The Importance of Mobility in Functional Fitness
Fitness is not merely a state of being, but rather a series of mobile actions that include running, jumping, lifting, throwing, swimming, pushing, pulling, etc. Basically, all skills that will improve your quality of life and help you survive the impending zombie apocalypse.
In order for us to understand the concepts better let’s quickly define:
Mobility: The ability to move or be moved freely and easily.
Functional: The ability to perform a special activity, purpose, or task.
Fitness: The ability to perform functional movements that are constantly varied and performed at high intensity.
Every part of our body has purpose. Each joint has a functional purpose and a functional range of motion or mobility. For that reason, the importance of mobility in functional fitness can’t be ignored.
In functional fitness we cover three domains: gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and metabolic conditioning, and each of these is the epitome of functionality within their own domain.
In order for us to be able to achieve a level of excellence, and do so safely, we need to make sure our body is ready, and by ready I mean mobile. Ideally mobility exercises should be done first thing in the morning, even before you get to the box. You will do your joints a favour and also get rid of stiffness you may have acquired from previous workouts.
Movement activates your proprioceptors – the sensors that give your body information about its position in space – the nervous system chills out and you limber out, and this in turn tunes-up the nervous system for the rest of the day.
Joints of particular importance are the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic and lumbar spine (upper and lower back), the anterior and posterior shoulder girdle (shoulders), and the elbow and wrist joints. The joints in the lower part of our body include the anterior and posterior hips (hips) and the knee and ankle joints. When mobilizing these joints, work from the outside joints to the centre of the body. Never bounce, rather control your movements.
Joint mobility is not the same as flexibility. Mobility exercises or drills will not leave you feeling stretched out, and that’s ok as muscles do not have to be stretched to be put through their entire range of motion. A muscle stretch will however not produce well-oiled joints as your hinges need a distinctly different routine to those of your muscles.
There are three stages of joint health and they are gender and age specific. Depending on what stage your joint health is in would determine the amount of time that should be spent on mobility. The three stages are 100% healthy joints, 50-100% and below 50%. The onset of the different stages is mostly age related, but is also often connected to the type of work a person does, like being slouched over a PC for eight hours a day is not ideal. These stages can be slowed down dramatically and even reversed, depending on when the first step to joint health is taken, and it’s never too late to take that first step!
The best way to prevent joint problems is mobility drills. Time and a lack of mobility drills cause calcium deposits on your joints and this promotes connective tissue growth in all the wrong places.
Spine mobility is largely dependent on the intervertebral discs; the thicker the discs, the greater the mobility. The discs act as shock absorbers as their spongy core does the job. When a disc absorbs liquid it can get almost twice as thick, which explains height fluctuations of a few centimetre throughout the day. A movement as basic as hanging from a pull-up bar and swinging from the hips can realign you and add back those lost centimetres as your spine decompresses. The older we get the more important this becomes.
With all of this said, it only confirms what we’ve been saying; “Don’t just move, move well.” Stay active and your body will reward you tomorrow for what you do today.
If you enjoyed this great article, also read this complementary article about the courage of mobility by Dave Ayres.