When most people think of reaching health and fitness goals, they think of doing cardio exercises and strength training. However, flexibility and mobility are two very key aspects of building a stronger and more durable body that are often overlooked. Why are these two things so imperative to consider?
The importance of flexibility
How effective do you think you’d be if you could only perform part of a weight lifting exercise? Not very, right? And, how much damage do you believe you could do to your body if you weren’t able to use the proper form when engaging in a strenuous cardiovascular exercise? Quite a bit, wouldn’t you say?
Flexibility helps with both of those issues. It involves keeping your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments long and supple so as to support your body as it engages in activities that require a significant range of motion.
For instance, a study conducted by the University of Alabama found that runners who had effective flexibility training with their lower leg tendons, such as their Achilles, had a greater running capacity. So, essentially, proper flexibility helps you perform your exercises of choice more efficiently and effectively.
And, the benefits go beyond just what you do at the gym. They include movements that you use when performing daily tasks such as cleaning your home or auto, picking up your children or taking care of the yard. Being flexible can improve all areas of your life.
Effective flexibility training guidelines
Ideally, you want to stretch the muscles that you plan to use in the course of the activity you’re about to engage in. So, for example, if you’re ready to do a leg strengthening workout, you’re going to want to target your thighs, hamstrings and calves.
The one thing to remember when performing your stretches to increase flexibility is to go just beyond your normal range of motion. You want to feel a slight tension and burning in the area you’re stretching. Don’t go too far though, or you risk injury which is completely counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve with your flexibility training.
Also, perform the exercises slowly and intentionally. Stay focused on what you’re doing so that you can make sure that you’re feeling the stretch where you want and know when to stop once you’ve hit the point that you desire.
There are several options when it comes to flexibility exercises that are effective. You can get involved in TRX suspension training, take a yoga class or even learn Pilates. All of these are great when it comes to keeping your body extremely nimble.
Why mobility matters
While flexibility involves the ability of your body parts to go through an entire range of motion as intended, mobility refers to how well you’re able to do it. Think of it like a metal gate. One that is in top shape will open as far as it can (demonstrating flexibility). However, if it is rusty, it may still open the same distance but it may be more difficult to get it there (which would show some mobility issues).
You want to work your mobility now so that you retain it later. The more you perform regular mobility exercises, the lower the likelihood that you’ll suffer with mobility related issues down the road. Your hips, spine and legs will thank you for your efforts by keeping you healthy and strong. Not to mention, it will save you financially on needless medical bills related to mobility related problems you may have been able to prevent.
Some factors that may affect your mobility include your base or stance (think of a fighter that keeps their center of gravity lower so as to keep their balance), your weight (the bigger you are, the more it takes to move you) and the amount of resistance you encounter (such as with the rusty gate example). Therefore, conducting regular mobility exercises will help you advance and grow in all of these areas.
Efficient mobility training suggestions
To increase your mobility, there are some things you can do. For example, Men’s Fitness recommends performing a warm-up to get your muscles and tendons ready to work and making sure you use proper technique to avoid injury. And, StrengthCoach.com suggests eight specific drills such as leg swings and wall slides that can increase your mobility the more you do them over time.
The key to engaging in efficient mobility training is to use each and every joint in your body. Focus on making each one stronger, more efficient and less prone to injury, letting no joint go without proper training to make it stronger and more efficient.
Also, you’ll want to make sure that all of your day to day actions are purposeful and intentional. For example, if you go to pick up something you’ve dropped, make sure you use proper form so that you don’t injure any joint in the process.
The Importance of Nutrition
A proper nutrition can increase your flexibility significantly. If you want to enhance your flexibility you need to eat foods that contain plenty of vitamins.
- Vitamin D together with calcium are important for healthy bones and joints, both of which determine how flexible you are.
- Vitamin B-3 can greatly decrease the risk of developing osteoarthritis, according to some studies. Vitamin B-5 and B-6 also relate to bone health. B-5 is abundant is eggs, soybeans and cereals while B-6 is plentiful in meat.
- Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and has been found to be essential for the health of joint cartilage. Vitamin C is found in red peppers, oranges, and cantaloupe.
- Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties. It mitigates pain due to leg cramps and osteoarthritis.
You can ensure you are getting these vitamins in sufficient amounts if you get supplements. I recommend Vitacost for this purpose.
The Importance of Body Weight
Your body weight is directly related to your ability to be flexible. Obesity is a form of inflammation. Inflammation makes your joints less flexible. Many people who are overweight, choose Weight Watchers to get in shape and learn healthy habits that will they will keep for ever.
When it comes to effective flexibility or efficient mobility training, one this is clear: The benefits you will receive by doing them will not only help you now, but well into the future. Your quality of life will improve and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of grief, both physically and financially.
For these reasons, make flexibility and mobility exercises a priority and your body will thank you by being stronger and more durable. What’s better than that?