Common Myths About Mobility 


Article by Dr. Jen Esquer

Photography by Dr. Jen Esquer

Mobility is the ability to actively control the range of motion your body is able to produce. This means, you may have more passive range of motion (ex: sitting in a split), but if you can’t actively lift your leg into a split while standing, then you are lacking full mobility in that range of motion. This is the difference between passively stretching, called flexibility, and actually having control of your body with mobility.

If fitness and activity were built like a food pyramid, mobility would be at the bottom because it is our most important foundation. 

When we build all the rest (strength, power, speed and skill) without keeping our baseline healthy, we are way more prone to injurypain and breakdown within the body.

Why does our mobility break down in the first place??

Most of this begins in grade school as we go from sitting cross-legged in pre-school to sitting in chairs for the rest of our lives. 

Our body craves comfort, safety and stability. It has the ability to adapt and change based on the positions we place it in. This means that if you stop moving your joints and muscles into their full range of motion, your body will find comfort in less range of motion. Over time, that range of motion becomes more restricted and therefore, less mobile!

Did you know that in countries where people pray often throughout the day, kneeling down all the way down on the ground and back up, they actually have less reports of osteoarthritis in their joints!?

Now, let’s discuss some of the common myths I hear very often of some techniques and tools that can help mobility.

MYTH 1: I need to smash into my tissue with barbells, foam rollers, and lacrosse balls to release my muscle tissue or fascia.

False. As research continues to progress, this simply is just not true. It requires nearly 200 tons of force to truly deform fascia (the overlying connective tissue that covers and connects all our muscles). If it was so easy to lay on something to cause a true “release” we’d have extremely loose butts from sitting all day long and increased pressure from the chair.

Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true. When we roll, or even get a massage, we are actually stimulating receptors within the tissue/fascia/body to relax through the nervous system. So, it is more about relaxing rather than releasing. I cover this much more, plus the proper techniques on how to use a foam roller more effectively in The Mobility Method.

MYTH 2: I must maintain neutral spine at all time to avoid back pain.

Again, not necessarily true. Believe me, I teach and train how to find neutral spine because I believe it is important. but, if we fear movement, we also increase sensitivity to pain just by telling the brain that a certain movement is “bad.”

We move, bend, twist, turn all through life. Even when walking! If we lose our ability to twist the spine during gait, we often increase force through the hips and knees and end up with stiff necks! So learning how to safely and effectively keep that spine young is essential to our health. Check out how to safely increase spinal mobility through The Mobility Method.

MYTH 3: I need to roll out and stretch my IT Band (iliotibial band) to relieve my knee pain.

Ok. This goes back to Myth #1 a bit. The IT Band is really thick fascia. To think that we’re ever going to be breaking and releasing that up to relieve knee pain is just silly.

What could work is rolling along the side of your quad (not directly on the ITB) to try to relax that quadriceps tightness. But I generally believe that the knee is the victim to limited hip mobility or ankle mobility. When the joints above or below become stiff or lose mobility, the joint in the middle will often take on more than it can handle to compensate. Hence, knee pain. To see if your hips or ankles could be causing your knee pain, check out The Mobility Method

MYTH 4: Stretching will decrease my strength and power for performance.

Mindless stretching will not be beneficial. But stretching with a purpose to increase true mobility will only increase strength and power. Mindless stretching means holding a position for 10-30 seconds one time after a workout and expecting any kind of carry over to the next day. Or stretching areas that are already very open just to stretch them with no specific carry over to what is actually limited in your body.

Purposeful mobility happens when we find the areas that are tight and restricted within our own body, consistently focus on them daily and find strength and control at the end range of motion for carry over into strength training. For videos on purposeful mobility to increase your workouts and performance, check out The Mobility Method.

Our bodies will constantly change and evolve through life. We'll pick up different jobs, activities and hobbies that will adapt the way we stand, sit, and move. 

Having a permeant toolbox of assessments and exercises to come back to anytime throughout life can be so powerful!

Rather than guessing what you will need to improve your body, it’s important actually self-assess. Your body is worth getting to know better than guessing and hoping.

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