People always want to know what the secret is to building muscle. Honestly, mobility might actually be one of those secrets. Although it’s not even a secret, it’s just not glamorous or something you can show off so people don’t want to waste their time with it.
What is Mobility?
Mobility is the ability to take a muscle and joint through a FULL range of motion and under control. This is huge when it comes to muscle building. Studies have shown numerous times that a muscle taken through its full range of motion will elicit better gains than going through a partial range. If we know this to be true, and we want to maximize our time in the gym, then why wouldn’t we be prioritizing a full range of motion movement?
Laziness, Ego and Time
More often than not, most people shortchange their exercises because of laziness, ego, or time. Just like we all KNOW what foods are healthy but it’s just easier to grab the chips, we all KNOW warming up with mobility exercises is good for us, but we’d rather just jump right into the lift and get going. Our ego gets in the way, because we want to be seen moving heavy weights, not doing hip bridges with our body weight. Maybe it’s not even any of the above reasons. We spend more hours of our day sitting improperly, and letting muscles go dormant that we simply teach the central nervous system to stop firing those muscles as often. Then, when we go to lift, we end up straining stabilizing muscles more because the muscles that help with mobility aren’t turning on when they should be.
Training Different Planes
The key to optimizing muscle growth is stimulating the muscle, and hitting it from different angles. Particularly in bodybuilding, we tend to only train in the sagittal plane (think lunges and forward movements). Functionally speaking, we still have TWO other planes. We have the frontal plane (think side lunges), and transverse plane (think rotational work). How can you be maximizing your muscular growth if you are totally neglecting TWO other planes of motion?
Most think of training all planes as something only athletes need. Their career involves moving in all planes, so it behooves them to get strong and be full mobile going every direction. Most injuries happen when they have weakness in that area and apply too much force. While it may be a direct requirement of an athletes toolbox, we ALL could and should be prioritizing our mobility at all angles to reduce our chance of injury. Think about all the times you or someone you know has gotten injured. It’s always been when form wasn’t under control, and a weaker area pushed too hard and got tweaked.
Practice Mobility Often
I totally get it. I myself get super lazy when it comes to incorporating mobility work, so I’m all about finding the easiest barrier of entry. You can definitely create workout days where you go to the gym and only do mobility work, but if you already find yourself struggling to add it in, this probably isn’t the best way to start.
Pick 1-3 exercises a day and try incorporating them when you have downtime. It’s best to attach it to a habit you already have so that you have a signal to get started. I’ll attach it to doing it right before bed, or when I’m watching TV. I find adding it to things I’m already doing makes it way easier to keep up with my mobility work.
You can also do it in between sets of your major exercises at the gym. I’ll sometimes incorporate it as I’m ramping up my sets on squat or bench press to activate the lagging areas during those exercises. Check out our MAPS Prime or MAPS Prime Pro programs if you need more help assessing which exercises to choose to address weaker areas.
Eventually work your way up to focusing on 1-2 weaker/lagging areas, choosing 2-3 exercises for each. When you’ve seen the progress you wanted, you can move onto another area. Take your time with these exercises and really focus on activating the intended muscle. It’s not about how many reps you do, but the quality of each rep.
Check out my other articles Will Implementing Mobility Exercises Help Increase My Muscle Mass? and How to Prevent Injury and Pain Through Mobility Training.