Mobility Work For The Immobile

“Hi,

I had a request/idea for an article for you to consider. You seem pretty flexible, and I was wondering if you have tips/ideas for stretching/mobility work for dudes. I’m trying to get my big ass to be more bendy, to help cut down on normal muscle pulls/tightness. I’ve been stretching basically every other night, can’t really tell if it’s helping yet or not. Anyways, I thought it might make for an interesting article.

John”

Dear John:

This post is for you, and for any other guy out there (women too!) that could use some help with increasing their mobility to prevent injuries, but aren’t quite at a level where they can bend over backwards and grab their ankles.

Generally speaking, women are a little bit more naturally flexible, especially in the lower body. They also tend to develop extreme levels of flexibility and mobility at a faster rate than men do. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s just from what I have seen.

Regardless, developing higher levels of mobility and flexibility is crucial with training, to help prevent muscle pulls, tears, and strains, as well as to increase you range of motion (ROM) with your exercises.

If you’ve ever tried to squat without warming up, you’ll know how much of a pain in the ass (literally) it can be. Your hips and hamstrings cramp, your lower back feels like it’s going to cave in, your knees are cracking on the way up…it’s just brutal.

This can all be heavily minimized by introducing proper warm-ups and also practicing better warm-ups and recovery methods. It’s going to take some work in the beginning though, but don’t give up.

funny-motivational-photos-win

So to start off, if you are someone who has a lot of trouble with their mobility, you will need to dedicate 5 minutes EVERY morning to mobility work.  And make it 10 minutes on the days you aren’t training.

Yes, every morning.

This does not include the mobility drills that you should be doing before your upper and lower body training sessions. This is simply extra mobility work that is going to help you loosen up.

Now pay attention:

Every morning, you are going to wake up, warm up your muscles a little (since they will be stiff; running in place and/or high knees are pretty good), do your mobility drills, and then shower/go on with your day. IF you need to wake up 20 minutes earlier, so be it. But it will be worth it in the long run so that you can become more mobile and increase your athleticism.

A simple routine to do every morning is:

(1)   Hip stretch into hip drop

(2)   Pigeon

(3)   Frog

(4)   Duck walks

Remember, this isn’t a yoga class. The objective is to hold only for a couple of seconds and then release and repeat.

Here is a video demonstrating the entire drill. I cannot stress enough how much these movements have helped me:

For some more mobility exercise movements, refer to this video (also excellent, and a lot of these should be done before lower body training):

Now, these exercises can be done regardless of your level of mobility and flexibility. My number one suggestion is simply not to push it. Don’t stretch further than you can, and don’t get down lower than what is physically possible for you.

I promise that by introducing mobility work on a daily basis, you will start seeing noticeable results with your training and the way your joints and ligaments feel. It’s also a great way to wake you up in the morning.

NEXT BEST THING: STRETCHING

I find that guys have this weird thing where, in order to support their masculine image, shy away from stretch training and insist that it’s a practice only fit for “females and transsexual gymnasts”.

What they don’t realize is not only are they limiting the amount of muscle they will put on, they are also increasing their risk for injury.

Take for example, the hamstrings. The fascia is extremely tight in this area, and in order to optimize muscle growth, this area needs to be stretched. A LOT. It will also help increase your ROM, and limit the possibility for tears and strains in the muscle, which often seems to happen due to an over-tight fascia. Hamstrings, shoulders, pectorals, and quads are some of the most commonly torn muscles, and it’s my belief that a lot of this could be prevented by practicing better warm-ups and stretching more.

So forgo your “squats and deadlifts only, brah” mentality, and start learning to love and appreciate stretching. Yes it’ll hurt, and it’ll be uncomfortable, but if you hate it you still have to do it.

Now, as far as stretches for the hamstrings here are some good ones to start with:

You can also refer back to my glute post for some other ideas on glute and hamstring stretching.

Remember, with each movement you should only go as far as necessary  to achieve a good stretch. Your flexibility will improve with time.

Groin-pulling seems to be fairly common when flexibility is an issue. Along with bodyweight squats, this is an excellent stretch to help loosen up that area:

SeatedGroin

I suggest beginning by stretching your tightest areas on a daily basis, for about 15 minutes. This should be done post-workout when the muscles are loosened and you are warmed up, as static stretching when your muscles are cold is a recipe for disaster.

Each stretch should be held for at least 45 seconds. None of this half-assed stuff. If you are serious about improving your athletic abilities and mobility, you need to commit to stretching way more often than you do.

I’m not asking you to become a contortionist or anything. Simply to dedicate more time to the forgotten areas of training, so you can ultimately become better at whatever it is you want to do.

Finally: Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)

rolling

SMR is used to loosen tight muscles, break down and prevent scar tissue, improve your ROM, increase blood flow and circulation, and relieve pain. This isn’t only done with a foam roller. On the contrary, you’ll need another little torture device called the tennis ball.

The tennis ball is used to roll out the smaller muscle groups that are harder to reach directly with a normal foam roller, and can also be used more efficiently to pin-point certain trigger points. Some of the most common spots for tennis ball therapy are:

  • Piriformis
  • Teres minor/major
  • Soleus
  • Pectorals
  • Deltoids
  • IT band

Though you can pretty much roll out any muscle with a tennis ball, I find it more efficient to use a mixture of both.

You could also invest in a rumble roller, which is basically a foam roller with hard “thumbs” that is also great for finding trigger points. It does look and feel like a medieval torture device, but it works like a charm.

2989-a

I’d suggest if you don’t already do some sort of SMR, start doing it at least 3x a week. Aside from the areas I already stated, some particular areas to pay attention to:

  • Sartorius
  • Hip flexors
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings

BREATHING:

Also a very important factor. You need to make sure to breathe properly during all your stretching. A large inhale should be taken at the starting position, exhaling slowly as you move into your full stretch. From there, take deep breaths through the belly. Closing your eyes can help especially when the stretch feels uncomfortable.

If you take a deep breath and your shoulders rise, you know that you are breathing wrong.

—————————-

Bottom line: move more.

I wish I had something more interesting to add here, but it really is that simple. It just takes a daily commitment to doing your stretches and doing the extra mobility work to get your body moving the way you want to.

Whether you are an athlete or just someone who likes to maintain an active lifestyle, you want your body to be performing efficiently, and in order to achieve that you must go beyond simply doing your weights and cardio. How healthy you remain in all physical aspects happens outside the gym.

Stay safe, train hard!

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4 thoughts on “Mobility Work For The Immobile

  1. After enough use the tennis ball will not cut it anymore, cuz it will feel to soft..then it’s time to start with a lacrosse ball. That and the high density (black) rumble roller is a highly effective combo. I use them before and after every workout and they have kept me from seizing up.

  2. Awesome post, as usual! For the first year I lifted, I didn’t do any kind of stretching or warm up whatsoever. I was transitioning from 15+ years of dancing, so I thought the fact that I was super flexible meant I didn’t need to stretch. Womp womp. I was fine at first, but I soon turned into a huge ball of tightness. Now I foam roll five times a week and spend 10-15 minutes warming up before every workout. On top of that, I spend 5-10 minutes in the morning and evening stretching. It’s easy to find an excuse to skip the evening stretch session, but I don’t let myself do anything before my morning stretch. If I start making breakfast or turn on the computer, I know I will not be stretching later on. I feel SO much better in everyday life and during squats etc because of it, but I still have to force myself to do it!

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