hat’s your primary motivation for going to the gym regularly and training hard? Perhaps it’s to increase cardio fitness, build strength or endurance or perhaps it’s to lose weight. Building strength is one of the top goals for many regular gym users.
However, all too often I see gym goers focusing far too much on how much weight they can lift or how much they can cheat on an exercise in order to appear the strongest lifter in the gym. The results being that many of them will wonder why they aren’t achieving the strength results they’re after. Why?
A lack of mobility - not the only roadblock, but an area of training that is often overlooked and stands as the barrier between so many people and their physical results.
So just why is mobility so important for building strength?
This is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. In order to maximise strength gains, you need to execute full range of motion at your joints (think knees, ankles, hips and shoulders) in order for your muscles to experience greater lengths of tension and in turn undergo greater muscle building potential. Take a squat for example - what if you aren’t mobile enough to reach 90 degrees at the knee joint, or hold an empty barbell overhead during an overhead squat (as most people in the gym struggle to do?). Inevitably, you will hit plateaus in your strength gains. Being mobile enough to put your body in the right position when lifting heavy weight is vital for your desired strength progressions.
Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion. Closely linked to joint mobility, having good flexibility of the muscles will promote solid range of motion, and you only strengthen the ranges of motion you train through. Think about it, if you do partial squats, over time you’ll improve your partial squat strength. Obvious, I know. But have you stopped to think what other implications that may have? Without balanced strength, you create weaknesses - weakness at the associated joint/s, weakness of opposing muscles and weakness through the range of motion that’s been neglected. When training squats, if you exclusively stop at a shortened range, what you’re in fact doing over time is creating an imbalance and disparity of strength across your knee joints. In all activity you do, think long-term and what kind of movement you’d like to live with for the rest of your life. We all want to be able to bend over and pick up our grandkids with ease when we’re older, right?!
Range of motion (or ROM) is the bottom line: if your mobility and flexibility are at a good level, your range of motion will also be. And good ROM = efficiency in potential strength gains. All too often I see people training ONLY on gym machines - their fixed ranges of motion restricting the body’s ability to move in the joints full range of motion and limiting potential growth and development. Do yourself a favour and use these machines as supplementary exercises, paired with complex full body movements (like squats, deadlifts, push ups etc.). There’s a reason these good old favourite exercises WORK.
It’s time to change your way of thinking and start prioritising mobility and flexibility sessions within your training routine.
Optimise your ROM to maximise your potential strength gains.
Check out this blog where I share my top 4 mobility exercises to do every day.
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