How to improve mobility
1. Swap static stretches for targeted mobility work
“Most gym-goers know that stretching is beneficial for both warming up their muscles and cooling down post-session, but mobility training can give you that extra edge,” explains Cuff-Burnett.
“That is because mobility is based on movement and motor control, so it can be far more effective at creating deeper muscle memory and joint activation than traditional static stretching.
“Your central nervous system operates an in-built safety mechanism, by limiting your mobility based on how much control you have in a certain movement. So by including mobility training, you will empower your joints to move through a greater range of motion.”
A good pre-workout mobility drill for the upper body is the ‘cat-cow’ pose: starting from an all-fours position, sink your back down and lift your head up to curve your spine like a cat, then tuck your head and tailbone in to arch your spine like a cow. Do 8 reps of each.
You can also do ‘wrist walks’ to boost your wrist mobility ahead of any push or pull exercises: from an all-fours position, rotate your palms so your fingers are facing towards your knees, then slowly walk the hands away from the body, then back again. Repeat 8 times.
A good pre-workout lower-body mobility drill, meanwhile, is the cossack squat: from a wide squatting stance, squat down on one leg while keeping one leg straight out to the side. Perform 5-10 reps on each side.
2. Do controlled articular rotations
“A great way to work on joint range of motion is to use CARs – or ‘controlled articular rotations’,” says Cuff-Burnett.
“These involve performing circular joint motions, and you are trying to create a larger circle the more you do it. This will increase your control in the outer limits of your usable range of motion.”
Start with the hips and shoulders: improving mobility in these two areas will give you the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of alleviating tightness in other parts of the body, too.
3. Move beyond the foam roller
Foam rollers can keep you feeling supple and loose, but you need to do more dynamic movements to really boost your mobility.
“Foam rolling alone is not going to make you more mobile,” warns Cuff-Burnett.
“Consider what happens when you roll your ITB (iliotibial band): you may be oscillating that particular tissue, but the joint above it, the hip, and below it, the knee, remain immobile. It is therefore better to use a foam roller to prepare some aching muscles, but then to go into your full sequence of mobility exercises above to apply more movement through the joint’s maximum range of motion.”