Exercises for Mobility
You know that feeling when you wake up stiff. The thoughts race through your head, “Did I sleep wrong? I must be getting old.” Your ease of movement is not what it used to be.
Your body adapts to habitual patterns of movement. The aches and pains and tightness that you feel now have been developing longer than you realize. It’s now that your body is starting to tell you that you need exercises for mobility.
It’s common to think you should stretch what feels tight. But sometimes the muscle that is tight is also weak. And stretching a weak muscle will only perpetuate the weakness. This becomes a vicious cycle of constantly stretching and only feeling looser momentarily, then having to repeat on a daily basis.
This tightness could be a neurological tightness. Meaning, your brain is telling your muscles to hold on to provide stability for an unstable joint. For example, when your pelvis is tipped too far forward, it lengthens your hamstrings. They are tight because they are resting in an overstretched position, not because they are “short.”
Imagine a rubber band that’s fully stretched. It’s super tight, right? But it’s not tight because it’s short. It’s tight because it’s lengthened. The same scenario happens with your muscles. There are more exercises for mobility than simply stretching.
Check out this blog Stretches That Are Making Your Posture Worse
WHAT IS NORMAL RANGE OF MOTION?
Moving a joint should feel smooth and without pain. Pain will limit range of motion and is an indication that something needs to be addressed.
For the shoulder, normal external rotation range of motion is the ability to have your arm resting flat on the floor without popping up your shoulder.
Internal rotation at the shoulder is the opposite of the above and your shoulder should reach 70 degrees of rotation. So, with normal internal range of motion your arm will not lay flat on the ground.
In the current cell phone use society, spinal posture is suffering. A rounded thoracic spine and forward head position are commonly seen. This flexion of the spine also limits the ability of your spine to rotate. Ideal thoracic spinal rotation is 45 degrees.
WHY IS RANGE OF MOTION LIMITED?
There are a few reasons why your shoulder, hip, or spinal mobility may be limited.
Your joint may be compressed
A really hard fall on a joint often causes the joint to compress. Your brain senses the injury and takes space away in the joint to provide stability. If your shoulder or hip range of motion is extremely limited based on the assessments above, joint compression is a big factor. Visit a Level 2 NKT practitioner, chiropractor, or other trained professional to help decompress the joint.
If your workout hasn’t changed in years, you’ve trained your body to move only in the positions you’ve trained. A commonly seen muscular imbalance is overdeveloped chest muscles paired with underutilized back muscles. We tend to exercise the muscles we can see in the mirror and often neglect the muscles on the back of the body. When the chest muscles get too tight, they will limit how far your shoulder can externally rotate.
RELEASING COMMON TIGHT AREAS
Stretching, foam rolling, and massage are all exercises for mobility. These three areas listed below are commonly tight. Avoid too much release for your upper back as it is typically weak.
I give almost all of my clients this tennis ball release. There is quite often a trigger point on the chest close to the armpit. Several muscles all attach to the bone in this one small spot. So it is a high priority to release. Combine the ball release for 1 minute and the stretch pictured below for 30 seconds to really open the chest.
Slowly turn your head side to side to mobilize the muscles that rotate your cervical spine. A common stretch for the same muscles is the ear to shoulder stretch.
Give yourself a massage by rolling two small balls alongside your thoracic spine mid-way down your back against the wall for 1-2 minutes.
While seated on the floor, place a tennis ball under your calf. Slowly point and flex your foot. Then draw a few circles in each direction with your toes. Move the ball to another spot on your calf and repeat in three different spots. Be ready to find a few tender spots!
EXERCISES for MOBILITY
Incorporate these exercises for mobility into your daily routine after doing the above releases. They will reinforce the work you just did and are great to include in your warmup before a workout.
Scoops either standing or on All 4s
- Place one hand on the wall and assume a staggered stance position.
- Using your opposite arm, thread under your shoulder allowing the spine to rotate.
- Watch your hand as it moves through.
- Do 5 per side.
Thoracic Extension over roller
- Lying on the floor on your back, place a foam roller right at the base of your shoulder blades. Hands behind head and keep your chin tucked to your chest.
- Round over the roller without arching your lower back.
- Do 6 reps.
Side-lying Arm Circles
- Lie on your side resting your head on your arm, knees bent.
- Use your top arm to draw clock-wise circles around your head. Let your spine rotate.
- Your fingers may not touch all the way around.
- Do 4 circles per side.
In the goblet squat, your toes are turned slightly out to the sides. This allows your hips to open for more range of motion.
- Hold the dumbbell like a large wine goblet.
- Sink your hips, tracking the elbows towards the insides of your kneecaps.
- Push the ground away using your whole foot (not just the heel) to return to standing.
- Do 10-12 reps.