In today’s world, your training goals are faced with a dilemma. Should you train for strength or mobility? And, how often should strength and mobility training be conducted?
A lot of the literature out there tells you that you cannot have them both. You can either be very mobile or very strong, but not at the same time. This is pure rubbish.
You can absolutely have both.
In fact, strength and mobility training should be conducted at the same time and mobility work should be performed just as much, if not more, than your strength work.
Mobility work should ideally be performed every single day. You don’t have to spend too much time either. Only 10 minutes per day is really all it takes.
You now have your answers, but let’s dive into why this is the case. Why is mobility so important for a strength training program? And, more importantly, what exactly is mobility in the first place?
What is Strength & Mobility?
Strength is defined as the ability of your muscles to contract as hard as possible to move the heaviest amount of weight for a single repetition. In other words, the heaviest weight you can lift for a single repetition.
Mobility is the is the movement potential of your muscles and joints to move through a full range of motion for a given exercise. The question to ask yourself is: “Can I move through this exercise in a full range of motion without feeling any pain, discomfort or impingement?”
Neither one is more important than the other. But at the same time neither one is mutually exclusive either.
You have all seen “that guy” at the gym who only lifts heavy weights and tries all those ridiculous bodybuilding workouts. He walks in, doesn’t warm up, jumps straight into the heavy lifting and then walks out without stretching. Their logic: “Real athletes don’t do mobility work.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have probably seen the “mobility fanatics”. The first 20 minutes of their workouts are spent rolling on a lacrosse ball. After they start lifting weights, they stretch between sets, or perform more soft tissue work. Finally they end the workout with deep stretching and joint capsule work. Their logic: “All of the problems of strength training are due to poor mobility. Therefore, the more mobility that I do, the less problems I will face.”
So which one of these two trains of thought are correct?
The answer: neither of them.
Crossroads Of Strength & Mobility
While there are plenty of problems in strength training due to poor mobility, mobility itself is not the “be all, end all” of strength training problems.
After being a trainer for around 8 years now, I can honestly say that most problems are from bad lifestyle habits and a poor mindset. Not mobility.
Likewise, strength training is very important in an athletes training program, but it is only one pillar of being an athlete.
Being a better athlete is not about squatting 500 lbs, although it doesn’t hurt. Being an athlete is about moving better. And moving better requires mobility. Growing a huge chest and arms is not going to turn you into Tom Brady, only quality movement will.
How Often Should You Perform Mobility Exercises?
With all of that said, how often should you perform your mobility work?
Ideally you should perform mobility exercises, of some kind, every single day. But let’s face it, this is not going to work for most of you.
Look I get it. We all live in the real world and work for a living. The last thing any of us want to do in the morning, or evening, is mobility work. So what is the alternative?
You can do just enough mobility work to move better and maintain it. The amount of work that you do all depends on your age. The older you are, the more mobility work you need to do.
It is very simple. All you do is take your age and simplify it into decades. Whichever decade you are in is the adequate number of days you need to perform mobility exercises each week.
So if you are 32 years old, then you need to perform at least 3 days of mobility work each week. 40 years old? Then 4 days.
How Do I Know Which Exercises To Perform?
You now know what mobility work is and how often you should perform it. The next question is “which exercises should I perform?”
This is the tricky part. The exercises all depend on which area of the body needs work. Okay, sounds simple enough. But wait! There’s a catch!
The area of the body that needs work will never be the same each time you conduct a mobility session. It will change day by day, week by week. That’s the tricky part.
Plus you need to know which area in particular needs the most work.
Let’s do an example. You are having trouble maintaining good form in the bottom of the squat position. This could be from a multitude of areas and can require either hip mobility, ankle mobility, thoracic mobility or all of the above.
How do you know which area needs work? Unless you are experienced with this kind of work you probably won’t know. That’s not being condescending either, it’s the truth. I know this from my own personal experience.
You’ll have to test the waters a bit. During your first session after squats, try doing hip mobility exercises. If that works, great! If not, try ankle mobility during your next session. And so on, so forth.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading Dr. Kelly Starrett’s incredible book Becoming A Supple Leopard. It covers all of these problem areas with detailed descriptions of how to perform the exercises for maximum benefit.
The Best Time To Perform Mobility Work
If there is one time of the day you want to perform mobility work, it is immediately after a workout.
After you workout you are nice and warm. During this time your muscles (and joints) are the most pliable and able to sink into a deeper stretch. In other words, it is the most effective time to perform the exercises.
Plus, you are already in the gym. So you are still in the workout mindset. This is key because the number one reason people don’t perform mobility workouts, or any workouts for that matter, are excuses.
Excuses for not being able to make it to the gym, or not being in the “mood”. If you commit to performing mobility work immediately after your workout, you eliminate the excuses right away.
Strength training and mobility training are an essential part of any training program. It is one thing to lift heavy weight, but you want to be able to move with the highest quality movements possible.
You now have a good amount of knowledge of what to do. So what comes next? You need to take action. You will never know “everything” just from reading and researching. Get out there and make it happen.
Otherwise your fitness lifestyle will be like a quick spark of ember on a cold winter morning. It will show great potential at first, but then it will quickly fade out into the darkness.
Don’t fade my friends, but rage on! Good Luck!
P.S. If you liked this article I would really appreciate it if you would share this article and help spread this knowledge. Not only would it make my day, it would make my week! It will help support my mission here at Barbell Scholar to grow awareness of common sense training.