We have to learn how to control our bodies through space so we can stretch, lengthen, and strengthen muscles the way they actually function.
Whether you are just starting to exercise, or you have been at it for years, your long-term success is built upon the foundation of enhancing your ability to move more efficiently.
As we age, it’s no longer enough to simply hold muscles in lengthened position and “stretch” them for 30 seconds; we have to learn how to control our bodies through space so we can stretch, lengthen, and strengthen muscles the way they actually function. Practicing mobility can help you to become more mobile.
Functional strength and mobility workouts should be part of your overall workout program. Exercise is physical stress imposed upon the body; when your body is sore from a high-intensity strength, power, or metabolic conditioning workout, a low-intensity mobility workout where you move your muscles and joints through multiple planes of motion can help increase oxygen flow and be the perfect recharge to boost your energy.
You can improve mobility and strengthen muscles, joints and ligaments (connective tissue) with a variety of movements in multiple directions and at multiple speeds to help add adequate functional length to the tissues.
You should include workouts that will improve strength, specifically the ability to withstand tensile forces, two to three days per week, and then giving your body at least 24 to 48 hours between workouts for it to repair and build that connective tissue.
The following are a few points to remember about exercises to strengthen fascia and elastic connective tissues:
Start with small movements with a limited range of motion (ROM) and gradually build up tolerance for strain through increased ROM and movement speed.
As with all other exercises, begin with a low rep range to limit the amount of stress imposed upon the tissue; as the fascia adapts to the loads, gradually increase the number of repetitions.
Remain hydrated to allow for optimal energy storage. The extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding the fascia contains water, which is necessary for optimal function of the tissue as the layers slide over one another.
Exercises that move the arms and legs in opposite directions can use specific lines of pull through the fascia to increase length and tensile strength.
Improving mobility in the hips and upper back can reduce overall muscle tightness while improving mobility throughout the body.
Functional Strength and Mobility Progression Levels
The first level of mobility exercises takes place supported by the floor; this reduces the effect of gravity for work on joint position and muscle length.
The second level of mobility exercises takes place in a standing position.
The third level of mobility exercises focuses on dynamic movement between the hips and shoulders; this both improves overall mobility and engages balance reflexes to enhance overall muscle function. The third level of mobility exercises provides a great option for days when you might need to recover from a high-intensity workout the day before.
Each of the mobility workouts that follow can be performed as a dynamic warm-up prior to a resistance training workout program or as an active recovery workout.
When using one of these mobility workouts for a dynamic warm-up, perform one to two sets of each exercise; when using a mobility workout as a stand-alone workout on an active recovery day, do three to four sets of each exercise.
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