One of the most overlooked aspects of the real world and the fitness world is mobility. Mobility difficulties are not only a problem of old age, whether you’re an elite athlete or a soccer mom, it is important to regularly work on improving your mobility. If you want to prevent possible injuries and live a happy, pain-free life then you NEED to start improving your mobility. By giving yourself a mobility assessment you will know which areas of the body are the weakest. Once you assess your mobility you will be able to directly target and improve your weaker joint complexes. In this article we will specifically target mobility, so try to do this assessment cold to see your everyday mobility and then you can test after a warm-up or workout just to compare.
Why is mobility so important?
Think of your mobility as the cornerstone to a healthy pain-free body. Lesser mobility leads to instability which decreases the movements you’re able to perform. Without proper movement, it’s difficult to build strength, power, and endurance. So, forget about building your repertoire of specialized skills related to fitness if you’re missing one of the most import pieces of a strong foundation; mobility.
What joints should I test?
There are many joints in our bodies that require mobility but in this article, we will touch on the joints/areas that people often have mobility issues with: shoulders, hips, upper back (thoracic spine) and ankles. These areas are the most used in basic movements. To get a better understanding of full body mobility, take a look at the joint by joint approach from Gray Cook.
We chose to the following mobility tests because they can be performed alone in the comfort of your home. Now let’s start testing your mobility!
These two tests will reveal the state of mobility and flexibility that your shoulder joints possess. Because the shoulder joint is the weakest joint in the human body, knowing your range of motion is important so you don’t overexert or injure yourself. Take a few minutes to test your shoulder mobility to gauge your ability and if you need to, start doing more shoulder mobility exercises.
Shoulder Mobility Test #1
1. Lie down on your back, bend your knees at 90 degrees with your feet on the floor.
2. Lift both arms perpendicular to the floor.
3. Slowly lower your right arm over your straight over your head to the floor as far as you can.
4. The ideal result is that your hand reaches the floor without arching your back off the ground.
5. Repeat with your left arm.
*** If you had to arch your back to keep your arm straight on the floor then you’ve got some room for improvement.
1. To test your right shoulder mobility, stand up and raise your left arm straight above your head.
2. Bend your left elbow and put your left palm on the back of your neck then slide it down between your shoulder blades.
3. Take your right hand and reach behind yourself so that your right palm rests on the middle of your back.
4. Now reach down with your left hand while reaching up with your right. Try to bring the fingers of both hands together.
5. Looking in the mirror or ask a friend to measure the distance between your fingertips. If your fingers are overlapping, record that as well.
6. Now switch arms to test your opposite shoulder.
How do you measure up?
Fantastic = Fingers overlap
Above average = Fingertips touch
Average = Fingers are less than 2 inches apart
Needs improvement = Fingers are more than 2 inches apart
Thoracic Test #1
1. Start with your hands and knees on the ground with your hands stacked under your shoulders; keep your knees hip width apart.
2. Press through your hands while rounding your upper back and retracting your shoulder blades together.
***If you weren’t able to get both flexion and extension in your spine, there’s plenty room for improvement.
1. Lie down on your back then move into a supine spinal twist.
2. Extend your right leg straight.
3. Move your left knee towards the right side of your body and your left hand to your head.
4. Rotate open.
5. Test the other side.
***If you can’t open up at least half way to the floor, then there’s room for improvement.
Hip Mobility Test #1
1. Lie down on your back perpendicular to a doorway.
2. Place your hands at your sides and your palms facing up.
3. Align the midpoint between your knee and hip with the door-frame.
4. Lift your leg that’s closest to the door-frame. Make sure to keep your knee extended and your foot flexed. Your other leg, arms and head should keep contact with the ground.
5. Repeat with the opposite leg.
***If your ankle doesn’t clear the doorjamb then you should work on improving your hip mobility.
Hip Mobility Test #2
1. Lie on your back.
2. Bring your feet together with your toes pointed back towards your body.
3. Use a towel to wrap it around the bottom of the foot of the leg you’re testing.
4. Use the towel to slowly pull that foot as high as you can.
5. Keep both legs straight. Your untested leg and back should keep contact with the floor.
***If your untested leg or back come off of the floor you should stop the movement at that point
***If you can get your leg up to 90*, you have ideal hip mobility
6. Repeat the test with your other leg.
1. Start by kneeling on one knee with your test leg in front of you. Your toes of your test leg should be 3 inches from the wall.
2. Keep the heel of your test leg down and make sure your feet are straight out in front without any rotation.
3. Try to touch the wall with your knee by moving your knee over your foot.
***Stop the movement, if your foot moves from original position.
***If you can touch the wall with your knee would be ideal ankle mobility.
4. Repeat test with other ankle.
The two things we are looking for during these screening tests are:
If you found imbalances then you should train the weaker side more often. If you found less than ideal mobility then you should add more mobility exercises into your daily life. Start by adding the mobility exercises we provided in the Functional Foundations Guide.
I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not too late to reclaim your joint mobility that you had as a child. Use mobility exercises as a warm up, active recovery or as a stand-alone workout. We recommend that you try to add at least 3 sessions of mobility training a week but even better would be to start off each day with a few mobility exercises that will have you moving better and feeling better throughout the day.
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