Why Your Mobility Drills Matter


By Heather Rozen PT

If you want to be a skilled athlete then you need to have a certain fitness level.    If you want to have a certain fitness level then you really do have to move well first.  Who decides what good movement is?  Really smart people.  People like Gray Cook in the field of physical therapy.  People who stopped measuring joint range of motion and muscle strength and decided to look at movement patterns.  Fundamental movement patterns.  Movement, in other words, fundamental to humans that move.  Watch enough babies, and you can soon see that in order for babies to roll, crawl, squat and walk there are certain basics that must be in place first. The same goes for grown- ups.  We must have mobility first.  We must have freedom of movement at moveable segments.  This doesn’t just mean flexibility of tissue but also joint range of motion.  It is only after mobility is achieved that you can start to control movement.  This means that there is an ability to control motion. Meaning, controlling the motion of squatting to the floor, not just a static hold in a plank.  Cook’s basic philosophy…

Mobility before stability before movement.

If the body does not have enough mobility in one joint, to complete a movement, it will take it from another joint.  Simply put, if the hips can’t move, the lumbar spine will, and you can end up with back pain.  If your thoracic spine (the part of your spine between your neck and your low back) loses mobility you can end up with neck, shoulder or lower back pain.  If you lose ankle mobility, you can end up with knee pain.  How does this relate to a movement pattern?  Look at the squat.  If you are lacking a certain amount of ankle, hip or thoracic mobility good luck with that squat.  You will either be unable to squat to parallel, show a collapse at the knee, or your trunk will really tip forward.   (please know that these compensations can also be caused by stability issues as well but that’s a different conversation).

What does this mean for the fitness enthusiast?  In a nutshell, we believe that you should move well first.  Mobility is just one component of good movement but it’s a good place to start.  If you are in a group setting, don’t blow off the mobility drills during the warm-ups.  If you work out by yourself you can check out Mike Boyle’s StrengthCoach.com.  You can also check out the websites gymnsaticbodies.com and movnat.com.  As you learn more about mobility,  compare one side of your body  to the other.  Does one side feel more difficult to do?  Do more on that side then.  Just remember that mobility drills are more than static stretches.  We are trying to get an appropriate freedom of movement at the joints vs. just a lengthening of soft tissue.  Whether you are looking for improving your sports performance or looking to have healthy joints down the road, you really have to spend some time learning about mobility and the above websites are a good place to start.

“First move well, and then move often”
-Gray Cook