By Zoid Fitness Team on Oct 30, 2019 7:03:00 PM
Sure, you can work out until you're the size of an oak tree, although what good does it do if it also makes you as stiff and immobile as an oak tree? By adding mobility training to your strength and agility workouts, you can avoid growing roots while helping you gain that which most athletes and workout aficionados seek: muscles as dense as oak wood to go along with fluid athleticism and full range of functional motion.
This is important since there is more than one aspect to being an athlete, and being strong without mobility is no better than being mobile without strength. This also goes for any of us whether or not we ever even set foot on a playing field or court. This is because keeping your muscles and joints limber, flexible and strong helps in ways you may not even realize.
For instance, many of us hold jobs which require long hours of sitting at a computer. Sure, hitting the gym or workout studio at the end of the day does wonders in helping you de-stress, improve your circulation and even helping to improve your brain function--you're on the right track, keep it up!
However, why stop there?
Just as athletes may have reduced joint mobility due to muscular stress or injury, so can office workers. However, rather than being brought on by hard physical activity, an office worker's aches, pains and stiffness are due to long hours of inactivity, imbalanced muscle use (i.e. shoulders and neck engaged with core muscles relaxed), and joint strain (think having a crick in your neck after staring at a screen all day).
This is why you need to include mobility training in your workout routine along with strength and agility training (and also note that agility training is different from mobility training). Not only can it help you stay injury-free and fluid on the field, it can also make office work less painful.
Well, in a sense office work may always be painful, just that your neck may not hurt so much this way!
Is Mobility the Same as Flexibility?
First, let's understand that while flexibility has something to do with mobility, they are not the same things. For instance, having mobility means having a full range of functional motion--the key word here being "functional." This requires muscle strength AND flexibility in unison to accomplish.
However, you can be flexible without having muscle strength or strong without having flexibility, and neither is the same as having mobility.
Or, to put it in another light: a Raggedy Ann doll can be considered flexible, while a GI Joe doll can be considered strong. However, just as Raggedy Ann cannot stand on her own due to her "floppsyness,", neither can GI Joe contort in as many ways as Raggedy Ann without breaking.
But, when you combine the qualities of both dolls you end up with something more along the lines of a Gumby doll which can be bent into nearly any position without breaking, and can stand without flopping into a heap. This not only means that Gumby has a more functional makeup than the other two, it also means that Gumby can probably beat up GI Joe.
And who'd have ever guessed that wimpy old Gumby could even stand a chance against such a macho man as GI Joe? Go get 'em Gumby!
What is Mobility Training?
Whether your goal is to blow by defenses on the soccer pitch or just maximize your workouts and feel great at the office, mobility training can help. This includes injury prevention, both from strain placed on joints with less than full mobility, as well as from prolonged static muscle imbalance.
However, just what is mobility work, and how often should it be performed?
Let's start with an understanding that being mobile means moving efficiently through full muscle synchronization and range of motion in joints. Remaining fully mobile requires having all areas of the body--including small regions typically overlooked in most workouts--functioning as an entire unit.
For instance, small areas in joints or muscles may be carrying undo stress which then limits the use or range of motion in the joint or area. This can not only lead to weakness and immobility of the immediate region, but also other places you may not even consider being affected by the original problem. This is because muscles and joints compensate for one another, and when one is weak, another picks up the workload. This then causes undo stress and reduced mobility by tightening joints with overly-tense support muscles and tendons, or even pushing joints out of alignment due to muscle imbalance.
However, the only true way to reverse the problem is by starting at the root of it, which is where mobility training comes in. This means using soft tissue work, stretching and strengthening of the region in question to return elasticity and support to the small supportive muscles and tendons surrounding it.
For instance, a scalpulae push-up is kind of like a regular push-up, although rather than engaging triceps, chest and core muscles, it instead only works the scalpulae which are overlooked in a regular push-up. The exercise does this by incorporating the same starting position as a push-up, although rather than dropping the chest to the floor before extending the arms to lift the entire torso, the arms remain stiff and extended while the shoulder blades are pressed together and only the middle of the back is lifted. This allows small muscles in the back which would normally be omitted during strength training to be stretched and strengthened.
Other mobility work entails both static and dynamic stretching, work with foam rollers and mobility drills, all of which help to stretch, strengthen and loosen areas critical to your mobility.
How Often Should Mobility Training be Performed?
In this blog, we mention 6 reasons why mobility training is so important to sports and for athletic performance. So far as how often you should include mobility work in your regular exercise program, the simple answer is every day. Of course, as with most other exercise, even a little is better than none although since mobility exercises are low-intensity and low-impact, recovery time is rarely an issue and so neither is frequency.
Plus, regular stress on muscles and joints produces a continuous need to keep them balanced, supple and strong.
In fact, think of mobility training as being like maintaining a building which is being built with your strength training. And, as the structure--the structure being your chiseled physique--continues to evolve, so do stresses on the foundation, walls, joints etc.
And, since building this structure is a continuous work-in-progress, your mobility training should be too. Keep in mind as well that training your mobility isn't only a means of maintaining the building, but earthquake-proofing it as well, which is important whether you live in California or not.
This is because when your joints and muscles are strong-yet-flexible, they can better take a hit without breaking. Again, this is why you don't want to be an oak tree or a GI Joe which will snap with enough force. Instead, mobility work helps you be like a willow tree which bends instead of breaking while having the strength to continue standing, and is another great reason to perform it every day.
Granted, the minimum you should do mobility exercise is 2-3 times per week, which is fine if that is also your regular workout schedule. Of course, if you work out 4, 5, 6 or 7 days per week, you should also do mobility training the same number of days.
In other words, it should be a regular part of every exercise session.
How Long Should Mobility Training Take?
The good news about fitting mobility work into your regular strength, agility and aerobic training schedule is that it doesn't need to take very long. In fact, a few minutes is usually all you need to work on problem areas along with doing general stretching and other work.
This doesn't mean that you can't spend 20-30 minutes focusing only on mobility work, just that it usually isn't necessary. However, if you have a particularly difficult area which needs extra attention or are using mobility training to rehab from an injury (something else it works well for, by the way), you may need to spend some extra time on it. In this blog, we mention a few ways how to improve mobility at home.
It should also be noted that gaining mobility takes longer than maintaining it once you have it. This may mean intensifying things for up to a few months on a particularly stiff or troublesome region before backing off and continuing maintenance workouts once progress is made.
In all, most mobility work should take no more than 10-15 minutes, and with stretching of the major muscle groups taking around 20 seconds each. Plus, being a low-intensity way to loosen up and relax muscles and joints, mobility training is perfect for warm-ups and cool-downs.
Being Strong, Mobile AND Agile
Of course, while mobility and strength can help you flex like a willow which has the strength of an oak, there is that whole thing with the roots holding it all down.
And no, whether you're looking to outmaneuver the competition or just improve your balance and coordination in everyday life, growing roots is not what you want to work on--at least according to Captain Obvious. This is because it is mobility and athleticism you need rather than an anchor, which requires 3 components: Strength, mobility AND agility.
And, the cool thing about doing agility drills is that they can be performed nearly anytime or anywhere--especially when you use Zoid's agility tool which is not only portable and versatile, but simple, easy to use and nearly indestructible.
Did we mention that the number of drills and workouts you can perform with Zoid are limited only to your imagination and goals?
Yes there is that too.
This is important since the last thing you need is to invest in lots of equipment for multiple needs which you then have to lug around. Plus, when you have the versatility to create different workouts from one system which you can perform in places other than just the gym (hint: fresh air does wonders for your workouts), things never get boring and you stay motivated.
This is important since much like mobility, agility is a constant work in progress. This means continuously working on your strength, coordination, static balance and dynamic balance to develop and maintain these areas. Without them, you not only stand the chance of earning the nickname "Tree Stump" on the playing field, you'll probably spend more time being injured as well.
So, while it's great to have an oak tree's strength, it's even better to have an oak tree's strength along with a willow's grace and Gumby's mobility.
Add in the agility of a mountain goat and you have someone GI Joe can't even catch, much less beat!