Are you constantly injuring yourself at the gym? Or maybe you just feel “tight” in a certain area of the body whenever you lift weights, head out for a run or even sit down at your desk to work. Many people have come to accept this as normal. Avid exercisers and those just getting into a routine offer various excuses for tightness. But your body doesn’t have to function this way. The culprit behind poor movement for most people is a lack of mobility. So how can mobility work prevent injury?
Mobility is not the same thing as flexibility. Think of mobility as the larger umbrella term and flexibility as one component of it. Mobility in a therapeutic context refers to manually manipulating a joint to improve function. But mobilization more broadly refers to an integrated approach that addresses all the elements that can impact proper movement and performance. Flexibility relates to the passive range of motion of muscles. While mobility and flexibility are different, they are directly related to improving injury prevention.
“Muscle tension or tightness restricts the body from moving properly," explains EHE's Matt Percia. “Techniques like foam rolling and other forms of self-myofascial release helps restore a muscle to its resting state, facilitating proper movement patterns.”
Lack of exercise, sedentary jobs, and injuries can all cause our tissues to form adhesions, impeding proper movement. Consistent use of myofascial release tools such as foam rollers and therapy balls can make fascial tissue lay flat while improving mobility and ultimately preventing injury. Check out these quick .
Range of Motion Exercises
Athletes typically use range of motion (ROM) exercises before performing to prevent injury. One of the best ways to improve joint health is to simply move the joint. For example, your hip joint is a ball and socket joint; moving it within its determined range (without pain) is beneficial for overall health. High-knees, butt kicks, and hip rotations are just some of the exercises that will increase the hip's range of motion. The same principle applies to the shoulders.
Stretching is another great way to increase mobility. A proper stretch session can increase blood flow, decrease joint tension, and aid in muscle recovery post workout. With so many benefits, why don’t more people do it? One inhibitor is time. Proper stretching should not be rushed. The muscles are like rubber bands; if you pull them fast, they can snap, but if you slowly stretch, they elongate.
When stretching properly, you should hold for a minimum of 30 seconds, which means that a proper stretching routine could last 15-20 minutes. This gives your muscles time to relax and slowly elongate. Breathing is a big part of this. As Percia explains, “focusing on your breath is important when stretching. Short, shallow breathing stimulates a stress response and causes the muscle to stay tight. Long, deep breaths help facilitate the relaxation response and will give you the best results.”
The challenge is to be patient and do the work.