Mobility and Flexibility = Function
When doing an exercise program, the goal shouldn’t only be to gain lean muscle, lose weight, and burn fat, but also for your body to move as it should. For the body to move in a functionally correct way, the muscles have to be flexible, the mobile joints have to be mobile, and the core has to be stabilized.
In everyday life, we create certain motor patterns. Sometimes these patterns are made of movements around a certain weakness, tightness, or lack of mobility. If you continue to move this way, you run the risk of creating instability in the body followed by chronic pain or injury.
So how de we begin to move in a better way? It all starts with how you begin your workout. The first thing is to prepare the body for stretching to help with flexibility. You can do this by doing a self-myofascial release. Myofascial release is a type of soft tissue massage which incorporates stretching and massage of the connective tissues, or fascia. Imagine trying to stretch a rubber band with a bunch of knots in it. How far would it stretch without the knots? That is what we are trying to accomplish here. You want to get rid of the knots so the muscle can stretch to its fullest range. An example of myofascial release is foam rolling.
The next thing to do is to create mobility in your mobile joints. What parts of the body are supposed to move? These joints are the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulder, and wrists. If these joints don’t move through a full range of motion properly, the body will rely on parts of the body that aren’t supposed to move in order to compensate for the lack of mobility. This in turn will create problems, pain, or injury down the line. For instance, someone who has tight hips usually will have back pain because they are using the lower back to make up for the lack of movement in the hips. Begin workouts with active mobility exercises that will put these joints through their range of motion. An example of active mobility is a split squat for good hip flexion and extension.
The last part of good motor pattern is the stabilization of your core. In all the exercises that you do, there should be no change in the pelvis or lower back (lumbar spine). The tendency is to rotate the pelvis or bend form the lumbar spine to allow for more movement when there is a lack of movement somewhere else. A good example of this is someone lowering into a split squat and having their upper body move forward instead of staying completely straight. If the hips can’t flex or extend enough, the upper body will move forward giving the person the feeling that split squat is going deeper because that’s what they feel it’s supposed to do. Exercises to help with core stabilization are planks and the conscious effort of keeping your stomach tight and pelvis neutral in everything you do.
Getting rid of the knots, stretching the muscles, active mobilization of the mobile joints and core stabilization are the key components to a body’s functional movement.