Shari Duncan

Tag: mobility

Stretch your Way to Better Mobility
Shari

by on Mar.06, 2011, under General HEALTH, Strength and Agility Training, Stretching / Flexibility

Spare your low back from stress by improving mobility.  Poor hip mobility leads to poor posture, poor sports performance and chronic pain.

Joints and limbs need to be mobile and have full range of motion to be useful.  Our hip joints especially take a beating all day long and tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of your hips) are a big problem for lots of us. But, we all need the use of our joints and limbs for everyday activities like picking up groceries or walking up stairs.  And, if you are an athlete, improved mobility equates to improved performance and reduced chance of injury.

The way to improve mobility is through proper stretching.

The benefits of a good warm up before exercise include improved strength, flexibility, muscular endurance,coordination and the correction of major and minor muscle imbalances.  It also increases blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues and increases range of motion, thus reducing chance of injury during exercise.  It is vital to include dynamic stretching exercises your daily exercise routine as it will not only help your major muscles short term but also very importantly long term when our muscles start aging.

Dynamic stretching works by gently propelling their muscles towards their maximum range of motion. It is very important to not use jerky, forced movements to try to increase the range of motion beyond what is comfortable as it can easily cause injury.  A 2008 study in the “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” determined dynamic stretching a better choice for warm-ups for exercise over static stretches which were found to hurt muscular power output.

Lack of mobility in the hip joints is a very common complaint. This can be the result of a sedentary lifestyle and/or lack of stretching which shortens hip flexors & hamstrings and restricts hip movement. But the hips are designed for a wide range of motion and mobility. We should freely rotate thighs in & out, move them up & down, and pull them to & away from the body. Or at least we should be able to. Persistent pains in knees and/or lower back can be caused by lack of hip mobility.  Incorporating dynamic stretching can help the hip muscles regain their original length and alleviate pain in the lower back and hips.  If your muscles are tight, it is important to stretch every day.  Your hip mobility will improve by doing the exercises correctly and often.

Take it Slowly. Increase speed & range of motion as your muscles loosen. Don’t get injured by forcing the movement from the start.

Lunges are among the many recommended exercises to help stretch out the hip flexors.

Lunges and Leg Swings will help stretch and strengthen hip flexors

Lunges will also improve functional range of motion while also improving strength in the quadriceps, glutes and core.  There are many variations to the lunge that should be incorporated into your program.  (Stationary, front, reverse, lateral, walking, overhead, etc.)

Basic Kneeling Lunge (or split squat)

Kneel with your left knee on the ground and your right leg in front of you with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper body straight and lunge forward as far as is comfortable and then move back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.

Lateral Lunge (Squats). A great dynamic stretch for your adductors. Assume a wide stance, the wider the easier. Squat side to side with both hands behind your head or across your chest. Point Your Feet Straight ahead. Rotating your feet outwards is trying to compensate lack of hip mobility. Plant your feet into the floor.  Push Your Knees out. This better involves your adductors. Push from the heels and push your knees out.  Stay Tall. Look forward, keep your chest up and shoulder-blades back & down. Don’t round your back.

Leg Swings (Front to Back and Side to Side)

Stand up straight and hold onto something. Move from the hips; flex and extend your thighs, keep your pelvis still and do not allow your torso to rotate. Look forward.  Keep the movement at a steady slow pace, maintaining good posture throughout. 15 repetitions of each for each leg.

Restoring hip mobility will help in several areas. If you don’t already include these exercises in your current training, performing them will make a big difference in your body mechanics. It should reduce or eliminate lower back and/or knee pain stemming from overcompensation. It should improve performance output by allowing you to fully engage in training exercises like squats and dead lifts while making them safer.

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