Mobility Training (by Herman Liebenberg)

Mobility Training Herman Liebenberg

Mobility can also be referred to as range of motion (ROM). In other words the ability of a joint to move through its range in different planes without being under stress. Limited range of motion can cause functional limitations in movements that may lead to poor quality of an exercise, or worse, result in injury.

Mobility has become a big part of the health and fitness industry. People are referring to it more often, and use it as a tool to improve overall wellbeing. Improved range of motion can have a great advantage for any age and relate well to most sporting codes. For example, the greater range of motion a golfer has in his swing, the greater the force that can be produced in the follow-through (full swing versus half swing).

We know mobility is great for improving performance in sports, but how does this transfer over to every day life? When lifting an object from the ground, most people tend to use the back instead of the legs. If you suffer from limited mobility, it can be an uncomfortable position which makes it easier to opt for the straight leg, bent back position. If ankle and hip mobility is improved, this position might become a lot more comfortable. Sparing unwanted stress on the back and save you from potential injury that might occur with poor lifting technique. At SPC we have seen tremendous changes that comes with mobility training. By implementing mobility and foam rolling (self myofascial release) in to our warm-ups, we could pick up over time how easy certain activities have become for our clients. People complaining about pains and niggles all of a sudden can’t remember when was the last time they felt that specific pain. Improvements like that can improve quality of life and allow people to do things with much more comfort.

Let’s take the ankle joint as an example of joint mobility. The ankle is designed for mobility. Limited ankle mobility can affect movement patterns like the squat, single leg exercises, walking and even landing from a jump (similar to running). All of these are fundamentals of functional movement patterns. When limited range of motion is present, possibility of injury increases. If you improve range of motion, joints can become healthier, movements safer and more optimal.

What happens if there is limited range of motion? In case of a squat, during the downward movement the ankle moves in to dorsi-flexion causing a shift in center of gravity, allowing the hips to move down without the knees moving past the toes. All this while the knees and feet are pointing straight forward. If range is limited, the ankle needs to compensate somewhere for extra range to allow full movement of the squat. In doing so, the feet turn outward and in some cases the knees will follow an inward curve, which could result in discomfort or pain.

Each joint has specific training needs. No joint has complete mobility or stability, both are present, but to certain extents. We know that the ankle needs mobility, a joint such as the knee needs more stability. A joint with less stability will always depend on surrounding structures like muscles and ligaments to stabilize it. If a knee has no stability, there is more movement within the joint, which causes wear and tear damage to cartilage and can later result in injuries and more permanent damage like Arthritis.

At SPC we strive to provide a warm-up that contributes to individual needs. We start with foam rolling followed by a mobility routine. Mobility exercises will allow you to get more control in the end range of the movement. Final stage of the warm-up consists of a few exercises to increase blood flow, elevate heart rate and body temperature and finally get muscles ready for action.

An example for ankle mobility is what we like to call the “knee to wall” exercise.

Stand with your toes about 10cm from the wall. Keep your foot flat on the ground and bring your knee as close to the wall as possible. Remember that the wall is only the goal, if you can touch it, move your foot back another centimeter.
Perform 10-15 reps on each side.