Mobility is an incredibly important aspect of living a healthy and functional life that can’t be overlooked. To get to the bottom of what mobility is and why it’s an integral part of a training program, we spoke to JD Christie, owner of Fitness Together Belleair Bluffs in Southwest Florida.
Christie is not only a knowledgeable personal trainer, but he also has experience as a U.S. Marine. In fact, it was during his time in the service that he got interested in health and fitness, and once he left the Marines, decided to become a certified personal trainer.
It was actually Christie’s own mother, a client of Fitness Together, who introduced him to the company, and he fell in love with the private atmosphere. Christie joined Fitness Together Belleair Bluffs as a trainer, eventually became the manager, and then had the chance to purchase the studio and became the owner in 2012.
Here’s what Christie has to say about mobility.
What is mobility?
Technically, the term mobility means the range of motion through a joint.
However, depending on who you’re talking to or about, mobility can be defined in a couple of different ways. If you’re talking about athletes or performance lifters, mobility will likely mean working on very specific movements to assist in improving strength or performance in certain areas.
Whereas, if you’re talking about an older population, mobility is really just about being able to move independently and get from point A to point B without assistance — it’s freedom of movement and functionality.
What's the difference between mobility and flexibility?
Mobility and flexibility are two different things. However, they can be intertwined.
Flexibility is actually a precursor to mobility, and it means the ability to lengthen a muscle. Mobility is the range in which you can move through a joint. It’s common for a lack of flexibility to lead to a lack of mobility, and you have to have the flexibility for good mobility.
What's the importance of working on mobility in a workout program?
It all depends on the client you’re dealing with and what’s important to them.
When you’re working with a younger client who wants to get stronger or faster or master a skill, you have to work on increasing their range of motion in specific joints in order to continually increase their results. Greater range of motion and more mobility gives them better output.
When you’re working with older clients, you have to work on overall balance, strength and flexibility and incorporate movements that translate into their everyday lives to improve their mobility. For instance, a squat helps with sitting in a chair and standing back up, and a crunch helps with sitting up in bed.
How often do you train mobility with your clients?
We train mobility every session with every client. Some sessions include less, but some sessions include more, and it really depends on the client and how much work they need on mobility. No matter what, we advise that all trainers at least check in on the mobility of their clients every session.
With seniors, we sprinkle mobility throughout their sessions. We always ask them to use the foam roller on all the major muscle groups before working out. Then, we ask them to do some dynamic movements, like cherry pickers, inchworms and arm circles to help them get loose and get their joints moving around. From there, we move into the workout and start adding load/weights. Finally, after the workout, we spend five minutes stretching our clients with assisted static stretching on the stretching table.
How does someone's mobility change as they age?
Naturally, as we age, our muscles tighten throughout the years, and our activity level goes down too. With those changes, mobility ultimately goes down.
As you get older, you may start noticing that some things you are used to doing in everyday life begin to cause pain or discomfort — and it happens very gradually. You may also notice that if you try to do a workout or play a sport that you used to play, you can’t do it as well as you did before, and it may create pain as well. The most common areas of pain are in the lower back, knees and shoulders, which all tighten and lose mobility.
However, if you work with a personal trainer on improving your mobility, you can slow down the decline or even reverse the pain.
What are two of the best mobility exercises for an older population to do to stay feeling good?
For the upper body:
The upper-body clamshell.
Start sitting in a chair or standing up.
Hold your arms at 90-degree angles in front of the body, with your elbows lined up with your shoulders.
Then, bring your arms out to the sides next to your body, with your elbows still in line with your shoulders at 90-degree angles. Pull them into the starting position, out again and repeat.
Brace your core and keep your belly pulled in and engaged, with your back straight throughout the movement.
Do 10 repetitions and 3 sets total, 2-3 times a week.
For the lower body:
The leg swing.
Stand next to something stable and place your hand closest to the structure on it for balance.
Slightly raise your outside leg in front of you off the ground in a forward motion kick, then swing it underneath your torso and behind you. Continue this front and back swinging motion.
Brace your core and keep your trunk very tight, with your upper body still — no leaning forward or backward in the upper body. Make sure that all the motion takes place in the hip joint.
After finishing all the reps on the first side, turn around and repeat on the other side.
Do 10 repetitions on each leg and 3 sets total, 2-3 times a week.
"Working on mobility has a profound impact on a senior’s overall pain management — both in preventing or getting rid of nagging aches and pains,” said Christie. “There’s also a great psychological effect when you start being able to do things that you haven’t been able to do in a long time — like getting down and up off the ground unassisted to play with your grandchildren. Overall, mobility helps keep seniors happy, healthy and independent.”
To find a Fitness Together trainer to help you work on your mobility, head here.