What is mobility and why is it important? First, let's start with a working definition of mobility. For our purposes, mobility is the range of motion under specific circumstances (specific)while flexibility is the range of motion about joint. So mobility involves movement with some purpose while flexibility is essentially isolated and does not account for other joints or how the central nervous system is involved. An example of mobility would be how well one squats while an example of flexibility would be the "old" sit and reach test. One exemplies a frequent, daily activity while the other is done usually only in a testing or static stretching environment. You could look at flexibility as an component of mobility.
Mobility is what everyone should be seeking because it is applicable in real life situation. In other words, it is functional.
On the other hand, mobility as an end in itself isn't desirable either as to function in an optimal manner mobility must be coupled with appropriate stability to ensure integrity of joints and support structures.
Also, when addressing mobility you must keep in mind that each joint is designed to function in a certain way when it comes to mobility. For example, the ankle needs mobility, the knee needs stability, the hip needs to be mobile, the lumbar spine needs stability, and the thoracic spine needs mobility. This alternating fashion is how the joints are supposed to function in an ideal situation. If any of them are compromised in what they are intended to do then the other joints have to compensate in order to make up for the other joint's deficiency. So if your ankles lack mobility then your knee is likely going to try to compensate by trying to be more mobile than it is intended to be and that is where issues/injuries occur to joints and soft tissue.
With the above information you are equipped with some guidelines as to how to design your program so as to incorporate some training to work on the quality that is important to the various joints. So that would mean ankle mobility work, knee stability work, hip mobility, etc.
Because the hips are so important to proper function and are central to a lot of what happens in many activities, following are some hip mobility exercises that you can incorporate into your warmup.
Leg swings (forward-back): Stand tall, head neutral, chin level, swing leg forward-backward with leg straight. Try to minimize tilt of torso, action is below waist.
Leg Swings (side to side): stand tall, head neutral, swing leg across body with minimal lateral tilting of body.
Lateral lunge: stand in side split with feet flat. Lunge over 1 foot and then back over to other side. Keep feet flat and torso as upright as possible. Look straight ahead.
March w/leg cradle: march and cradle leg with both arms in front of body. Minimize break at waist.
Give these exercises a try before your workouts or activity to improve hip mobility and see if it doesn't make you feel better and improve performance.
Bruce Kelly, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-PES has written articles for sportspecific.com, completetrackandfield.com as well as local publications. He has been a fitness professional/performance enhancement coach for nearly 20 years. He owns a Fitness Together training studio franchise in Media, Pa. His website is www.ftswarthmore.com.