Programming Mobility into your Training Plan
Mobility should be seen as a tool to improve the capacity to move and perform efficiently. If mobility work is not being addressed in your current training program, you are missing out on potential positive results in the weight room and on the field. Becoming aware of individual limiting factors is the first step of implementing mobility into your program. We all have restrictions that are holding us back from moving efficiently and ultimately performing at our highest level of ability. Creating a weekly mobility program based upon these limiting factors will help us increase performance, results, recovery, and efficiency, all while decreasing the chance of preventable injuries and occurrence of minor pain.
As coaches, we have control of the one to two hours that our athletes spend in our laboratory. During this time, we have the opportunity to impose demands which will ultimately lead to our intended results. In a vacuum, we hope that our strength and conditioning programs will provide this desired outcome. The reality is that there are many external factors that will either assist or inhibit our master plan. Hydration, quality of sleep, and nutrition are all factors that should be taken into consideration when analyzing an athlete’s performance in the weight room and on the field. In addition to these factors, it is our responsibility to understand how posture, default positions, and repetitive movements have the ability to influence an individual’s mobility and performance.
We are creatures of habit mentally, physically, and physiologically. It would be foolish to say that spending 4-8 hours per day seated in hip flexion with internally rotated shoulders will not affect the quality of our front squat, broad jump, or split jerk. Like a strength program, our bodies are able to adapt to positions that we place it in, whether they are ideal or detrimental. We should be aware of our weight distribution when standing for prolonged periods, shoulder position when working at our desk, neck position when drafting texts, and of course, body position when sleeping. The majority of our day is spent outside of the weight room, engaging in these activities, so why not inform ourselves and athletes on how we can optimize performance through becoming aware, and addressing these positions?
I believe that any athlete or individual who partakes in a training program should be aware of their mobility restrictions and limiting factors. Mobility restrictions, for example, may include limited shoulder flexion while performing an overhead press, poor ankle range of motion affecting a squat variation, or missing hip extension from working at a desk for 8+ hours. Understanding these restrictions will be the foundation when programming for mobility.
I will start by saying that mobility should be performed every day. During this period of 10-15 minutes we should begin by addressing a movement or restriction that we consider to be the most important. For example, a desk warrior should make it a priority to work on hip extension 6-7 days per week. This would be considered the bull’s-eye of our mobility dart board. As we move away from the center of our bull’s-eye, we will address a movement or area that we can work on for 3-5 days out of our week. For me, this would happen to be thoracic extension. As we move to the perimeter of our dart board, we should program our mobility in a context specific manner. If we know that overhead presses are a main movement in the day’s workout, we should make it a priority to improve our overhead positioning for the day. This last piece of the mobility template will change day-to-day depending on the movements seen in that day’s training plan.
Aware, Address, Attain
Mobility begins with awareness of individual restrictions and limiting factors. No two people will have identical limitations, which makes it even more important for an athlete and coach to take responsibility for their mobility. After becoming aware of individual needs, we must address these limitations. Start by prioritizing your restrictions and creating a weekly mobility plan. Being consistent and strategic with your mobility will aide your strength training, movement efficiency, and performance in sport. When you have been engaged in a mobility plan for some time, take time to analyze your movement and reassess your limiting factors.