Picking up an injury is any athlete's worst nightmare.
Not only can it stunt your progress as you have to scale back (or stop) training, it can also be extremely painful.
In many cases sustaining an injury will interfere with your everyday activities such as walking, lifting and even just resting.
Through years of lifting heavy weights, I've learned the importance of mobility the hard way. These days I ensure that I integrate mobility-enhancing exercises into all of my training sessions.
In the US more athletes look to mobility in bodybuilding and weightlifting to keep injuries at bay. However, here in the UK, we're still lagging behind in our understanding of how mobility could be the key to injury prevention.
Mobility isn't just about keeping injury free. It also plays a key role in attaining the depth and positioning for those important lifts.
The role of mobility in bodybuilding for injury prevention There's a limited amount of research that has been done into injuries sustained in weightlifting, but one of the more comprehensive reports published in 1999 'Injury Rates and Profiles of Elite Competitive Weightlifters' found that among weightlifters, over-use cumulative injuries (injuries sustained through repetition) are more common than their traumatic counterparts.
The same study also revealed that injuries to the lower back, the knees and the shoulders made up 65% of injuries sustained and these were most typically strains or tendonitis.
It, therefore, makes sense that by paying attention to ourmobility in these more injury-prone joints, we can decrease the likelihood of sustaining an injury in those areas.
The importance of dorsiflexion in weightlifting
First, and possibly the most common mobility restrictor weightlifters and bodybuilders find themselves wrestling with is limited ankle dorsiflexion.
This is the way in which the knee tracks over the toe when the joint is flexed with the foot flat on the ground.
The impact of poor ankle dorsiflexion can travel through the body, adding a whole raft of complications to your posture including knee valgus, excessive pelvic reversal, an increased forward torso angle, & excessive shoulder abduction.
Investing in a sound pair of Olympic weightlifting or bodybuilding shoes will protect your ankle to a degree, but there's no escaping the fact that full ankle mobility is essential for healthy weightlifting.
Thoracic spine and its mobility in weightlifting
Mobility of the thoracic spine is essential in overhead lifts. Good mobility helps avoid excessive shoulder flexion, abduction and internal rotation, which can all lead to an unstable shoulder position.
Where a thoracic spine is insufficiently mobile, the lumbar spine will often hyperextend to compensate for it.
By building more active thoracic spine extensionexercises such as the lying thoracic rotation into your training, you'll enhance your shoulder mobility. This will improve your ability to support heavy weights overhead without your form paying the price, and you'll soon notice the difference in performance of lifts such as thesnatch and jerk.
Lat restriction and mobility in bodybuilders and weightlifters
One of the most common issues for weightlifters and bodybuilders is overhead shoulder mobility.
Often this is caused by limited extensibility of the latissimus dorsi (lats). It's most typically seen in weightlifters and bodybuilders who have left their lats in a state of high tone following CrossFit or hypertrophic training.
These training styles involve the pulling of immense loads either vertically or horizontally, lats then become overdeveloped and can block shoulder flexion.
Hip flexion among bodybuilders
The ability to squat is highly important for bodybuilders and weightlifters. Achieving the perfect position during lifts relies heavily on hip flexion.
Every athlete's hip structure is different, however,without the ability to fully flex the hip, you won't be able to achieve a full squat. If you can't achieve a full squat, you'll never be able to lift the weights that you should be able to.
Hip extension in bodybuilding and weightlifting
In the same way that hip flexion is essential, failure to have decent hip extension can leave you seriously underperforming in your split jerk (or other lifts). Your lumbar spine will overcompensate for your lack of hip extension, causing excessive lumbar extension during the jerk.
Mobility in bodybuilding isn't just about protecting from injury, it's also about developing form and perfecting your poses and lifts. For more information and advice on how you can use mobility to enhance your lifts and improve your techniques, subscribe to my emails.