Mobility is an often overlooked, yet key component of great fitness. When your mobility is in top form, you don’t just enjoy a full range of motion in everything that you do; you’re also better able to maintain total control during any activity. You get more out of your workouts, and you’re much less likely to sustain an injury as well.
Mobility is especially important when it comes to lifting in order to maintain proper form, which is hard to do if your body is feeling tight and cramped. Indeed, poor mobility could be the reason why you’re not getting the results you want with your lifting routine.
Here, we’ll take a look at some simple but effective ways to improve your mobility and get you moving in the right direction.
1. Spend some serious time working on your technique.
In lifting, it’s important to know where to grasp the bar and which muscles you should use to power your way through a move. For example, when executing a squat, most people drop straight down, when they should be pushing their hips back while driving their knees forward. When you squat properly, you’re assuming a starting position for your lift that’s much more vertical. You’re also making it easier for yourself to nail this powerful move from start to finish. Technique is everything when it comes to mobility and fitness, so work on perfecting your form first.
2. Work on building a stronger core.
If your core isn’t up to snuff in the strength department, you’re a lot more likely to wind up falling forward at some point during a challenging lift. Strong lifting calls for a a strong torso that’s capable of remaining straight and tight. If you’re not already doing so, make sure you’re spending a good amount of time on exercises like planks, bird dogs, and dead bugs to torch your core and reinforce abdominal strength. Proper breathing technique is also part of having a strong, reliable core. Before you drop into your squat, take a full deep breath and hold it. Consciously expand your abdomen and expand your chest as you do this. This reinforces the core, but it also helps keep your hips neutral as well — a very important factor for lifting. Make sure you complete the breath after each repetition.
3. Add mobility drills to your routine.
Mobility drills focus on increasing the range of motion around your joints. Ideally, a lifter interested in improving mobility as a way to empower their strength training should add drills for each major joint group to their routine. There are hundreds of different options to choose from, but here are some suggestions to include in your next workout:
Shoulders: The better your shoulder mobility, the less likely you are to wind up sore and aching after a tough workout. It can definitely improve your performance. Try exercises like standing chest openers to start your routine before moving on to the tougher exercises.
Hips: Limber hip muscles are one of the keys to nailing a really good squat, especially when you’re a lifter. Keep yours flexible, strong, and reliable by adding exercises like psoas quad stretches and hip flexor stretches to your usual routine.
Ankles: Far too often, people fail to pay enough attention to their ankles when working on mobility, and they really shouldn’t. Without strong, flexible ankle muscles, your knees are left to handle the full load of your lift. Problems like ligament damage can develop as well. Add exercises like ankle rotations to your routine to help with this issue and keep your ankles in good shape.
4. Add foam rolling to your routine.
Foam rolling offers many benefits to your overall fitness routine, but it’s an especially good thing for lifters to practice daily. Foam rolling directly targets the mobility of the fascia, the layer of fibrous connective tissue that encases your muscles and organs. If your fascia aren’t adequately mobile, the fibers can become cross linked with one another. If this occurs, they can adhere to other muscles and nerves, which is not only painful but can harm your range of motion.
Adding a foam roller to your workout recovery regimen won’t just make you better at lifting by increasing your mobility. It can be every bit as effective and beneficial as a professional massage from a therapist — one reason self-myofascial release is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s massage.”
5. Spend some time working on your grip.
Just like ankle strength, many people don’t spend enough time thinking about their grip. However, solid hand mobility is critical when it comes to maximizing your lifting routine. It’s not enough to just be able to grab the bar and hold on to it. You need to be able to maintain a strong, dependable grip to keep the risk of injury at bay.
Hand grips can be a fantastic way to make the ligaments, bones, muscles, and nerves of your hand much stronger and better prepared for strength training. Just choose a set that works for you and get to work!
6. Make sure stability exercises are on the menu, too.
All of the benefits of stability exercises are useful and beneficial when it comes to increasing your mobility. They build core strength and stabilize your spine. You’ll build endurance and balance as well. All of these factors can reinforce your performance when it’s time to hit the weight room at the gym.
If you’re not already doing so, consider adding a Pilates program to your routine or choose a stability ball to add to your home gym. Stability exercises can be done absolutely anywhere, so they’re great ways to make the most of the days you might not be spending at the gym.
At the end of the day, lifting really is a pursuit that requires all your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons to be able to work together properly. Making sure they’re as mobile as possible is the first step to achieving even the most hardcore strength building goals.