Most innovation starts at the highest levels. For example, the internet was invented by the military, Google was started by two researchers working on their PhDs at Stanford, and running shoes were developed by Olympic teams for top athletes. In one form or another, most innovations or trends start at the highest levels and will slowly make their way down to the average person. Because of this, I follow the training routines, nutritional guidelines, and recovery processes that professional athletes are using today to get an idea of what the average person will be doing in the years to come. And two of the latest professional athlete trends are prioritizing flexibility and joint mobility.

What’s the difference between flexibility and joint mobility?

Flexibility is a term most commonly used to describe how much a muscle in your body can stretch. Think of your muscles like a rubber band and your gauge of flexibility like the elasticity and tension of that rubber band. A popular flexibility test is reaching down to touch your toes while standing and keeping your legs straight. This test helps gauge the flexibility of your hamstrings. And most likely, one hamstring is slightly more flexible than the other.

Joint mobility on the other hand describes the ability of a joint to move through its intended range of motion. Think of your shoulders, ball and socket joints, and see if each of your arms has the exact same range of motion when doing arm circles. It’s likely they don’t.

These losses in flexibility (muscle elasticity) and joint mobility (joint’s range of motion) can be caused by many things like injuries, scar tissue buildup, sedentary lifestyle and lack of use.

What are the benefits of practicing both?

Patrick Kane, one of the NHL’s best hockey players has become well aware of all the benefits. Patrick has been a star in professional hockey for many years. He’s won many team championships and even awarded the MVP trophy in the 2015-2016 season at age 27. But after his MVP season, he started to slow down. And in the 2017-2018 season he recorded one of his worst season’s statistically. He just didn’t feel like the same player that he use to be. Shortly after that season though, he completely revamped his workout program with a focus on flexibility and mobility while significantly decreasing his previous focus on heavy lifting. This allowed for him to move more fluently on the ice, recover faster after games, reduce injuries that use to add up throughout the season, and reclaim his explosive skill set. All this led to him recording a personal high in points scored in a season, and was again in the MVP talks, all at age 30. Patrick was even quoted on ESPN as saying “I honestly think I feel better now than I did in my 20s.”

This transition from heavy lifting to more functional training with a focus on flexibility and mobility is being seen a lot more lately in professional athletes. Tom Brady, the best quarterback of all time, who I follow avidly, and never stop talking about, because of his incredible focus on healthy living, and constant improvement, has even created what he calls the TB12 method. The TB12 method is an entire fitness routine focused almost solely on flexibility, mobility and pliability. This is one of the main reasons he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in football at age 42.

And although this focus on flexibility and mobility has been very beneficial for athletes, it’s just as beneficial and important for the average person. Muscles lose flexibility naturally with contractions from working out or everyday routines. And joints lose mobility naturally from lack of use in everyday activities. This loss in flexibility and mobility will cause issues for you eventually. So, here are a few core benefits of regaining flexibility and mobility for the average person:

  • Daily aches and pains can be alleviated by increased flexibility and mobility.
  • Headaches can be reduced by releasing tension on pinched nerves.
  • Muscles will heal quicker from workouts by stretching and realigning muscle fibers.
  • Injuries can be prevented from everyday activities like picking up boxes or carrying groceries.
  • Stress can be released through the process of coordinating deep breathing with stretching.

For me, the most important benefit I see is the alleviation of daily aches and pains. So many times we let daily aches and pains get so bad, that we go to a doctor or physical therapist to help us solve them. And so many times, they provide us with a basic set of stretches and exercises to increase our flexibility and mobility. Stretches and exercises that we already know how to do. Stretches and exercises that we’re too often using to resolve problems instead of preventing them.

I recommend being proactive and staying on top of your flexibility and mobility by practicing them routinely.

Recommended Stretching Routine

Usually, I’ll try to perform 15 minutes of stretching, three times a week. I find it most effective to complete my stretching routine directly after running, working out, or my joint mobility routine. This way, my muscles are already loosened up from activity and I’m able to get deeper stretches while reducing chances of injury. Although I do vary my stretches a bit, I tend to stick to a routine which encompasses the entire body. Below, is a full body stretching routine by Emi Wong that I enjoy following along to.

Recommended Joint Mobility Routine

I also try to perform 15 minutes of joint mobility exercises, two to three times a week. I find it most effective to complete my joint mobility routine in the morning, which helps me wake up, or at night while I’m watching something on the television. If I do joint mobility at night, I’ll usually follow it up with the stretching routine as a way to relax again for the night. Similar to my stretching routine, I vary my joint mobility exercises a bit, and tend to stick to a routine which encompasses the entire body. Below, is a full body joint mobility routine by Underground Gym that I enjoy following along to.

Quick Note on My Routines

With both my stretching and joint mobility routines, I started out by following along with the videos mentioned above. After I got the routines down, I slowly started spending more time focusing on various stretches which I felt I needed more than others. This is why my routines tend to last about 15 minutes each while the videos display 10 minutes routines.

Final Thoughts

Flexibility and mobility are two components of fitness and wellness that often get overlooked. But, if we watch the trends of professional athletes, they’re putting a bigger focus on these two components than ever before. Alleviate daily pains, reduce headaches, heal quicker, prevent injuries and remove stress by stretching and performing joint mobility exercises regularly. Performing one of these routines a day, for only 15 minutes, will make a real difference in your everyday life. Start prioritizing flexibility and mobility.

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