Are You Focusing Enough on Mobility in Workouts?

You should not experience joint pain when you perform activities of daily living (known as ADL’s). How does your body feel during a typical day? Do you feel pain when you move your hips, shoulders or knees through their full range of motion? Take the shoulder joint as an example. When you perform shoulder flexion, extension, rotation, or for that matter internal or external rotation, are those movements pain free? Do you have joint pain when working out? If pain is present, there may be an issue with the mobility of that joint.

What is Mobility?

In order to better understand mobility you first have to grasp what flexibility is. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to stretch when needed. Conversely, mobility is the ability of a joint to actively move through its expected range of motion. Both flexibility and mobility change over the course of time. Think of both as nourishment for your body; flexibility keeps the muscles happy and healthy while good mobility leads to happy and healthy joints, like your hips and spine. When moving and doing any type of activity, good flexibility and mobility are associated with pain free movement in the muscles and joints respectively.

Never Enough Time for Mobility

When you go for a run or have a great strength training session, you feel the benefits of each immediately. This may not be the case, at times, for mobility. You need to put the time in each day to work on improving mobility now so it continues to pay back dividends as you age. Take 5-10 minutes before each workout and work on the areas that you feel like your lacking mobility.

Begin with areas on your body where you experience the most pain. This along with limited joint range of motion are key ingredients that will eventually lead to dysfunction and it needs your attention, now!

Check for Mobility Issues with Simple Testing

A previous Jefit blog post looked at the pressure placed on the back when sitting, standing and walking. Read that post to better understand how heavy loads placed on the body can effect the spine. Keep in mind you can kill two birds with one stone here, start using mobility drills to act first as a warm-up while also working on mobility.

Apley’s Scratch Test

  • To test your mobility of your right shoulder, stand up and raise your left arm straight above your head (see picture below).
  • Flex your left elbow placing your left palm on the upper back and neck area, then slide it down between your shoulder blades.
  • Take your right hand and reach behind your body so the top part of your hand rests on the middle of your back.
  • Reach down with your left hand while reaching up with your right. The goal is to try to touch the fingers of both hands together.
  • Have someone measure the distance between your fingertips. If your fingers are touching or overlapping, record that as good.
  • Now switch arms and test your opposite shoulder.
Right shoulder Apley Scratch Test – testing shoulder mobility

If you’re like me and have a few inches of separation between your fingers (see picture above), you need to work on improving shoulder mobility. Begin by using a foam roller regularly to rollout the upper back and shoulder areas. Hanging from a pull-up bar with both hands, progress to single-arm hangs for 15-30 seconds and repeat for a few sets. Next, stretch the shoulder capsule daily performing a posterior capsule stretch followed by a tricep stretch. You can use a yoga strap to help stretch and close the gap between your fingers. This is a good first step before adding in occasional vibration work, massage and myofascial release.

Kneeling Thoracic Mobility

The mid-back or thoracic spine (T-spine) is an area that is restricted in most people especially those who do a great deal of sitting or driving. The key here is to first release any tight fascia around the mid back area. The best bet is to perform foam rolling or “rolling out” on taped tennis balls or a lacrosse ball. After loosening the area, try the following mobility drill. If you have difficulty or feel “resistance” rotating your body while moving your elbow up towards the ceiling, you need to work on T-spine mobility.

  • Start in a quadruped position (on all fours).
  • Touch your left hand to the left side of your head.
  • Exhale. As you breath in rotate your body and raise that left elbow up towards the ceiling, keeping the hand in contact with the head throughout.
  • As you’re doing this, push the right into the floor. Think about your mid-back during this dynamic movement.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, following your breath. Move to the speed of your inhale/exhale. Repeat for repetitions.

Simple Hip Mobility Test

The area that many people have trouble with is hip mobility. Mobility issues or dysfunction in this area typically leads to other major issues like back-related problems. A good first step is to add in hip mobility drills as part of your dynamic warm-up prior to every strength or cardio workout. Then foam roll 5-10 minutes hitting the upper thigh before lying side ways to roll the gluteus medius. Finally, position yourself on the foam roller to target the inner thigh and roll out that area before lying supine rolling out your gluteus maximus. Then try this quick test to assess hip mobility.

  • Sit tall in a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Without using your hands, see if you can lift and cross your right leg over your left? Then try the same on the opposite side (you should be able to).
  • After attempting that, position the right ankle above your left knee that is bent (like in the picture below).
  • Take a few deep breaths in/out and relax.
  • Now take a look at the angle of the right leg that is crossed.
  • If the leg feels comfortable and drops below a 45-degree angle or is parallel to the floor, you’re in good shape.
  • Most people, however, will have a 45-degree angle or greater and feel tightness in the hip complex. Is so, you guessed it…work on hip mobility.
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A quick and easy hip mobility test

These are just three of the many tests you can do on yourself to assess where you’re at mobility wise. Mobility work must become a component of your weekly exercise routine. There may be days where your body just needs to skip a workout and rollout and work on mobility drills. Your body and performance will love you for it. Stay strong and mobile with Jefit.

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Facts About Lean Muscle and Body Fat

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The body is an amazing organism made up of many different elements, including various types of tissue, bone, organ and fluid. Two of which, lean muscle and body fat, are discussed most often when it comes to exercise and a sustainable lifestyle. We exercise and monitor our nutritional intake to order to build one, lean muscle, while trying to lose the other, body fat (also known as adipose tissue).

How Much Lean Muscle Does the Average Adult Carry?

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in our body, accounting for approximately 42 percent and 35 percent of body weight in men and women respectively. In other words, an average male weighing 185 pounds has about 78 pounds of lean muscle tissue while a female weighing 140 pounds has approximately 49 pounds of lean muscle tissue. Take muscle and fat out of the equation, and bodyweight still has other constituents like, water, mineral, bone, connective tissue, and organ weight. Speaking of organ weight, did you know the average human heart weighs about 10 oz. while the brain weighs about 3 pounds? That same average male may have, on average, about 25 percent body fat (or 46 pounds of fat) while that average female may have 30 percent body fat (or 42 pounds of fat).

Did You Know this About Lean Muscle…

One of the amazing things about muscle tissue is that it has the ability through regular, progressive, resistance exercise, to increase in size (known as muscle hypertrophy). Donnelly and colleagues have reported that strength training studies (lasting from 8 to 52 weeks) have shown increases of 2.2 to 4.5 pounds of muscle mass. In addition to increasing in size, muscle tissue also gets stronger with prolonged training. A periodized strength training program can elicit changes in endurance capacity, power output and force production while keeping sarcopenia at bay.

Protein stores found in muscle can account for about 30,000 calories of energy. Muscle tissue can contribute approximately 20 percent of the body’s total daily energy expenditure compared to 5 percent for fat tissue (it would be great if we could tap into those fat stores more often).

Lean muscle tissue requires 3-4 times more calories to maintain compared to fat and is important in the process of energy metabolism. A pound of metabolically active muscle tissue requires 5-7 calories per pound to maintain while less active fat tissue, requires only 2 calories per pound.

Finally, muscle plays an important role in the aging process. With advancing age we experience a loss of exercise capacity. This is due to first, to a decline in skeletal muscle mass and strength during aging and then a decrease in maximal oxygen uptake mainly due to a drop in maximal heart rate, according to Henning Wackerhage, PhD, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Exercise Physiology at the University of Aberdeen.

Did you Know this About Fat…

Fat is found in the body in the form of triglycerides and stored in fat cells which are called adipocytes. According to Coyle, about 50,000 to 60,000 calories of energy are stored in fat cells throughout the body. Fat can also be stored within skeletal muscle cells.

Fat accumulated in the lower body is subcutaneous. While fat in the abdominal area is largely visceral. Where fat ends up on your body is influenced by several factors, including hormones and heredity.

The photo below shows equivalent amounts of fat and muscle. Lean muscle, however, is more dense and takes up one-third less space compared to fat. Five pounds of muscle and fat may in fact weigh the same but that is where the similarities end.

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Source: Reddit

One thing is for certain, we typically want more lean muscle and less body fat. Regular strength training is a much needed critical component for everything from health to activities of daily living. Check out some of the many great strength training routines found on Jefit, like the FitBody Plan. Stay strong with Jefit.

References

Marieb, EN and Hoehn, K. (2010). Human Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings.

Elia, M. (1999). Organ and Tissue Contribution to Metabolic Weight. Energy Metabolism: Tissue Determinants and Cellular Corollaries. Kinney, J.M., Tucker, H.N., eds. Raven Press. New York.

Donnelly, J.E., Jakicic, J.M., et. al. (2003). Is Resistance Training Effective for Weight Management Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine. 1(1): 21-29.

Wackerhage, H. (2014). Molecules, Aging and Exercise in Molecular Exercise Physiology. Routledge.

Wood, M. (2018). TBC30: 6 Steps to a Stronger and Healthier You. Wicked Whale Publishing.

Coyle, EF. (1995). Fat metabolism during exercise. Sports Science Exchange, 8(6):59.

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