Archive for September, 2012

Neglect Joint Mobility At Your Own Peril

Everyone knows that stretching reduces tension; however stretching is and will always be the unglamorous aspect of fitness. Stretching is like cleaning the toilets, not many people want to do it. It is completely normal to perceive stretching as a chore, especially if you do not know the benefits of it or if you sweat bucket loads from holding a particular stretch (which probably means you need to do it more).

Prevention will always be better than cure. Most people won’t know it until they get injured and they’ve got no other choice but to perform various rehab exercises if they want to get back to any physical endeavour. Heck, even I used to perceive stretching as a chore, mainly because I was as inflexible and immobile as a metal rod, which makes it even more uncomfortable. I eventually had to do it, whether I like it or not or I knew I would get injured, sooner or later.

Just keep on moving, no excuses. Not too sure about the smoking part though.

So what is the difference between flexibility and mobility?

Mobility refers to your ability of joint range of motion (ROM) while flexibility refers to your muscle length. A proper way of warming up before any form of physical exertion would be to perform a series of joint mobility drills from ankle to neck (or vice versa, doesn’t really matter). Just choose a few movements that isolate the joints and prepares for whatever you are going to do.

Think of it as lubrication for your joints, just like how a well-oiled bicycle/motorcycle chain will last longer compared to one without due care and maintenance. For me personally, I do a full body joint mobility routine as a general part of my warm-up (beats the heck out of jogging on a treadmill). The joints are as follows: Ankles, Knees, and Hips*, Lumbar (Lower Back), Thoracic (Upper Back), Shoulders*, Elbows, Wrists and lastly Neck. Don’t be intimidated by the number of joints, it will only take 10-15 minutes at most.

“Strength without Mobility is expressionless, Mobility without Strength is powerless. Possess both attributes, and there will be no limit to your athlethicism.” – Scott Sonnon

Our Hips and Shoulders are ball and socket joints which makes it even more complicated compared to the other joints in our body. In my experience, they usually require more attention due to their ability to move 360 degrees. Hips are a notoriously stubborn musculature for most people due to lack of usage (e.g. sedentary lifestyles). It is one of my glaring weaknesses too, that’s why I have to dedicate about 20 minutes before I am actually able to perform a Deep Squat comfortably.

Move every joint in every direction possible. Up and Down, Left and Right, Clockwise, Anti-Clockwise.  There are tons of videos on joint mobility warm-up routines; there is no right and wrong way of doing it. In my observations, most just go through the motions or rush through it, without consciously aiming for tangible improvements.

The human body is like a chain(pardon for the second use of a chain analogy), our joints and muscles are like the links that compromise the entire chain. If one link starts to lose its structural integrity due to wear and tear, the rest will have to work extra harder and overcompensate. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Always strive to find out and improve our weakest link and in the process we will learn to appreciate our bodies much more.

Like as if two chain analogies weren’t enough.

In conclusion, in order to fully grasp why spending a few minutes every day on joint mobility will pay dividends in the long run , I want to impress on you just one thing. Just think of how long we spend each day creating tension and how long we spend each day reducing tension. Sitting down creates tension in the hips and hamstrings, thus shortening it, slowly but surely. How many of us actually spend time reducing tension? Many of us want to be bigger, stronger and faster but not many of us want to accept this simple notion, thus hindering their goals, sooner or later.

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