03 Oct Quick Start Guide to Movement and Mobility

Mobility is such a common buzzword in the fitness industry today, but what exactly is it?

Before you read ahead, think about this – how do you define mobility?

And, how do you define good movement?

In this article, I’ll provide some simple background information about movement and mobility so that you have a better understanding and can assess your own movement and mobility.

MOBILITY

Mobility is joint movement or the the articulation of the joints that provide for movement.

In other words, how well do the joints move.

Are the joints fully mobile and able to demonstrate full range of motion (ROM)?

Or are the joints more immobile, preventing or restricting full range of motion?

For example, a tight shoulder capsule will prevent or limit full range of motion.

This lack of range of motion is due to the tightness of the structures around the joint.

Understand that mobility is the ability of the joints to express full range of motion.

And, mobility can be influenced by flexibility, so we’ll need to talk about that.

FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility is the tissue extensibility of the muscle.

This also contributes to the ability to express full range of motion, however it’s due to a different root cause – the cause being muscular in nature.

If the muscles are tight, this can restrict the joint motion therefore leading to decreased mobility.

So, lack of mobility may be due to tight muscles and not actually tight structures surrounding the joint.

However, if the muscle remains tight for extended period of time, this can subsequently lead to tightness around the joint structures causing true lack of mobility at the joint.

The point is that flexibility and mobility are different things but, can also be influenced by each other.

The approaches to improve each could be similar or they could be different.

A common approach to improving both mobility and flexibility is simply through better movement.

MOVEMENT

Another buzzword in fitness is the term “movement.”

But, this is a great thing though and here’s why.

Because movement is being discussed much more today, it means more people (coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts) are realizing the importance of good, quality movement as the foundation for strength, conditioning, functional, and performance training.

But what exactly is good movement?

Think about that for a minute.

My simple definition is this.

Good movement is the ability to demonstrate full mobility, stability, and motor control through full range of motion with safe and proper biomechanics of the specific demand.

Good movement is the ability to demonstrate full mobility, stability, and motor control through full range of motion with safe and proper biomechanics of the specific demand.

An overhead squat is almost a perfect example of a movement that requires a high degree of mobility, stability, and motor control.

If any of these are lacking, it will show up in the overhead squat movement movement pattern.

Since I mentioned stability and motor control, I’ll also give you a quick definition of each of these.

STABILITY

Stability is the ability to withstand compromise to the body or structure upon movement or demand.

It’s the ability to resist or control movement.

For example, a plank is a great example of trunk stability.

If the trunk sags during a two minute plank test, then trunk strength or stability is compromised and needs to be addressed.

If the pelvis sags with this static test, it’s an example of a lack of stability or true trunk strength.

Again, stability is simply being able to maintain the integrity of the structure under demand.

MOTOR CONTROL

Motor control is the ability to move in a coordinated, strong, and efficient movement pattern.

Another way to put it is that it’s simply a way to express fluid movement.

It’s the ability to control the muscular system through static or dynamic movement patterns.

For example, to be able to perform a Turkish get up or a squat pattern, both require good motor control, as well as the other things I’ve mentioned.

TAKE AWAYS

Now you have a better insight on quality movement and what the important components of movement are.

What do you do with this information?

Here’s a few examples of things you can do to assess how well you move:

  • Overhead squat – full expression of mobility, stability, and motor control
  • Turkish get up (unweighted) – again, demonstrates mobility, stability, and motor control
  • Crawling (see Original Strength) – primitive movements such as crawling and rolling are a valuable way to assess movement quality and global deficits
  • Rolling (see Original Strength)
  • The unilateral SOTS press with a “light” kettlebell – something not many use as an assessment tool, but it’s very useful and it’s essentially a different variation of the overhead squat
  • Full Squat – unloaded and loaded to assess hip, knee, ankle, and trunk ROM and quality of movement
  • Shoulder mobility test – the shoulder mobility test from the FMS is one of the best ways I know to quickly assess shoulder and upper body
  • Plank –  The 2 minute static plank is a great test to assess deficits in trunk stability
  • Breathing assessment – all good function and performance starts with proper breathing, more specifically – diaphramatic breathing

These are just some example of how to assess movement, mobility, and stability.

There are many more.

What do you do with this information?

Get assessed and take inventory.

The things above will tell you a lot about how you move and potential “gaps” or areas to address.

If you have questions – post them below and I’m happy to continue the conversation.

If you know others can benefit from this, then please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.
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