Myth: You only need to do mobility work if you’re an athlete or if something hurts.
Truth: “Whether you’re pro athlete, weekend warrior, or parent being active with their kids, the mobility requirement for fundamental movements (running, squatting, etc.) stays the same,” says Ardoin. “We always need adequate mobility in the same key areas, such as the ankles, hips, thoracic spine (upper back), shoulders.” He says everyone should be able to meet the following mobility baselines:
Touch your chin to your chest without opening your mouth.
Look up toward the ceiling with your face becoming parallel to the floor.
Rotate your head to each side until your chin reaches mid collarbone.
Touch your toes with straight legs.
Lower into a deep squat without your heels coming up or toes rotating out.
“If you don’t have access to the necessary mobility, your body will find a way to get it by compensating elsewhere, which could lead to injuries down the road,” he says.
But the injuries might be in unexpected places: Your first thought might be to deal with the area that hurts—but, often, that’s not the true source of the problem. “Often times the issue causing lower-back pain isn’t the lower back, but an issue with hip mobility,” says Esquer. An elbow issue might actually be due to a lack of wrist mobility, and upper-back pain might be due to tightness in the front of the chest and shoulders.
“A lot of times we don’t notice movement restrictions until we’re in pain,” says Esquer. Maintaining your natural mobility day in and day out (kind of like brushing your teeth to prevent cavities) will help prevent surprise injuries from popping up.