Often, when we think of exercise we think of cardiovascular or strength training. Very few of us stop to consider mobility as part of a well-rounded training routine. This overlooked vital component could be putting your entire training regime at serious risk.
Flexibility or mobility training is an important dimension you must incorporate into your training, whether you’re a beginner or are more advanced. And there are many reasons why!
Your flexibility/ mobility decreases with the typical modern western lifestyle, with prolonged sitting and prolonged use of technology being major contributors to decreasing your mobility. The sitting posture has a very negative effect on your body and ultimately results in a loss of mobility across multiple joints in the body. If this is not addressed through targeting mobility training the likelihood of sustaining injury during exercise or just day to day life is high.
Increasing your flexibility/ mobility has numerous benefits for your body.
Benefits of Mobility
- Greater joint range of motion and freedom of movement
- Improved circulation
- Decreased risk of injury
- Reduced muscle tension and soreness
- Improved posture
- Improved movement efficiency
The overall result is an improvement in performance. This improvement will relate to your strength and cardiovascular training, as well as day to day activity.
Greater strength gains are also typically seen quickly as a result of better mobility. Strength training exercises that tend to give us the greatest benefit are large movements such as squats or deadlifts and, as a direct correlation, these exercises cannot be undertaken without sufficient mobility.
How Can You Increase Flexibility?
1. Myofascial release
Myofascial release is a method of flexibility training that refers to the release of tension and tightness in fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds muscle. It is recommended that you perform myofascial release for at least 5 minutes before exercise, using equipment such as:
- Foam rollers
- Spikey balls
- Lacrosse balls
- Tennis balls
There are three main forms of stretching, known as dynamic, static, and PNF stretching. Each form of stretching is effective to use in various situations.
Dynamic Stretching requires you to move as you stretch. This helps you to warm your muscles and prepare for the upcoming exercise. As you move your limbs and undergo stretching, your circulating blood will increase to meet the demands of the muscle.
This will increase muscle elasticity, allowing more power and force production by the muscle.
Dynamic stretching should be performed by holding the stretched position for just a few short seconds with each swing, bend, or rotation of a limb.
Static Stretching is conducted whilst stationary. Research has shown that static, unlike dynamic, decreases power and force production, therefore is less effective when performed prior to exercise. Performing static stretching after exercise when your muscles are already warm allows you to stretch those muscles in their full range of motion. Performing these stretches regularly in their full range of motion will allow the body to adapt to a new level of flexibility. Static stretching is recommended to be held for approximately 15-30 seconds per stretch.
PNF Stretching, or Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is the assistance of an object or another individual to provide resistance against your stretch.
When conducting static stretching in the past, you will likely have stopped the stretch at a point where you feel further stretching may cause pain, and this is the correct thing to do to avoid injury. However, your muscles have much more give than you may realise. This is where PNF stretching, with the assistance of a professional, will help you to stretch the muscle beyond what you are capable of stretching it to, in a static stretch.
Flexibility training has various benefits for each and every individual, and you should incorporate it into your lifestyle to take advantage of these benefits.