Is your body stiff and achy in some regions all the time? Do you have aches and pains here and there? Are you dissatisfied with your posture? Then your body would most likely benefit from more movement.
Because of a lack of movement, most people lack adequate mobility in important regions. This is exacerbated by the unusual positions we adopt during the day. A lack of mobility (and range of motion) might then lead to the following problems:
Posture, risk of injury, ability to execute specific workouts, and quality of life…all suffer as a result. This is why devoting more time to mobility improvement may be so useful. And if you only work on the places that need it, you won’t have to spend much time on it. The reality is that you don’t need to undertake mobility exercises in regions where you don’t need to improve your mobility. This is a complete waste of time and effort. In fact, in some cases, this may cause more harm than good.
Of course, this is something I make a point of addressing in the Unorthodox Training Membership Program, which is meant to alter your body in the shortest amount of time possible to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
What Are the Most Common Problem Areas?
Concerning these issue areas, Physical Therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle developed a method known as the “joint by joint approach.” This is based on their years of research and experience. They discovered that there are four major areas where persons frequently lack enough mobility:
- The thoracic spine
As a result, in this piece, we will concentrate our mobilizations on these specific locations. And, within each individual region, we’ll first analyze whether or not you could benefit from additional mobility in that area. As a result, by the end of this article, you’ll have a customized mobility regimen based on the areas of your body that could benefit the most from work.
The first area we’ll look at is the shoulder joint. A lack of movement is currently extremely frequent in this area, particularly among men. In fact, practically all male respondents, including young subjects in their twenties, failed the shoulder mobility test I’m about to show you. With failure rates only increasing and worsening with age. Females fared slightly better in this regard. However, they followed the same pattern as males.
And this shared mobility deficiency is a real issue. Why? It’s because of the compensations we make at the gym during our large lifts, as well as in our daily lives during any reaching or overhead duties, for example.
These compensatory behaviors can contribute to pain and discomfort in the long run.
Scratch Test by Apley
So, to test for this mobility impairment, we’re going to employ Apley’s scratch test. Simply stretch one arm up and over your shoulder and the other arm up your back as far as you can. Ideally, you’ll want their fingertips to touch in order to pass. However, attempt to obtain at the very least:
YOUR ARM TO THE TOP OF YOUR SHOULDER BLADES AND YOUR BOTTOM ARM TO THE BOTTOM OF YOUR SHOULDER BLADES
If your top arm fails, it is most likely lacking in sufficient shoulder external rotation and abduction. If your bottom arm fails, it’s most likely due to a lack of proper shoulder internal rotation and adduction. So give the exam a shot on both sides and see how you fare. Make a note of which arm has the least movement on either side. The data will then be used to determine which individual shoulders and locations require the most attention using our mobility practice to rectify the imbalances.
Drill for Shoulder Mobility
One of the most effective shoulder mobility exercises is a simple one. Simply take a rag or towel in each hand and hold it in the test posture with both hands behind your back. To activate the top arm, do reps of softly tugging down on the towel while actively reaching downward with the top arm. To activate the bottom arm, do reps of pulling the towel up while actively reaching up with the bottom arm. Do so with care. Avoid allowing your shoulder to curve forward while doing so. You should only work on the arms that failed. Spend more time on whichever task requires more attention.
Then we’ll work on the mid and upper back. Or, to put it another way, the thoracic spine. This area frequently stiffens as a result of prolonged sitting and technology use during the day. And, as we age, we lose the capacity to stretch our back out of this hunched position.
It’s an easy test to see if this is a trouble area for you. Simply pose sideways in the mirror with your body relaxed. This image may be difficult to look at. However, you should carefully examine it. If your mid to upper back appears to round, this is a strong indication that it could benefit from some mobility practice.
We’ll start by mobilizing the area with thoracic extensions. Place your elbows on a bench or couch and your hands together in this position. As you lower your chest to the floor, sit your hips back into your heels. Hold the button down for a few seconds. Then, repeat this action for another round of reps. This should be felt in the mid and upper back.
We’ll then move on to cat cows, which may be done either on the floor or while seated. Perform it carefully, concentrating on rounding and stretching the mid/upper back region.
Of course, it’s worth noting that muscle weakness/imbalance could also play a role in your rounded posture. That is, while improving your T-spine mobility is beneficial, it may not correct your posture.
Then we’ll work on the hips, which can become stiff from sitting and driving. Because of all the many positions we place them in throughout the day, the hips also tend to acquire numerous imbalances.
Hip Mobility Exam
The test we’ll perform here is straightforward. All you have to do is a bodyweight squat. If your feet turn out excessively on the way down OR your hips seem to lock at a particular depth and you can’t descend below parallel OR your hips tend to tilt to one side throughout the squat… Then these are some indications that your hips could benefit from additional mobility work. Another sign is that your hips are stiff in general.
How to Carry Out the 90/90 Drill
If this describes you, you should add the 90/90 drill to your mobility repertoire. It’s a terrific exercise for mobilizing almost all of the hip muscles at once.
To do it, bend both legs 90 degrees. Then, while keeping your torso stacked over your hips, simply open up your hips to transition from one side to the other. The hip external rotators of the front leg should be stretched, as should the hip internal rotators of the back leg. Lean forward to deepen the stretch in the front leg. You can also raise your knees to intensify the stretch of your hip flexors in front of your hips. Experiment with it. Spend more time on what feels the most constrained. You may need to use your arms to support your body at first. However, this will improve over time.
Finally, let’s take a look at the ankles. This is, without a doubt, the source of the majority of the issues. When our ankles lose their capacity to move, the rest of our bodies suffer. We’ll use a simple test to see if they’re a problem area for you.
Ankle Mobility Exam
Squat with your bodyweight. See how far you can go without getting up on your heels or leaning too far forward. Rep, but this time place weight plates or a book under each heel. Check to see if your squat improves in depth and form. If it does, you should probably add the next ankle mobility practice to your regimen.
Exercise for Ankle Mobility
Finding an elevated platform, such as a bench, couch, or even your staircase, and placing one foot on top of it, is one of the greatest ankle mobility exercises. Then, pulling yourself forward with your arms under your bench or couch, drive your knee directly over your toe. All the while keeping your heel firmly placed. For a few seconds, hold the end position. Then, before swapping sides, repeat for another round of reps.
The Functional Test To Bring It All Together
Finally, to bring everything together, we’ll finish our mobility workout with a weighted goblet squat. You should do the following here:
Hold any weighted object in front of you, such as a rucksack loaded with books or a weight plate.
Then, in a deep squat, sit.
Keep your chest up and rock side to side to transmit weight and stretch to one ankle at a time.
This is an excellent approach to further mobilize your ankles, hips, and mid-back while remaining in a functioning position.
Summary of Mobility Routine
So, simply go through the tests for each of the four joints and use the results to establish what your daily mobility list will look like.
5-10 reps per failing arm with a shoulder towel stretch
5-10 repetitions of T-Spine Thoracic Extensions
Cat Cows: 6 repetitions on each side
Hips\s90/90 5-10 reps on each side
Bench Ankle Mobilization: 5-10 repetitions per leg
30-60 second rocking hold on an all-weighted goblet squat
Including Mobility Work in Your Daily Routine
To get the best benefits and keep your newfound mobility with your routine, you should do it regularly or even 2-3 times a day, with roughly 2 sets per exercise. This should be done at a time when you are most likely to be consistent. It can also be done as a warm-up before a workout to help enhance your range of motion and performance. However, avoid holding each stretch motionless for long periods of time. This can have the reverse effect and impede performance.
But, at the same time, recognize that you must be cautious of your positions throughout the remainder of the day. Even the most mobile people will become tense if they sit in the same position all day. So make an attempt to move more, whether with this mobility exercise or simply going for a stroll every now and then, as this is quite likely the source of your aches and tightness.