“Use it or lose it.”
You’ve probably heard that aphorism applied to everything from a coach’s use of timeouts during a football game to the flex spending account that covers your out-of-pocket health expenses. Within the realm of health and fitness, “use it or lose it” is an apt description of how mobility works. Specifically, if you don’t make an effort to warm up and activate certain parts of your body, you’ll gradually lose the ability to use them without opening yourself up to stiffness or injury.
And yet, stretching is all too often the first thing people cut out of their workouts when they’re feeling pressed for time. I get the impulse. If you’re trying to squeeze in some fitness while juggling work, family, and something resembling a social life, doesn’t it make sense to jump straight into the exercises that will actually make you stronger?
Short answer: not so fast. Why? Because making time for proper mobility matters. To convince you of that, let’s first take a closer look at what it means to be mobile and how it factors into a proper exercise routine. Next, I’ll walk you through three highly effective movements that can help you feel the difference firsthand. When you put it all together and put in the effort, you’ll not only feel limber and looser in day-to-day life — you’ll also put yourself in position to move more efficiently towards any strength-related fitness goals.
What do we mean by mobility?
The definition of mobility feels obvious, but it’s worth articulating in full. For our purposes, mobility refers to your overall ability to move your body in a full range of motion without pain or significant exertion. When we aren’t feeling particularly mobile, that’s often as a result of stiffness or tightness in a given area, or it could be that an injury is forcing your body to adjust how it performs a particular movement by compensating with other muscles.
When you’re feeling sufficiently mobile, your movements are fluid and effortless. In fact, you probably don’t think about them all that much. In this state, there’s nothing that interferes with your ability to maintain proper form, which means you can attack strength training exercises with maximum efficiency. And whether you’re hitting the weights or crushing cardio, keeping your body in a flexible state can reduce the risk of injury or strain associated with your exercise activity of choice.
Move through three important zones.
Reaping the rewards of free and easy movement starts with a routine that targets three important regions of your body: your hips, your shoulders, and your thoracic spine (sometimes known as the t-spine), which covers your T1 through T12 vertebrae. Targeting these three zones can help you glide through the day’s activities free from pain while maintaining proper form through the more strenuous elements of a strength training routine.
With that in mind, here are three of the most valuable movements that might be missing from your exercise regimen. By hitting more than one key region in just a short burst of time, each offers plenty of bang for your buck so you can feel spry in as little time as possible. Here’s a brief rundown of why these movements can make a difference, and what it takes to perform each one.