Mobility, or flexibility, is an often over-looked component of exercise, but in order to keep your body running as smoothly as it should and avoid injury, mobility should be one of your top priorities. We have mobility expert, Mike Robertson, answering questions about what type of mobility work you should be doing, how often, and what the best exercises are to help you develop.
Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training. IFAST was twice named one of Men’s Health magazines Top 10 Gyms in America, as well as a Fitness Award Winner for Women’s Health magazine. He has helped everyone from professional athletes to everyday clients achieve their strength, physique, and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.
If you’re looking to work on your mobility, this interview will provide great insight and expert tips on how to do just that.
1. How did you get into the fitness industry? When did you become interested in mobility training?
I got into the fitness industry in 2000 as an intern at Ball State University. I’d done a little personal training before that, but I figure that’s when I officially started doing “real” work!
My interest in mobility training started around 2003-2004. I was a powerlifter, and so many powerlifters had horrible mobility, which causes pain and dysfunction throughout the body. I was lucky – coming from an athletic background I never let my mobility slip to that degree, but I definitely realized how important good mobility was early-on.
2. What are the different ways to improve mobility/flexibility?
Here are the three easiest mobility tools in your toolbox:
- Foam rolling
- Dynamic flexibility/mobility drills
- Static stretching
Between these three, you can attack any mobility issues on multiple levels. Furthermore, none of these tools are expensive, so there’s really no reason not to include them in your programming.
3. How can someone determine if they need to work on their ROM (range of motion)? Are there any simple self-evaluations or tests?
One of the simplest tests is to just touch your toes. If you can’t touch your toes, cold, any minute of any day, you probably need to improve that.
I also like the shoulder mobility test from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Simply reach behind your back with one hand, while reaching over and trying to touch it with the opposite hand. This test looks pretty easy, but it’s great at determining if you have an issue (or asymmetry) between shoulders.
4. What’s the best way to improve functional range of motion?
Again, start with the three tools I offer above. Incorporating those into your training and recovery sessions will go a long way.
Beyond standard mobility training, though, don’t forget that strength training has a mobility component as well. Loading your body through a full range of motion in exercises such as squats and lunges will not only help maintain your current mobility, but should help improve it as well.
5. How often should someone work on flexibility?
I’m a big believer in the decade rule – i.e. the more decades into your life you are, the more time and energy needs to be devoted to mobility.
In your 20’s, if you have good mobility, you probably need a minimum of two sessions per week.
30’s? Three sessions.
40’s? You guessed it, four sessions.
And once you’re into your 50’s, I would try and do some level of mobility training every single day. You’ll feel years younger, and a lot of those aches and pains will magically disappear.
6. What are some of the most important and effective stretches for the time-crunched desk worker?
The best areas to stretch, in my opinion are:
- The hip flexors
- The lats
- The pecs
These three areas are universally short/stiff, and working on keeping them loose and supple will pay dividends both in and out of the gym.
7. Can you give a sample dynamic stretch circuit someone could do pre-workout?
You can find an entire warm-up I created here: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/warm-up/
8. How useful do you find foam rolling? When should foam rolling be performed and who can benefit from it?
Foam rolling is a critical component in all the programs that I write, and almost anyone can benefit from it.
I’m a big believer that foam rolling short or stiff areas pre-workout is a must, as this will help you get into the proper postures and positions throughout your workout.
I also like foam rolling in the evening, before bed. Foam rolling is a great signal to the brain to shut off some of those toned up and stiff muscle groups.
9. Anything else you would like to add?
Just remember that mobility is the foundation for everything you do. Without good mobility, your body will never move as efficiently as it should.
Make mobility training a priority, and your body will thank you for the rest of your life!
Thanks to Mike for sharing his expert opinion on mobility – we hope it helps you work on your own mobility and keep you in top shape.