Whether you're an athlete or new to the fitness world, you've probably heard the term "range of motion" or ROM. But what does it mean, exactly, and how can you improve yours? Range of motion is the extent of movement of a joint, and your ticket there is through mobility exercises.
Improving mobility leads to all-around long-term movement capabilities, Justin Meissner, Founder of The Woad Warrior, Mobility Specialist and Performance Coach tells Lively.
Keep reading to learn all about mobility exercises from the fitness experts, plus learn some exercises you can add to your next workout!
Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.
What are mobility exercises?
Mobility exercises are any exercise that increases your overall ROM, according to Peter Keane, Registered Physiotherapist. Mobility exercises improve and enhance flexibility with the ability to move your joints and tendons through its complete ROM, adds Jess Rose McDowell, Founder/Owner of KINETIC SWEAT, ACSM CPT.
It's not to be confused with flexibility — although the two are closely linked. Mobility exercises actually incorporate flexibility and it is crucial for your overall exercise routines, Keane says.
How do I train for mobility?
Now that you've made it through the mobility exercises crash course, it's time to take things to the next level by learning how to train for mobility For this, Meissner says it’s a lot like strength training.
“When we train for a deeper squat, we are trying to teach our body that it can handle load at a greater depth of position and with a greater range of motion,” he explains. To do that, you must actively move into a position that is your end range and fight to move past that end range under control. Reps or sets could work for this. However, he cautions that you must listen to your body by not pushing past your joint’s limits.
Overall, training for mobility comes down to being consistent with it, which is why Keane recommends doing it prior to your workout. Next time, try dynamic stretching, foam/ball rolling or some bodyweight movements like lunges or squats.
Should I do mobility exercises?
If you want to get past limitations in the gym, mobility exercises should be done on the reg. "It doesn't matter how much you bench or how long you can run for. If you have a limited range of motion in a particular area, your body will eventually push back which will result in injury," explains Keane.
You should also check in with a doctor or physical therapist to make a plan that's right for you.
Mobility exercises to try
Looking for mobility exercises to add to your workout? Try this routine created by McDowell.
How to do it: Perform each exercise for 45 seconds on each side. Complete 3 rounds. You'll need a resistance band, medicine ball, and foam roller. You can also pick a few of the moves to incorporate into your typical workouts.
- Overhead Forward Fold To Stand (with resistance band)
- Runner's Lunge With Overhead Rotation (with medicine ball)
- Lying T-Rotation (with foam roller)
- Lying Triceps Row (with foam roller)
What are the benefits of mobility exercises for athletes?
Athletes know not to discount the power of mobility exercises better than anyone. The main benefits include:
"Athletes can maintain a higher level of exercise for longer periods of time when muscles, joints and tendons are strong and in place," says McDowell. So, it's no surprise that mobility exercises improve performance and strengthen the body.
You'll begin to see results from consistently adding them into your routine within three to four weeks, McDowells says.
Keeping your body in peak condition during training is important, especially if you're training for something specific, such as a marathon. It's downright devastating to be sidelined by an injury as an athlete. Luckily, Keane says that just 15 minutes of a mobility-based warmup can prevent that. Take a deadlift, for example. This is an exercise that requires great mobility in the hips, hamstrings and other muscles and joints, he explains.
"When these areas are quite immobile and inflexible, the neighboring regions cannot truly handle the weight placed upon them at that angle. For example, your lower back will have to pick up some of the strain placed upon you," Keane explains. "By engaging in regular mobility work, you'll improve your overall range of motion which will allow your muscles to truly engage."
Note that the area of the mobility exercises may vary for athletes, depending on the sport. For example, mobility exercises for a baseball player may involve the shoulder, chest, back and upper body. Or, a competitive curler may require more mobility in the hips and legs, Andrew Blakey, Director of Your Future Fitness and Certified Personal Training Specialist, points out
How often should an athlete do mobility exercises?
Like most things involving fitness, there is no one answer to this question: It all depends on your individual goals. If you're training for a race or competition, you may be doing mobility exercises with the main purpose of maintaining range of motion and mobility, says Blakey. "This is compared to an off-season athlete, where you may have more time available to work on and correct specific motions."
Tacking on mobility exercises to every workout does the trick for some. At the minimum, you could get away with every other workout. The goal is to listen to your body. "If you're feeling sore or tight, your mobility exercises may simply include some bodyweight stretching and range-of-motion exercises," explains Blakey.