When you want to achieve your goal of getting better mobility, you don’t want to waste time.
And, you want to see results that stick. You don’t want to feel like you’re always starting at square one each time you perform your “mobility work”.
Your mobility should improve over time, not revert back to your original starting point…if you’re doing the right things for what is causing your mobility issues.
There are a number of mobility practices that fall into the category of ‘short-term effect, little to no long-term results.’ I’ve outlined three common ones in this post, and the swaps you can make to actually start seeing results from your time spent on mobility training.
Three Upgrades To Make Your Mobility Training More Effective
1. Passive stretching
What is it: Passive stretching is when an external force is helping you achieve a stretch in your muscle. The external force could be an object, like a strap or weight pulling your leg closer to your head, or it could be gravity or your own bodyweight pushing down on you, putting your muscle into a stretch.
What’s an example: An example of this is using a doorway to do a pec stretch. The door frame is resisting your arm and your bodyweight acts on your shoulder/pec area as you lean through the doorway and feel a stretch.
Why is not an awesome use of your time: Often times, your mobility issue isn’t structural (ie, the muscle isn’t long enough), although that is the way most mobility drills have tackled the issue.
When you spend time performing a fix on an issue that isn’t the issue, what you end up with is a lot of time spent, wheels spun, and it’s only natural that feeling like “well I must just be broken then.”
When your mobility issue is neurological, instead of structural, your nervous system has already decided that it’s safer for you if it limits your ROM in that joint (in our example above, this would be the shoulder joint). One way your nervous system limits your ROM is by dampening your neural drive.[feature_box style=”9″ only_advanced=”There%20are%20no%20title%20options%20for%20the%20choosen%20style” alignment=”center”]
Neural drive: Simply put, it’s the nervous system input to a muscle.
Less input means less output.[/feature_box]
Here are the two problems with using passive stretching on its own:
1. Your nervous system had set that length of your muscle for a reason, and now you’ve gone and changed it, without addressing the reason why your nervous system did that in the first place.
2. It lets an external force change the length-tension relationship of your muscle, without getting your nervous system involved in the process. If your nervous system doesn’t learn to control that new ROM you just created by doing the passive stretch, you still won’t be able to access it.
A better solution:
I demonstrate a better alternative to passive stretching in the video below. Watch and follow along to try the mobility drill I show you.
2. Massaging your IT Band
— claire robertson (@clairepatella) March 15, 2016
That white band of tissue in the photo is the IT Band.
What is it: It is a chunk of fascial tissue. It is not a muscle. It can become inflamed for a variety of reasons – most of which have causes elsewhere.
What’s an example: You might massage or use a foam roller on your IT Band because that is where you feel pain. But as you can see from this photo – the ITB is a thick, tendonous-like hunk of tissue on your leg – you’re not going to make that more pliable/mobile.
A better use of the time you’ve devoted in your ‘fitness pie‘ would be to address the reasons why your IT Band is inflamed.
Reasons your IT Band can become inflamed:
- your gait is sub-optimal
- your hips are weak or tight (or both)
- your adductors are weak or tight (or both)
- your glutes are weak
All of these issues make your pelvis, femur, and knee joint work sub-optimally. Poor-quality movement from them means the stuff attached to them is going for a sub-optimal ride.
A better solution:
There are several things you can do to build your body so that your IT Bands do not hurt. I cover one of the most important ones in this video. Watch it and try the drill I demonstrate.
3. Static stretching pre-workout:
What is it: Static stretching before a workout is when you hold a position that stretches your muscle for an extended period of time. There is no dynamic movement during this drill, you’re just holding still while you feel the stretch.
What’s an example: I’m demonstrating a classic static stretch that you see folks do before they play a game of basketball, start a gym workout, or go for a run.
Why is it not an awesome use of your time: Studies have shown that static stretching before a workout actually DECREASES your strength and power during your workout.
Want to know what’s crazier? One study found that static stretching impaired workout performance for 24 hours after the stretching time. Woah.
The thinking as to why this decrease in performance happens started in the vein of “you’ve loosened or stretched the muscles and now they aren’t as capable of contracting with power to perform whatever you’re asking of them in your workout.”
Let’s explore that thought a bit more…
The nervous system was aware of where your limbs and joints were in space prior to doing that static stretching. Because static stretching doesn’t include your nervous system in the process of getting and controlling the new transient mobility, your nervous system senses new range but doesn’t know what to do with it or how to use it for the task ahead.
A better solution:
If you’re doing static stretching before your workout, stop!, and watch this video to learn the three things you need to add to your pre-workout warmup.
If you’re going to spend the time working on your mobility, let’s get you actual long-lasting results that help you feel, move, and perform better. Use what you’ve learned in this post to upgrade your mobility program today.