Mobility refers to the “the ability to move or to be moved freely”. This is in relation to the joint itself and its capability to move. With multiple joints used during swimming, bike riding and running, it is important to maximise the joint space so that you can use the associated musculature throughout the whole activity, and to also make sure your body is tolerating the load you put through it to the best of its ability. Along with these factors that lead to improved sporting performance, greater mobility in a particular joint reduces the risk of injuries e.g. impingement issues.
Looking at mobility from a functional movement point of view, we look at the relationship between what is happening anteriorly (front) and posteriorly (behind) in relation to the joint. Let’s use the shoulder joint for example. The shoulder joint has various muscles that attach onto it and in various locations, so when a group of muscles get tight, the shoulder joint can be pulled in a particular direction which can cause the shoulder joint to move differently which can then lead it to move incorrectly.
Above are two pictures illustrating the difference in shoulder mobility based on the relationship between the anterior muscles and posterior muscles. Picture a) shows an even relationship between both which allows for the shoulder joint to sit naturally in the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) and therefore move freely, while picture b) shows tight anterior musculature (pec muscles) and weak posterior musculature (rhomboid muscles) and as a result, causes the shoulders to be rolled forward inside the glenohumeral joint. This reduces shoulder mobility and therefore range of motion as it causes impingement within the glenohumeral joint.
How can you address this?
Performing regular mobility training in combination with a strength training component can help combat these inadequacies between musculatures. Mobility exercises that cause you to spend time in which the anterior component of the shoulder joint is getting stretched will aid in improving your shoulder mobility. However, this needs to done in conjunction with a strength training program. Relaxing the anterior component by performing mobility exercises and strengthening the posterior component will help the shoulder sit optimally within the glenohumeral joint. A simple way to improve the effectiveness of your strength training routine in improving your shoulder mobility is to make sure that for every “push” exercise (push weight away) you do e.g. chest press, pec fly, shoulder press, supplement it with a “pull” exercise (pull the weight towards you) e.g. seated row, single arm row, bent over row. Performing “pushing” exercise are not bad, but excessive time spent on these exercises will cause your shoulder joint to move differently.