What is Mobility work? Should I do it?
"Mobility work" is usually used as a general term for doing warmup exercises before you get under the bar and can include things like stretching, foam rolling, band exercises. These exercises focus on increasing the range of motion at a given joint or joints and addressing specific areas of pain or tightness. This will usually make up the bulk of work that one does before they start with the first lift.
Mobility work is not all that well defined or understood. There are many opinions and protocols out there and I will not try to give you a full, in depth review of that here. What I want to do is help you focus in on what will help you now.
The first thing I want to discuss in that regard is time. Time is a finite resource, and very precious. We want to do as much as we can in the time we have available at the gym. I have seen mobility routines balloon to 30+ minutes as people find more and more things to work on. This drastically cuts into your session and reduces the amount of meaningful work you are doing.
Another time related note: the effects of rolling and stretching don't last forever. Sometimes the effects are as short lived as 20-30 minutes. This means if you spend 30 minutes mobilising before lifting, that first thing you did isn't even having an effect by the time you get under the bar.
In my opinion, the best use for mobility work is to get your body and mind prepared for the lifts you are doing in that session. This means addressing issues you currently have that prevent you from doing the lifts with good technique. I usually try to keep people to 10 minutes of work before they get under a bar, and will often suggest they continue doing mobility work between warmup sets. This can help keep them focused on the issues they are having that day, and ensures the exercises are actually effective since they are doing them minutes before a set so there is no time for the effects to wear off.
I do recommend trying out different mobility exercises to find the ones that benefit you most. When you find things that work, keep doing them! But don’t hold onto exercises that aren’t as effective or don’t address issues you currently have. Keep it focused and efficient.
Nigel, Kizen Coach
Who is Nigel?
Nigel is a coach who has been competing in powerlifting since 2012 and started directing meets in 2017. Nigel began working as a personal trainer in 2013, was a part of the Ascendant Athletics team with Omar and Silent Mike from 2015-2016, and has managed the group coaching for Kizen Training since 2017. Through this work and coaching private clients, Nigel has worked with many lifters of all skill levels and from diverse athletic backgrounds. His best lifts in competition are a 661lb/300kg squat in sleeves, a 451lb/205kg bench, and a 639lb/295kg deadlift.