“Functional mobility” has become quite the buzzword in the workout industry as of late. But do you know what it really is? Or why it’s supposedly important? And if it is indeed important, do you know how to implement it into your overall fitness regime? This article will take a brief look at functional mobility, showing you some basics you can start to incorporate today.
Many people mistake functional mobility for flexibility and/or stability. However, these are all three different things. Flexibility is a measure of your range of motion or how far you can contort certain body parts or joints. Stability is a measure of how solidly you can hold yourself or possibly an external object in a particular, usually static, position.
On the other hand, functional mobility has sometimes been characterized as “movement potential”, primarily in a dynamic environment. You could almost think of it as not just how much range of motion you have, but what you can do at an extended range of motion. Then apply that into differing, “real world” situations.
Albeit a very simplistic example, consider getting down into the fully squatted position. Simply being able to get into butt-to-heels position is flexibility. However, if your lower body is so weak that you have to be in at least the half-squat position before you’re able to exert any real useable force, then you’re lacking in mobility. Putting your feet on an uneven surface would be a sort of functional mobility.
The problem with this topic is one many trainees have with stability, flexibility, or even prehab training. It might take them forever to be convinced of its efficacy, but once they are, they go overboard with it. Instead of adding a few drills to their workout or starting to practice a daily mobility routine, they completely change up their entire program. This just isn’t necessary.
While mobility is important, changes won’t happen overnight and it is something you want to be doing for the long haul. In the vein of the old kids’ saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, you’re way better off adding a couple drills to your regimen and practicing them long-term.
There’s not necessarily one “right” way to add mobility work to your program, as everyone has different needs and issues. However, there are two simple changes you could make to your current program that would do you wonders.
The first is to adopt the idea that “if it can move, you should move it”. People lose both range of motion and the ability to perform at either extreme end of it by simply just not practicing it. If you’re an athletic person with flexible shoulders who then takes a desk job, thereby eliminating most of the physical activity in your life, you’re going to lose some of your mobility. This is simply because you’re not using it and your body adapts accordingly. You want to keep in constant, varied movement.
The other is to adopt a couple exercises that all but force you into extreme ranges of motion in your workout. By doing full range dips and squats as deep as possible, you’re bending/moving the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles about as far as they will go. And because you’re doing reps, you’re forcing the surrounding musculature to work at those extreme ranges of motion.
These don’t have to be your primary strength exercises, nor do they even have to even account for the main sets of the exercise when you do them. However, try to implement them as much as you can to improve and maintain your mobility.
For instance, say you were doing weighted dips for sets of 6-8 reps, building up to a heaviest set with 45lbs attached. You could do 1-2 sets with bodyweight only to warm up, going as low as you can. Then you do a set with 25lbs attached, still to fully extended range of motion. Next, you do a set with 35lbs attached, but stop a few inches short because your shoulders aren’t that strong all the way at the bottom. Do it again with 45lbs. Then go back to full range of motion on any backoff sets done.
Adding movements like this will help you increase and maintain your functional mobility. This will not only make sure you can push how far you move, but what you’re capable of in larger movement patterns. It’ll promote healthier joints, allowing you to do more in “real life”, prevent injuries, and even improve your performance.