Six Basic Principles for Improving Mobility

Let’s talk mobility basics.

What exactly is mobility, why is it important to us, and what are the underlying principles that inform a useful, effective mobility practice?

In today’s video and article, we’re going to explore all of the above and outline six ideas that played an instrumental role in the early stages of my own mobility journey (and continue to today).

They come from both my own experiences and the lessons from countless mentors and sources of wisdom I’ve been fortunate to discover over the years – including Kelly Starrett at The Ready State, Eric Cressey, Andreo Spina and many more. 

Standing on the mobile shoulders of giants.

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#1 - Body Awareness is the Foundation

Slowing down and tuning into the body can be a great first step when we’re looking to amke any improvements in our mobility and movement quality. 

When we have a reference point, we then know where to direct our efforts. This can then be used to inform your mobility practice moving forwards. 

A few habits that have helped me in the past include: 

  • Checking in with a body-scan meditation on a somewhat regular basis. 
  • Endeavouring to move through various movements, stretches and strength exercises with more attention to how the body feels, as opposed to just striving for a specific external result. 
  • Working with a coach to analyse habitual patterns and postural tendencies. 

#2 - Everything is Connected

The body works and moves as a complex, interconnected whole. That means if there’s an area where we’re perhaps experiencing pain or tightness, it may not be due to an issue or restriction in that particular area. 

It may be that the chronic ache on the one side of your lower back is in fact related to how an ankle or hips is moving. Or, perhaps even more likely is that it’s completely unrelated to the body, and in fact linked to mental or emotional stress.

You don’t have to have all the answers here. It just helps to have an awareness that everything is connected.

#3 - Specificity Can be Your Friend

This may seem to contradict point two, but there is a time and place for becoming more specific with our approach to mobility training. While there are some general ideas that an help most people, the mobility requirements for a footballer vary greatly to those required by a gymnast or someone in their 80’s looking to stay active.

If we have a specific goal that we’re working towards, it makes sense to focus our mobility programming around that goal. 

#4 - Positioning is Key

What may first seem like a mobility issues, may in fact be more of a challenge with positioning or form. If someone is struggling to perform a a certain movement pattern, say a deep squat, it’s tempting to start trying to address common squat mobility limitations, like stiffness through the ankles or hips. But before we jump in with a load of foam rolling or mobility drills, it’s important to first make sure we fully understand the technique. Are we hinging from the hips adequately and screwing the feet into the floor?

Positioning also plays a roll when we’re actually working on mobility drills. If we’re looking to improve a certain position or movement, we ideally want to maintain some of the similar positioning cues when we mobilise. If, for example, we ant to improve our ability to reach overhead, we want to moblise in a way that ensures we’re not over-arching through the lower back, as this will only reinforce a less than ideal position. 

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#5 - Find Your Sweet Spot With Duration & Frequency

There’s no fixed rule when it comes to programming mobility work. It all depends on your individual needs and aims. 

Some people seem to do well with a short daily mobility routine, casually taking the joints through full range of motion. This seems to work well for beginners and those who just want to stay on top of general mobility and joint function. 

If you’re looking to push things further and opt for some of the more intense mobility methods such as weighted stretching, less frequent training may be more beneficial to ensure adequate recovery. 

There’s not a one size fits all solution. The important thing is you find what works for you and your current experience level and aims. 

#6 - Test & Retest

We’re essentially reinforcing principle one here. Check in with the body on a regular basis so you have a better understanding of what works for you, what your body needs more or less of. 

This could be as simple as testing how easy it is to get into a squat before and after working on some hip mobility drills. 

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