Mobility Training for Weightlifters

man doing side lunges

Mobility is an important part of any weightlifting program. Not only does it help you avoid injuries, but it also helps you move more weight and perform better in the gym.

What is Mobility Training?

Mobility training is a type of exercise that helps improve your range of motion. This means that it can help you loosen up tight muscles and joints, which can lead to improved flexibility and performance in the gym.

Consider, for example, if you were doing squats. Often, the description of a good squat is that you go "ass to grass," meaning that your hips drop below your knees before you return to a fully upright position. If you have trouble bringing your hips down to be level with or below your knees at the bottom of your squat, it can be a sign of limited mobility. 

The same approach is true for virtually any exercise that you're doing. Not being able to bring your elbows below your chest in a bench press, reaching a 90-degree angle with your elbows in a shoulder press, and not being able to bend your back knee fully in a lunge are all similar examples of limited mobility.

Individual anatomy and limitations are important to consider, and not everybody is going to have the same expression of an exercise at full mobility. In general, if you notice that you're cutting exercises short or having to "cheat" them to complete your reps, you probably have some form of mobility limitation that needs to be addressed. 

Why is Mobility Important?

Mobility is crucial for athletes of all levels. It allows you to move freely and comfortably throughout your body, which helps you execute proper lifts and maximize strength gains.

Additionally, engaging in the full range of motion appropriate for each joint and muscle group will improve your flexibility over time and can help prevent injury, inflammation, and stiffness.

How Do You Train for Mobility in the Gym?

Individual anatomy and needs have to be taken into consideration, but most people will benefit from training mobility in their ankles, hips, and knees. In particular, men often have tighter hips than women and must make a concerted effort to keep them loose and mobile. 

A great way to begin training for mobility is to periodically add in bodyweight or low-weight exercises that challenge you to move through the full plane of motion for a given joint. A sample mobility-focused routine may look like this: 

  • Dolphin Push-Ups (Shoulder Mobility)
  • Knees-over-Toes Lunges (Ankle Mobility)
  • Box steps (Hip Mobility)
  • Side lunges (Hip Mobility) 
  • Resistance Band External Rotation (Shoulder Mobility)
  • Banded Foot Flexion (Ankle Mobility)
  • Internal Rotation Shoulder Stretch (Shoulder Mobility)

This can be done as a warm-up, cool-down, or standalone workout. Throw in some push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, and you have a fantastic full-body calisthenic routine, which can be a pleasant break from lifting weights.

Additionally, consistent stretching may be the most impactful action you can take to improve your full-body mobility over time. Deep stretches and yoga poses held for a minute to two minutes at a time on a daily basis (or close-to-daily basis) will help bring space and mobility into tight joints. A full-body stretching routine may look like this: 

  • Child's Pose (Stretches hips, back, and shoulders)
  • Downward Dog (Stretches shoulders and ankles)
  • 90/90 Stretch (Deep stretch for hips)
  • Internal Rotation/ Towel Behind the Back Stretch (Stretches shoulders)
  • Deep Static Squats (Stretches ankles and hips)
  • Saddle pose (Deep stretch for ankles, knees, and hips)

If you'd like a follow-along tutorial for some of these poses and mobility training routines, I recommend checking out Tom Merrick on YouTube. His mobility training guides are fantastic and have helped me quite a bit. 




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