Whether or not you have a regular workout schedule, or sit at a desk all day long, doing the necessary things to keep your muscles and joints operating smoothly will pay off in the long run. Mobility, which is defined as moving freely without stress on the body, is key to any lifestyle. Specifically, taking care of some of your largest muscle groups like your lower body is increasingly important as you age or start using them in dynamic ways such as a workout. To dig into the details, we talked with Peloton Tread instructor Matty Maggiacomo about how to maintain and improve your lower body mobility.
How does lower body mobility help your ability level throughout any workout?
Lower body mobility is so essential to being healthy as an athlete but also as a functioning human being. We need to be able to move effectively through all of the major joints in our lower body; from our core, to our hips, knees, ankles and even our toes to protect us from injury. As we grow older, we tend to become increasingly less mobile. For athletes, being mobile helps boost performance in obvious ways, but most importantly, an athlete needs to be able to move their joints through a full range of motion.
What are some factors that could be hindering someone’s ability to increase their mobility?
Whether you have an active lifestyle or an inactive lifestyle, we put a lot of stress on our bodies. In the case of someone who is active, not taking the necessary time to warm up before workouts and stretch post workout can cause limited mobility as it increases the risk of injury. Additionally, repetitive motion such a running, may strengthen certain muscles (quads and calves) while simultaneously stretching or weakening others, like our glutes, and limiting movement through certain ranges of motion. On the other hand, someone who is lacking an active lifestyle will almost certainly suffer from limited mobility. Many of us are forced to remain in the same position throughout the day, either hunched over a computer or a steering wheel, therefore not moving enough to utilize all of the muscles and joints through their intended movement patterns. This trend will cause a person to lose lower body mobility. I say, "move it or lose it!"
Lastly, age is another factor of losing lower body mobility or mobility in general. As we age, we experience some degree of bone density loss and muscle atrophy, which in turn causes cartilage to deteriorate making it more difficult for the musculoskeletal system to move as it did during our younger years.
What are some pre and post workout stretches or movements you would recommend for the lower body?
Before working out, it ’s important to move through dynamic warm ups that mimic the movement patterns of the more challenging exercises you plan to do during your workout routine that day. Dynamic warm ups are not long static stretches meant for your post workout, rather they are intended to get the body warm and get blood flowing through the joints. Dynamic warm ups for the lower body can include marching in place or high knees, ankle flicks and skater lunges. Static stretches are intended for your post workout routine, often paired with foam rolling so that you can move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. Static stretches should be held anywhere between 15-30 seconds. Some of my favorite lower body post workout stretches are a runner's lunge, frog or hip flexor stretch and modified pigeon stretch.
What are the benefits of foam rolling for lower body recovery and flexibility?
Foam rolling is so incredibly beneficial but a lot of us have no idea why we do it. Foam rolling is also called self-myofascial release and when executed properly, it generates blood flow through the connective tissue (or fascia) in the body releasing muscle tensions, before or after a workout. Foam rolling releases joint tension, relaxes muscles and breaks up adhesions (or knots) in our muscles. Additionally, foam rolling causes a chain reaction through our neural receptors that allows us to perform static stretching more efficiently when done properly.
What are a few daily things someone can do to improve their lower body mobility over time?
To improve your lower body mobility over time, simply moving your joints through all ranges of motion will help while avoiding a static lifestyle. Practicing yoga or taking a mobility or dance class will help improve your lower body mobility. Warming up properly and stretching and foam rolling properly, before and after your workout, will also improve your lower body mobility.
How often should someone stretch or foam roll for optimal recovery and mobility?
For maximum results, you should stretch and foam roll before and after every workout. If you don't have the time, then you should consider foam rolling all of the major muscles at least 4-5x per week to achieve optimal recovery and mobility.
Do you need an active or passive recovery this week? Read this to find out.