Who do you know that could use a little more flexibility? How about some relief from a tight/sore lower back? Maybe a nagging shoulder injury? The list goes on and on.
If you know someone in this boat share this article, tag them, or drop a comment! I would love to help them and point them in the right direction!!
There are people out there at various levels of need when it comes to mobility. Mobility refers to the combination of your joints range of motion capability and your muscular/connective tissues flexibility or suppleness.
Whenever someone mentions or complains about a tight area or a sore area on their body they can benefit massively from performing self mobility. Think of the benefits you get after visiting a registered massage therapist. You can have similar benefits and success doing self mobility, especially if you build it into your daily routine.
Let’s have a look at some different levels of need in people looking to benefit from self mobility. I have three general categories that I have found people are in when it comes to this topic.
#1 – Never Does Anything
This category is where most people are. Typically they are unaware of the benefits and either ignorant to the mere existence of self mobility of choose not to perform it because they feel like they don’t know how to do it properly. Either way, the result is the same; someone who everyday becomes less and less flexible, with a higher likelihood of discomfort, pain, and injury. The first step is to help these people become aware of what self mobility is, and the tremendous benefits it can have. If you have read any of my other articles you know that knowledge and education is only the first step. This alone is not going to be the game changer it should be. Next comes the coaching and teaching on what is right for them. Optimally if you can have a personalized mobility routine you will reach comfort and results much faster than a generic program. However, something is better than nothing. Here are a few examples of how to improve your mobility though self performed techniques:
- Myofascial release using a foam roller, lacrosse or tennis ball, therapeutic massage gun, or any other tool that simulates a deep tissue massage.
- Dynamic or static stretching. Most styles of yoga, or a combination of specific stretches geared towards full body flexibility improvement. Dynamic stretching is best used for before exercise and static stretching is best for after exercise. Ask why if you want to know more!
- Traction of joints using power bands, gravity machines/techniques, or your own hands.
Remember, technique is everything and knowing how to do any of the above is best taught by a professional.
#2 – Only Does Mobility
This category is the opposite of #1. This group of people are usually heavy into yoga or simply just love stretching and releasing muscles. There is only one small thing wrong with this group. That is; when you are hyper-mobile or hyper-flexible you can be unstable. In this case, you have the same injury risks, albeit in different circumstances, but risks all the same. An unstable joint or body in general, is something that can be addressed with adding some resistance training or strengthening exercises. Overall it is better to be in this category than #1, mainly because body awareness is much higher in this group. There is also a good chance that because they are performing all of this stretching and mobility, it naturally comes with some muscle building or muscle use requirements. If you are in this group and feel stable, spread the love and show people how to do what you are doing!
#3 Works Out, Does A Few “Gym Class Stretches”
This group is often in need of mobility to improve performance or to bring balance back to their bodies. Most of the time this group makes the effort of exercising but does a warm up on a cardio machine and then goes to the mats to do 5 minutes of “quick stretches”. Not really knowing what to do they perform what I call “gym class stretches”. These are the stretches we learned back in middle school to get “warmed up”. They are very basic, simple, and static in nature. They are largely ineffective and not targeted towards what most people actually need to help them move and feel better. Some people have become aware of the benefits of foam rolling and the like. What I have found is that this group of people roll around aimlessly not really knowing where or how to optimally perform it. When I get this type of client in front of me the difference between their old routine and new routine is dramatic. Very quickly they can learn techniques that unlock restricted joints, free up tight muscles, and allow them to have better posture naturally. Some examples of how I take their stretches/foam rolling to the next level are:
- Breathe! It sounds so simple but your natural reaction is to hold your breathe. We can get so much more out of stretching or rolling when we breathe. Yoga is a fantastic advocate for this very useful tool. When we exhale we tap into our bodies parasympathetic response. The result is a muscle and body that responds to the technique much more effectively. The difference is actually astounding. It is the number one thing I focus on in the beginning stages.
- When we are talking about foam rolling or myofascial release in general, there are two other factors to consider after breathing has been mastered. Flushing out the area is one, and focused trigger point release, is two. Flushing the area refers to rolling a large area to promote blood flow and allow your body and brain to get used to the feeling of the release. It also allows you to identify the second important aspect, which is finding your trigger points. Once you have found you’re trigger points (areas that hold a lot of tension), which are commonly referred to as muscle knots, your can begin focused release. With focused release you stop on the trigger point and breathe. You allow that point to dissipate and then move on to the next area, north, south, east, or west of it. You can also incorporate movement into the equation when you have a trigger point trapped. This aggressively helps to “floss” the trigger point and offers a faster release, although its not for the easy goers. It is intense, but it works amazing.
- Start from the middle of your body and work your way up/down from there. Releasing muscles in this fashion is more effective than the opposite. This is more important than most people think.
- When performing a warm up stick to dynamic stretches. Feel the stretch but keep your body moving. Flow in and out of the stretch and remember to come out of the stretch a different way than you got into it. Easier said then done!
- When performing a cool down stick to static stretches. Hold for 10-30 seconds and breathe to allow the muscle to respond.
Anyone can become a mobility master with a little practise and the right coaching. I hope you feel better and keep your body optimally moving with these tips!