Often, stretching and mobility work are not at the top of our priority list when it comes to training.
However, you should know that all of the things that are currently at the top of your list (burning fat, building muscle, increasing performance) depend immensely on your ability to move properly.
And what does it mean to be able to move properly? It means having a mobile and flexible body that can move easily through full ranges of motion without pain or strain.
So in essence, mobility and flexibility may not be at the top of your list … but they definitely should be, since they are the foundational element of overall movement!
Why Stretching and Mobility? The Benefits
You’re likely aware of the benefits of stretching for flexibility, and why flexibility is important. Shortened, stiff muscles are a recipe for pulls and other injuries, and can limit your range of motion, as well as your ability to extend or reach (this is especially important in sports).
Mobility is similar, yet contains other elements, namely stability. For instance, a flexible person may be able to reach down and touch their toes … yet when squatting, he or she may not be able to squat as deeply as someone who has plenty of hip and spinal mobility, and may have to rise up or his or her toes in order to come out of the squat. A mobile body will be able to squat deeply without rounding the spine, remain stable in their hips under weight, and be able to rise to standing while maintaining proper form. As you can see, mobility isn’t just flexibility, it’s strength, stability, and flexibility combined.
Benefits of Stretching
Obviously, a huge benefit to stretching is its ability to increase your range of motion, which of course aids in overall movement and injury prevention … but that’s not all. Stretching can also decrease back and joint pain by decompressing joints, can improve posture (stretching out your chest and shoulder muscles, which become tight from hunching over, is an awesome way to “open” your chest and allow your shoulder blades to be fully pulled down and back).
Stretching can also help improve circulation by loosening up your muscles for better blood flow, and can also greatly improve extension ability. Imagine sitting all day, every day in a chair, then attempting to run or jump, or even squat properly – because your muscles have shortened due to sitting, even these simple moves are going to feel pretty difficult!
In my opinion, you should be getting in a few stretches every day (you should even combine it with mobility warmups so that you’re not stretching “cold,” which we’ll discuss more below).
Benefits of Mobility Training
Having good mobility unlocks your body’s potential. When you’re mobile, you are able to engage and recruit more of the right muscles and joints for every movement, which increases your ability to build proper strength and perform at a higher level. To give an example, if you’ve ever hit a plateau with presses (using a kettlebell, barbell, or other piece of equipment), it’s likely not because you don’t have enough upper body strength to press more weight, but that your lack of spinal mobility and stability is causing your form to break down, which disrupts your ability to press more. For instance, if you’re pressing weight but lack spinal extension, or are unable to stand straight with proper posture, you will have trouble pressing the weight in a straight line overhead, which can lead to hyperextending your lower back to compensate (not good news for those spinal disks!).
As you can see, lack of mobility causes your form to fall apart … which leads to reduced ability to lift weight! And you can probably guess what that means for progressing your gains.
Before we jump into more benefits, check out and try my Spinal Mobility Series:
In addition to improving your movement foundation so that you can perform optimally, having good mobility can also help you burn more fat. How is that possible? Because a person who is mobile and who can, say, squat deeper, is going to be able to get their heart rate up faster and for longer than someone who can only squat to parallel. Not to mention, being able to lift heavier weight (because you can maintain proper form) can help you release more human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, which are crucial hormones for maintaining leanness and building muscle.
How to Increase Your Flexibility and Mobility
Ironically, we’re born completely mobile and flexible (have you ever watched kids run, jump, squat, and crawl? No lack of mobility there!). As we get older, we tend to lose mobility and flexibility, simply because we are not moving in ways that retain our mobility. Sitting in particular is a killer of mobility, and specializes in creating stiffness and shortening nearly all of your muscles.
So what we to do? Establish a regular mobility routine.
(My comprehensive 12-week Primal Body Program focuses heavily on mobility work alongside building lean muscle and fat loss: check it out!)
This means carving out roughly 15-20 minutes of your workout session for stretching and mobility movements (these are all structured for you in my 12-Week Primal Body Program above, by the way!).
As far as daily activities that can help you stay mobile, I would recommend standing up and stretching/moving every half hour if you work at a desk, just to realign your posture and prevent your muscle from getting too tight throughout the day. And, if you can get in mini-mobility sessions throughout your day (5-10 minutes), this would be ideal!
The key with mobility to remember is that it truly is the foundation for all of our movements, and consequently, our ability to burn fat and gain muscle … so get into the habit of prioritizing it! Your body will reward you.
• Stretching can increase you range of motion, help prevent injuries, and improve extension abilities
• Mobility is the foundation of your ability to move properly, which affects your ability to burn fat and gain muscle/perform
• We are born mobile, and begin to lose mobility over the years due to lack of movement
• To increase mobility and flexibility, incorporate 15-20 minutes of mobility work into your regime