Scott Laidler talks to mobility guru Victor Analuwa about how and why you should build mobility exercises into your workout routine
One of the biggest mistakes I see men and women make in the gym is getting too caught up in the aesthetic focus of fitness. Of course it’s great to look good, but not when it comes at the expense of more important physical attributes like health and mobility.
During your twenties, you can get away with a gung-ho attitude to personal training: your body recovers rapidly, and it’s still benefiting from the natural flexibility you had during childhood. As the years pass, however, even basic movements like squats and lunges can become laboured and difficult.
Men often suffer from ‘it won’t happen to me’ syndrome – but it will. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way. Mobility and flexibility used to be a blind spot for me – but then I noticed my body suffering and tweaked my workouts to address the problem.
My friend and colleague Victor Analuwa played a big role in helping get my joints back on track. Victor is so big on Yoga and Pilates that I’m pretty sure he’s got younger over the five years I’ve known him!
To help you learn from Victor’s well of knowledge, here’s his introduction on how to make the most of your own mobility…
What is mobility? Is it the same as flexibility?
Mobility refers to our ability to move freely without stress on the body. Our flexibility is dependent on the range of motion of our muscles. The two are not the same, but are not mutually exclusive. Good mobility can assist your flexibility and vice versa.
Is mobility more important as we get older?
It’s important to be mobile at any age. The ageing process can take its toll on the body, so it is important that we stay mobile and supple to combat this.
What are the main benefits of mobility training?
Mobility training can improve the range of motion of our joints and muscles. It can assist in improving our posture. Mobility training can alleviate ‘everyday’ aches and pains as well as improve our body awareness.
Is it ever too late to start mobility training? How soon could you begin to see results?
It is never too late to start mobility training. Your mobility is always something you can improve. In terms of results, this will initially be something you feel rather than see. You might feel a little less stiff after one or two sessions – but the key is to be consistent with your mobility training. Over time you should see an increase in your range of motion and perhaps improvement in your performance in other activities.
Can mobility training be incorporated alongside other forms of training or is it a discipline unto itself?
Mobility training can be used as part of your warm-up for your workout, or you can use it within your training in the form of active rest. The exercises can also be used to recover from other forms of training.
What kind of ailments could be prevented or reversed with proper mobility work?
Conditions such as lower back or knee pain, plus some forms of arthritis, can benefit from mobility exercises. However, it’s important to remember that they should always be performed within a pain free range.
Here is a list of basic mobility drills you could perform once per week to get you started with mobility:
Groin/Hip Mobility Drill. Stand with palms against a wall at shoulder height. Keep feet pointing forward and swing right leg in a pendulum motion. Gradually increase the range of comfortable motion. Perform this drill for ten repetitions, three times on each leg.
Hamstring Mobility. The hamstring mobility drill is similar in fashion to the hip mobility drill above, the only difference will be that instead of swinging side to side in a pendulum motion you will be swinging your leg forwards and backwards. Again, gradually increase your range of motion and be sure to keep your body in line and contract your core throughout.
Internal Hip Rotation. Lie on your back. While keeping your feet on the floor, bring your knees towards each other by actively rotating your femurs. Repeat this drill 3 times, holding the stretch for 15-20 seconds at a time.
Ankle Mobility. Assume an all fours position, in a bear stance so that you have two hands flat on the ground and are up on your tip toes. Cross one leg over the other and distribute your weight on to your flat bottom foot. Rock forward and backwards from your heel through to your toes and back. Perform this exercise 10 times on each leg.
Quadroped Thoracic Rotations (for back and shoulders). Begin in a four legged position, and place one hand behind your head. Keep your core braced and rotate your upper back downwards bringing the elbow of your elevated arm down toward the elbow of your bracing arm. Reverse the motion until the elbow is pointing towards the ceiling (or as far as you can go without rounding your lower back) Repeat 10 x 3 sets on each side.
Scapular Wall Slides (for back and shoulders). Begin by standing with your back against a wall with correct posture. Raise arms out to your sides so that your forearms rest vertically against the wall. Maintain this contact throughout the exercise. Slide your arms up until your arms are straight and then back down all the time focusing on pulling your shoulder blades together and down. At the bottom of the movement bring your elbows into your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Squat to Stand (for full body stretch). With your legs shoulder width apart, hinge through the hips, bend your torso over and grasp your feet with arms outstretched. Descend into a full squat position, dropping your hips as far as you can while keeping your arms straight. Return to the start position maintaining correct form.