5 Gym Hacks That Actually Work

3. FACT: Mobility is key to fitness gains and injury prevention.
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Photograph by Dylan Coulter3/5

3. FACT: Mobility is key to fitness gains and injury prevention.

One of the biggest revelations in athletics is that mobility — the freedom to move without pain through the full range of squats, lunges, pushups, and pullups — depends less on stretchy muscles than mobile, supported joints. And no joints are more important than the two big guys: hips and shoulders. Limited mobility in either place, and even in one joint — a hip, for example — can cause a chain reaction of problems throughout the body. “It creates a compensatory pattern,” says Chicago physical therapist David Reavy, who treats professional athletes as well as mere mortals. “Say, if you lose what we call ‘posterior glide’ in that hip — your hip joint gets so stiff that you can’t sink into a proper squat — then your glute shuts down and stops firing.” Soon, your pelvis is tilting forward, your lower back muscles are seizing up, your hamstrings are tight, and, ultimately, your knees start to hurt — and all because one hip joint got constricted. A parallel story happens above the waist. There, a tight shoulder — you can’t raise your arms straight overhead, the shoulder blade hikes up when you try — can set you up for the painful, common shoulder condition called impingement syndrome. A tight upper back, constricted lats, and hunched posture follow soon after. The good news, says Reavy, is that you can prevent all of this with a few minutes of doing basic shoulder and hip openers before each workout.

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