How Important Are Mobility Exercises?
Updated: Sep 27, 2021
What is going on guys? It has been a while since I mentioned exercises and especially mobility. I have recently focused mainly on food, and awareness around it, which is a very important aspect of our lives. After all, we are what we eat. This sentence can apply to movement as well if we just rephrase it a bit. We are how we move. It might not make much sense now, but if you stick to the end, I am sure you will get it.
See, humans are designed to move. Period. We have been moving, running, jumping, throwing stuff since the beginning of time. It was a requirement. As hunter-gatherers, we had to. For many years we trained our bodies to be able to move in a certain way, and even if today we do not have the demand for those moves, we still can do so. Our bodies are designed to move and if we do not give them the desired amount of movement, we are simply going to cause damage.
Just like our bodies are designed to use food as energy and building blocks. What happens if we don’t eat? We die. What will happen if we don’t move, we will suffer.
Unfortunately, today’s society has way less demand to move, as opposed to, let's say 500 years ago. Think about it. We do not have to walk for hours. We don’t even have to walk 30 minutes. We would just use a car or some sort of transport. We can order literary everything, to be delivered to our door, by just moving our fingers, as we sit and watch TV. Lack of movement is an issue, but we are not going to talk about that in this blog.
We are going to focus on another aspect of the movement. Mobility.
Now, apart from using technologies to move us, we do something else that is very detrimental and counteractive to what we were built for. We sit. Yes, you got me right. We sit all day long. Not all of us of course, even though we seem to be going in this direction. But a lot of jobs today require us to be in a seated position. Drivers, architects, teachers, students, IT specialists, etc… And that is not the end. Even though we sit all day at work, when we commute, we sit as well.
One thing I like about my relationship is that we enjoy the company of each other while walking outside. it is a nice habit with a lot of benefits. One of which is that by moving, you somehow get this sense of lightness and ease of movement. It makes you more present as well. It enhances your conversations or clears your thoughts.
Apart from this being an advertisement for movement and active lifestyle, it is also a backstory. In our last conversation, I come to the realization that kind of struck me at first but then got me thinking.
So, you know how career opportunities work. Usually, in the beginning, You start at a very low position. Over time you learn and improve. You grow up to a team leader, then supervisor, manager, and so forth. I realize that the more you grow in your career, the more sedentary you become. And your job requires it. You get a desk with a computer, and a bunch of paperwork every day. You have to sit, repeat SIT, and write down stuff. So, from being physically active at the beginning of your career, the more you grow the more sedentary you become.
Now, I can't change that. It is what it is. What I can do is to stress the fact that we are slowly decreasing the amount and the demand for movement. Believe it or not, what we now know as sitting, back when we were hunter-gatherers, was a low squat position. How many of us can even squat down without pain and even stay there for 15 minutes? I surely can.
The point here is that over time we start to lack ranges of motion. it is a natural aging process, but the biggest contributor is the lack of movement.
Let me give you a case study. Try to observe people’s posture. I am sure you have family members that are more active than others. Or maybe your colleagues that go to the gym or play some sports for instance. Observe their posture at the upper body. look for shrugged up and rolled-forward shoulders, rounded upper back, and forward head. Knowing the lifestyle of the people notice which one suffers more from that bad posture as well as who has more complaints about pain.
See, we are born with joints that have a range of motion. Of course, some of us will have a greater range of motion than others, according to the type of skeleton, but for all of us, our joints are going to be designed to move in certain directions, to a certain extend. Those joints are controlled by muscles, which on the other hand are controlled by our brain. If we spend our days using or challenging the ranges of motion we currently possess, those joints are going to remain healthy. If we do not use the fullest potential of our joints, eventually our brain is going to limit it.
This is how we get forward head and rounded shoulders. This is how we get our shoulders to click when we raise our hands, and hip or knee pain when we bend over or squat. But the chronic pain is not the worst we can get. If we have a limited range of motion, meaning that we have control over the joints to a certain extent, when we go beyond that we often get injured. And you may ask me why we would go beyond. Well, that sometimes is not up to us. Sometimes accidents happen. We slip, or we roll our ankles, or we bend over too fast and because we don’t have sufficient mobility for the required movement, we overcompensate with other muscles that end up damaged.
I am sure that by this point you realize how important is movement and probably asking yourself: ‘’When is he going to show me a way to become more mobile?’’. Don’t worry, I got you covered.
The first and most important thing you should do is to start to move more.
Seriously. I can't stress that enough. No other exercise or magic trick is going to help you become more mobile than the increase of your overall activity. Try to walk more. Sign a gym membership. Go dancing classes. Use the furthest toilet possible. Create a demand for moving. You can get a step counter and set a goal of 10 000 steps per day. Even if you can’t achieve it, the attempt to do so will make you move more. Find out what works for you, and just stick to it.
The second step is to do some mobility exercises.
Now, after we have increased our activity level, is time to get back those ranges of motion that we have lost throughout the years. I will provide you with 2 exercises. One for the upper and one for the lower body. Now, there are probably 100 exercises that are popping in my head, as I am writing these words, however, I will stick to those 2, because:
They engage a lot of muscles to counteract the imbalance.
It will take you a lot of time to get good at, but every time you will notice a small improvement.
If I give you 50 exercises, you will probably end up not doing any.
So here is the first one called PRONE COBRA.
It is amazing for the upper back. It is a great exercise for connecting to the inactive muscles on the back, while simultaneously stretching the tight ones at the front. It is best to do it on the floor, as the demand to overcome the gravity is going to add a lot of intensity. However, you can regress it by doing it seated or standing up.
Start by laying on your stomach, with your arms spread apart at 90 degrees. Extend your wrists, pointing your fingers to the ceiling. Lift your arms to your maximum, as if you are trying to touch your elbows. Now lift the chest from the ground. Don’t forget to keep squeezing arms together. An important note is to keep your chin tucked, so there is no tension in the neck. Brings arms backward, as if you are trying to touch your glutes. Try to hold for as long as you can, then return to the exit position and relax.
Repeat 3 times. Hold for as long as possible. Every time try to challenge the ranges of motion and keep maximum tension.
The second exercise is called 90/90.
Its goal is to challenge hip external rotation. As well as a bit of core stability. You can add a bit of a stretching component to it to maximize the result.
Sit down on the floor, with both of your legs bent at 90 degrees. The inner side of the leg behind will be facing the floor, while the inner side of the one in front, facing the ceiling.
The goal here is to gain range of motion by lifting the knee of the leg behind, without compensating with your obliques (the sides of the core). Use a mirror, your camera, or someone to give you feedback on your posture. Use your hand to support yourself if you need to. If you want to add stretch to the opposite leg, lean forward until your glutes are on fire. Switch side and repeat.
Hang out there for as long as you can, ideally 2 minutes per side.
You want to do those exercises as frequently as possible. Like every hour. realistically you will probably do them a maximum of twice. But the more intent and effort you invest in them, the more return you will see. The more active you are throughout the day, the more energy and motivation will come.
I challenge you to try it for a month. Perform these exercises at least twice per day and move more. Let me know how you felt after.