How to up your Mobility Game: By FitCademy's Coach Clem and Head of Mobility at Core Collective
Walk into any gym, and you're more than likely to see someone rolling around on a strange looking ball, block, or band in the name of mobility.
Fitness, for many, is a way of life and building a robust and mobile body is the holy grail.
However, in the social media age, sorting the flood of information from misinformation has never been more challenging. Which begs the question – what do we need to do to improve our mobility?
We ask the founder of online training service FITcademy, FRC Mobility Specialist, and Head of Mobility at Core Collective,' Tom' Clem' Cleminson to find out.
The first important realization is that flexibility and mobility training are very different beasts.
Mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily through a full range of motion. Alternatively, your ability to move your body through its full range of motion safely, and when necessary, under load.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is the ability to bend easily without breaking. Or, your body's pliability. Its ability to be molded into a required position.
Both are trainable, but if you take a flexible person and put them into their end range of motion in say, a deep squat and apply a load, they'll fold up like a leaf as they lack end range strength or mobility. If you do the same with a mobile weight-lifter, they'll smack a grin on their face and stand right back up.
So, how can we up your mobility game?
Step 1: Identify your weaknesses
Your passive & active range in movements relevant to your sport (or hobby sport) should be equal if you have any interest in remaining uninjured.
Crossfitter's, for instance, need shoulder flexion in most kipping movements performed under the not insignificant load of a swinging human.
To even attempt it, you should have at least 180 degrees of shoulder flexion which you can quickly test.
Lay on your back on the floor with your arms by your side. Have a friend take your arm and manually move it into shoulder flexion with no assistance from you at all (passive range). Keep your back flat, and if you have a healthy shoulder range, you'll complete the movement pain-free.
Now try and emulate that range using your musculature, making sure you keep your back flat.
If you can do it pat yourself on the back, you have a distinctly average shoulder!
Proceed to apply these testing principles to the rest of your sport-specific movements (squats, presses, racks) and take note of what needs immediate action, and what can be improved at a later date scoring each area as follows:
1 point: Strong & pain-free range of movement (ROM) - likely strong and healthy contractile tissue
Result: Safe to continue with mobility training
2 point: Strong & painful ROM - may indicate a lesion of the muscle or tendon that is contracting (e.g., Muscle strain, tendonitis)
Result: Continue mobility training with care and caution
3 point: Weak & pain-free ROM - may indicate a rupture of the muscle or lack of integrity to the nerve supply of the muscle
Result: Go and see a specialist
4 point: Weak & painful ROM - likely a severe lesion around that joint, e.g., dislocation or fracture
Result: Go and see a specialist right f**cking now
Train with intent
When you find a weakness, work on it. There are many ways to achieve mobility, but my favorite sequence is as follows.
For areas you score as 1:
We're going to use an FRC technique called PAILs & RAILs.
They help teach the body that your end range of motion is safe and ready to be expanded by creating a strong muscular contraction in your end range.
The muscle contractions on both sides of the joint help strengthen the end ranges, allowing them to become acquired actively over time.
If you were only to work the side of the joint that feels the stretch, you wouldn't necessarily improve your mobility. Muscles need to learn to shorten as well as lengthen.
1. Assume a site-specific stretch position, for shoulder flexion a lovely 'Butchers Block' stretch never goes amiss
2. Actively move into the stretch range then passively maintain the position for approximately 2 minutes. Play with the angles to maximize tension
3. After 2 minutes gradually build tension in the stretched tissues in an end range isometric contraction (PAILs)
4. As the contraction heightens, allow it to spread to neighboring tissues and eventually to all contractile body tissue
5. Hold this peak contraction for as long as possible (approx 20-30secs) - remember to breathe!
6. As you release the end range contraction ACTIVELY increase the depth and intensity by contracting the antagonistic (opposing muscles) for 20-30 secs (RAILs)
7. When ready re-establish the passive hold for round 2 (you'll notice an immediate increase in your end range)
8. Repeat for 2-3 sets per area
For areas scored 2:
Enter the FRC technique, CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations). Some people think they help improve end range and solve a host of issues, but realistically that's not true.
Controlled: Purposeful, deliberate, and smooth
Articular: Dealing with articulations AKA joints
Rotations: Rotational movements, ideally through end ranges of motion
CARs are powerful for maintaining joint health, current ranges of motion, and serve as a great assessment tool, but the expansion of range comes from PAILs and RAILs which are to be used exclusively on fully functional joints.
Unlike PAILs and RAILs, we're merely going to actively move through your range and utilize the available range of motion under muscular and neurological control instead of holding a static stretch without active control.
Use the below to perform CARs through the shoulder capsule and apply the same logic to your other joints.
Slowly and deliberately begin to articulate (draw circles) through your shoulder joint
Start with a slow rotation moving through your available range and gently begin drawing a more substantial "circle" to improve control on the outer limits of your range
To increase the intensity of this exercise internally increase the resistance through the air from 0% to 100%. Helping create more tension throughout the body; this ultimately improves muscular and neurological control, thus enhancing the adaptability of your tissues and aiding in joint health, integrity, and protection.
Mobility training is by no means a quick fix but offers an excellent long term solution to help radicalize the way your body both feels and performs while helping reduce your risk of injury tenfold.
Use these two techniques borrowed from the Functional Range Conditioning Method alongside your current training program, and I guarantee your body will thank you.
If you need a little support along the way, join my online training platform, FITcademy. We offer end to end online personal training and cover all elements of fitness and nutrition to help you reach your goal for less than a round of drinks. PLUS with a 110% money-back guarantee for the first 60 days, you'd be silly not too!