begin your stretch. You can gradually increase the range while you breathe deeply.
  • Spend more time in a stretch.
    • We often stretch for only 20-30 seconds, which can improve circulation and provide a temporary improvement, but is not very effective for lasting changes. Try progressing to 60 seconds or even two minutes! If the stretch becomes uncomfortable, take a break and repeat to achieve more overall volume.
  • Use isometric contractions to strengthen and control new ranges of motion.
    • After holding a stretch, gradually engage the muscles being stretched for 10-15 seconds. For example: when performing a ½ kneeling stretch, press the back foot into the floor while very gradually increasing the pressure to engage the hip flexor and quad. When you relax, you will likely be able to move into a greater range of motion. This process can be repeated several times.
  • Be consistent.
    • Speak with your trainer to help determine your specific mobility priorities and address them every day, even several times per day if possible. Any attention is better than nothing, but you must provide enough of a stimulus to create lasting change within the body.

How did we lose mobility in the first place?

The human body is amazingly efficient; if we do not continue to use certain ranges of motion, the body will not spend resources to keep those ranges available to us. Our bodies are constantly remodeling, and movement dictates how our cells will lay down new tissue. Without any significant input from our movement, we are eventually left with tissue that is stiff and immobile. It is far more difficult and time consuming to regain mobility than it is to maintain.

Here are some strategies you can use to maintain your mobility outside of structured training:

  • Move often.
    • Get up from your desk, chair, or couch and move all parts of your body! If you must sit or stand in one place, learn to fidget! Roll your neck, roll your shoulders, do ankle circles, or even shift your weight side to side.
  • Use television to your mobility advantage.
    • When watching television, use the distraction to help you spend more time stretching. Prop your foot up on the couch, do a butterfly stretch, or get into pigeon pose.
  • Reflect upon your daily movement.
    • What stimulus did your body see today? What is enough to inspire a positive change? What can you do differently tomorrow? These questions can help you identify why you may be struggling to see changes in mobility, or what habits are making a difference.

Try some of these strategies right away to see improvements in your own mobility. In short: move often, explore large ranges of motion in a controlled manner, and spend more time stretching.