Joint Mobility in 10 Minutes
Article by Brian Mayo
I don’t like those ‘6-pack abs in 6 weeks’ or ‘beach body for summer’ articles but mobility really is something that we can work on quickly and with the minimum of exertion. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Mobility is a part of a healthy lifestyle that is very often left out. Most people think about resistance training, cardio or stretching but few take the time to learn about mobility. If you want to remain injury free and ‘loose’ then you should work, even for a short amount of time, on mobility.
Mobility and Stretching
Mobility is not the same as stretching. Stretching elongates a muscle. Mobility is concerned with taking the joint through its range of motion (ROM). Muscles are stretched in one direction but many joints are capable of 3-dimensional or circular motion. Moving a joint through its ROM may not even provide too much of a stretch in the surrounding muscles. Try bringing your hand to your shoulder and then moving your elbow in a circle. You don’t feel much of a stretch but the shoulder moves through a good ROM. It should be easy to see that stretching is very different to mobility.
As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you don’t put your joints through the motions now and again, you will lose mobility. You’ll lose the ability to control your body as your brain and muscles ‘forget’ how to move in a certain way. You may end up with calcifications on the joints causing a further barrier to restoring lost range of motion. Posture can also be affected. The body tends to fix itself into the position that you put it in most of the time. If that’s a hunched forward poor posture then that’s how you’ll stay. Wouldn’t it be nice to open up the ribcage a little, bring the shoulders back and put some life back in your neck and back?
Like any Machine your Body Needs Oiled
When we move, a natural lubricant (sinovial fluid) spreads across the joint and cartilage. The fluid helps movement by reducing friction but it also helps to cushion the joints, supply nutrients and remove waste products. By performing basic mobility exercises, you can oil your body (so to speak) every day and help maintain good posture and prevent arthritis.
10 Minutes per day
In just 10 minutes per day, you can make a difference and feel better. You don’t need to exert yourself too much either. We’re not looking to push the joints through extreme motion. Instead, we just want to loosen up a little and keep things mobile. You can do this as part of a warm up or on its own.
Hip Circles: Place your hands on your hips, feet shoulder width apart. Now make a circle with your hips as if you were trying to hold on to a hula-hoop. Do 10 circles clockwise and 10 anti-clockwise.
Leg Swings: The hips respond very nicely to some elementary leg swings. Stand upright and support one hand on a sturdy object to your side for balance. Now swing the opposite leg in front of you giving a nice dynamic stretch for the hamstrings at the same time. Don’t force the leg too high and keep your back straight. Do this 8 times.
Now place both palms on a sturdy object in front of you and swing your leg to the side. Do this 8 times and then repeat both leg swings with the other leg.
Ankle circles: Stand on one foot and point the opposite toe away from you (hold onto something for balance if required). Now rotate the foot about the ankle in a circle. First go clockwise for 10 then stop and repeat anticlockwise. Repeat with the opposite foot.
Back Arches (cat/camel): Get on your knees, palms on the floor in front of you. Now lift your upper back up high and bring your head down a little. Now lower your back and stick your chest out while lifting your head and looking up. This is also known as the cat/camel since you are going between these two yoga positions. Remember you don’t want to push this. It’s a soft motion to take the joints through more movement than they usually get. It’s not a stretch.
Dislocates: Most gym rats and couch potatoes have one thing in common. They both have awful shoulder mobility. The shoulders are generally pulled forward and they have a hunched over posture. Dislocates are a great movement to loosen up the shoulder. Most people have done them before but never knew they had a name. Simply take a broom or other light stick and hold it in front of you with an overhand grip. Now try to lift the stick over your head and down behind you. Now reverse the movement and bring the stick back in front of you. If you find that you can’t do this, try a wider grip. As you get better at this you can also narrow your grip a little.
The above routine is not the last word in mobility training for athletes but is a great start for most people and a great way to warm up too. Take it easy, don’t force the movement, just go at a natural pace and you should see benefits in posture, mobility and smooth running joints.
About the Author
Brian Mayo is an author of RealClearFit which provides articles and news on health, fitness, the environment and related matters.