Mobility is one of the most important factors in maintaining healthy bodies with any kind of real meaning or longevity. But first things first: what are we talking about when we talk about mobility? What is mobility?
Essentially, it is the ability to perform the basic movements that the human body needs to be able to do. These include squatting, pushing, pulling, rolling, hinging and myriad other movements. They are all needed in order to function healthily, hopefully pain-free, doing all the things the human body is meant to be able to do.
Mobility in this sense is becoming an increasing concern as the world becomes ever more sedentary. The ability to move a joint and its attendant muscles through a full range of motion involves flexibility and a fair degree of muscular strength and neuromuscular control. This ability plays a central role in the maintenance and improvement of movement quality and the prevention of injuries and pain in later life. Everything that an athlete or exercise enthusiast does during training is impacted by mobility. When everything is aligned within the skeleton, the body’s ability to move and operate is great. Every joint is worked, moved and stabilised by the muscles and soft tissues that cling to them. The body’s muscles grow and adjust based on learned movement patterns and training stimuli. This is as it needs to be. However, there are two concerns that grow out of this.
The first is that, where unbalanced training occurs, so do muscular imbalances. For example, if you bench twice per week but you never train your upper back, the joints involved around your shoulder girdles and arms will be imbalanced as your pecs and anterior delts grow larger and stronger than they should be compared to your lats. Mobility will be impeded.
The second concerns undertraining and is the main issue faced by those with sedentary lifestyles. As a society, we sit around, staring at screens and barely moving all day. Our muscles do not work as they are naturally intended to. Where muscles are not worked often or intensely enough, they can grow slack, and/or imbalances can occur. Blood flow to soft tissue will wane. Synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant for your joints, will flow less easily.
Joints will deteriorate, range of motion (ROM) will decrease, and mobility issues and pain or discomfort will follow.
It’s a common idea that you grow stiff and achy as you age. This doesn’t need to be true (unless degenerative issues such as arthritis or osteoporosis occur.) Barring medical concerns, growing stiff with age only happens when, like the sedentary individual, you allow it to.
Mobility training is a lifetime endeavour, should be kept as a priority throughout, and will allow you to reach old age supple, loose and relatively pain free when done correctly.
CARs training, of the kind advocated by the likes of Shona Vertue, can help you here. ‘CARs’ stands for controlled articular rotations: essentially, you take your joints through regular, full ROMs. It is an isolative protocol that will have you work each joint in a controlled, slow manner.
As far as mobility’s relationship to strength and comfort goes, you will be stronger, safer and more stable in any given motion when you take part in this kind of training. You will decrease your risk of injury and will keep your body flexible and mobile well into your golden years.